The Red Sox offseason took an interesting turn last week when ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that “multiple executives” are now under the assumption that a Mookie Betts trade is unlikely to occur.
While all of that’s all well and good, he went on to say that rather than trading Betts, Chief Baseball Officer, Chaim Bloom, and the front office will be looking to move one of their high-priced arms in the starting rotation instead, David Price (35 next August) or Nathan Eovaldi (30 at the start of next season).
Not to reiterate what we all know at this point in the offseason, but the overall idea here is for the team to reach that desirable payroll of what would really be anything less than the initial luxury tax threshold of $208 million.
With Bloom being brought in, the Red Sox made their motive quite clear. Rather than doing anything and everything to steal another World Series championship–much like the 20th century New York Yankees–they’ve decided to now utilize the philosophy of financial responsibility.
With David Price bringing home $32 million in each of the next three seasons and Nathan Eovaldi being in year two of a four-year deal, handing him a lofty $17 million per season, it’s obvious why these two are the main candidates to be shipped out of Boston.
Some fans are indignant with the notion that one of the most lucrative organizations in baseball is now suddenly practicing fiscal responsibility with their superstar’s future at stake. But the fact of the matter is that this is the direction that John Henry wants to head in so now we can’t do anything but look at the options.
David Price has had himself one hell of a rollercoaster ride with the fans of the Boston Red Sox. He was brought in on this massive 7-year deal worth $217 million ahead of the 2016 season. At this time, the team was desperate to bring in an ace arm, much like the New York Yankees this winter.
With an opt-out being available to the pitcher following the third season, I would think that their initial belief was that he’d end up taking that opportunity to hit the free-agent market once again in search of another deal. Unfortunately, or not so, unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, Price decided to stay put. This shackled the Red Sox with the financial burden put on by Dave Dombrowski through the 2022 season.
Nathan Eovaldi on the other hand, completed just his first year of his new deal with the Red Sox in 2019. However, while he isn’t as much of a financial burden as Price may be, the price tag on Eovaldi doesn’t exactly line up with Bloom’s desires.
With Betts allegedly staying put and the team looking to move one of these two 2018 postseason heroes, who should go?
Eovaldi has battled injury throughout his entire career. With two Tommy John surgeries already under his belt on top of another elbow injury sustained at the top of the 2019 season, Eovaldi hasn’t exactly been Mr. Reliable.
Being signed to only “bolster” the Red Sox starting rotation, he didn’t fit the mold of what the team had wanted out of him when they handed him this new deal almost one year ago today. He’s consistently struggled to stay on the field, has never touched the 200 inning mark–although in 2014, he was only one out away from doing so–and hasn’t proven to be a pitcher worth the amount he’s making in Boston.
But, as we should have expected following the 2018 World Series, he was frankly overvalued after his tremendous postseason performance, including his heroic game three relief stint. With the recency bias in mind, he was able to win over the fanbase and apparently Dave Dombrowski in order to receive the amount he did.
Keeping in mind that in each season, he’ll be eating up $17 million on the Red Sox payroll, he hasn’t been, well, worth it, even when he was on the field.
He began the season like most of the pitching staff did; overwhelmingly mediocre.
In his four starts head of the injury that kept him out until July, he was smoked for at least 5 ER twice. His best outing was actually his final one before his forced-due-to-injury hiatus in New York on April 17th holding the New York Yankees to 0 ER over 6.0 IP with 3 H.
He returned again in July coming out of the bullpen and he was okay at times and brutal at others before regaining his position in the starting rotation later in the season.
He rounded out 2019 with a 2-1 record, 5.99 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, in 67.2 IP in 23 games and 12 starts.
Then we have David Price who as previously mentioned, has had himself a roller coaster ride during his first four years as a member of the Red Sox.
As opposed to Eovaldi, Price’s reputation prior to signing with Boston was not only headlined by his ability to dominate on the mound, but he was also an innings eater.
In five of his first seven seasons–excluding his short, debut season in 2008—he exceeded the 200 IP mark which only added to the value that the team believed he’d bring to the mound that they were yearning for.
But since coming to the Red Sox, with age has come some injury issues that have derailed a couple of his seasons.
Three of these last four seasons have seen him fall below the 200 IP mark and in 2017, he was only able to complete 74.2 IP.
But even with the concerning elbow injuries that have popped up, causing Red Sox fans hearts to drop to into their shoes, he’s been solid for the most part when taking the mound.
Sure, do his numbers reflect someone who you’d think is making $32 million? No, but let’s be honest. Nobody thought he or anyone could ever live up to the contract that he was dealt.
In 2019, Price was sidelined once again with a cyst on his wrist in August which ultimately proved to be the final straw for his season with the Red Sox reeling at that point. Though his numbers ended up slightly worsening as the year went on while we approached his early exit, he was the ace of a staff that saw Chris Sale struggling more than we’d ever seen before.
In 16 of his 22 starts, he’d give up more than three runs just six times, and more than four only three times.
His final numbers were okay with a 4.28 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP and an opponents’ batting average of .258.
So which of the two would be the smarter move to deal if your Chaim Bloom? Although he is the more reliable pitcher and for what it’s worth, allegedly a great clubhouse guy, David Price is the man who’s got to go.
Putting the money aspect of this aside for the moment, the Red Sox might need a culture change or a locker room shakeup. Price has had a disdain for the Boston media from what feels like the get-go. There have been incidents that show that he isn’t overly fond of Boston and what it means to be a member of the Red Sox. An example could be his verbal attack towards Hall of Famer and NESN color commentator Dennis Eckersley. He may like being apart of the Red Sox organization overall and well, he did win his first and only championship with the team and probably deserved to be the MVP of that series too. But it could just simply be time for a culture change in the locker room which needs to happen from time to time and as we know, Price is a major piece to that current locker room culture.
But fiscally, it just makes sense for what the team wants to do. If you were able to move Price, that would solve a majority of the issues that you’re dealing with and it would make Bloom’s job that much easier this winter.
Now, if you are able to find a trade partner which, you should be able to, the Red Sox will have to eat some of the contract much like the Miami Marlins did after sending Giancarlo Stanton to New York.
There more than likely isn’t a team out there willing to take on the entirety of a $32 million per year contract of an aging player who’s become more and more susceptible to injury. But if the Red Sox are willing to continue to pay “X” amount of the remaining salary, there’s certainly a market out there for a former Cy Young award winner who just last year proved that he’s still got plenty of gas left in the tank when he’s able to take the field.
The case made above makes it sound like Nathan Eovaldi is a detriment to the team. And he might be. But I’m not willing to write him off as a bad contract just yet. I’d like to see what he does this season because he’s shown immense potential. Huh, this sounds eerily similar to someone named Clay Buchholz who we had essentially the same conversation just about every offseason.
Eovaldi has shown spurts of success and the team should be willing to work with that for now. They’ve made it clear that while the budget is the top priority, remaining competitive is right there at the top of the list. By no means is this a typical rebuild. But there will be some high risk, high reward types of players on this roster. And Nathan Eovaldi already is one.
David Price’s time in Boston has been an overall success. But it’s time for the Red Sox to move on.