2016 MLB Preseason Primaries: David Price

For some, 2016 Spring Training marks the start of a brand new Major League Baseball season. For others, this time of year marks the height of the presidential primary elections. While many pontificate over who is best suited to lead the country, The Sports Fan Journal fam decided to take a look at which player, manager, or front office member is the best candidate to lead their team to the top of the baseball mountain.


Though we are closing in on Opening Day, it is understandable if you are still processing the sum that new Boston Red Sox ace David Price signed for to kick off the big ticket portion of this past winter's hot stove season. Massachusetts’ boys of summer have been big ticket free agent players for years, but in adding the 2012 Cy Young winner and last year’s runner-up for that same honor, the Red Sox clearly felt as if they corrected the biggest culprit in a 2015 campaign which unraveled in spectacular fashion.

For at least three of the next seven years – the pitcher has an opt-out clause after 2018 in his 7-year, $217 million deal – Price will be charged with leading the effort of putting Boston back in the postseason picture. Such unprecedented sums of fiscal confidence demand this to be.

Yes, the clichéd narratives in New England will resonate as long as the Red Sox flirt with playoff baseball. We know that Price hasn’t won a playoff game in his career, despite throwing well enough to have won a few already. Defensive miscues and/or lack of run support from his teammates doomed him more often than not, but even the all-time great postseason hurlers had some mystifying performances once in a while. Look no further than a previous era's foremost dominant lefty in Randy Johnson, who despite his four-year Cy Young run once embarked on a seven-game October losing streak between stops in Seattle, Houston and Arizona. If this sounds eerily familiar to Price's pit stops through Tampa, Detroit and Toronto the past few years, it should.

Here’s the thing about all of that. The playoffs aren’t a given, no matter the expectations foisted upon a team because of free agency signings, homegrown wunderkinds and still-productive stalwarts. Boston should know that better than anyone based on the “World Series or bust” attempts in the last few seasons.

And when it is considered that this team had many of the same problems for a full season as Price’s playoff history reflects in those moments of happenstance, those storylines will stay top of mind if the Sox play in meaningful August and September games. The mammoth deal that lured Price into town is about so much more than the next few Octobers, should the Red Sox be playing baseball in those months. It’s about another annoying, but truthful cliché, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

If the Red Sox are better prepared in the regular season – better defense, consistent hitting, starters that paint the corners a little more – the opportunities will come. Yet, there’s also a lot of luck that comes into play that has nothing to do with what the players or coaches themselves do. Losing so many key guys to injuries throughout last season - notably Clay Buchholz, Koji Uehara, Dustin Pedroia and the minimally effective newcomer in Pablo Sandoval - hurt their cause just as much as the bad decision of moving Hanley Ramirez to left field and the famed Green Monster or the terrible season Mike Napoli had before being traded back to Texas.

Price plays a significant role in the pitching staff as not only the ace, but an incredibly durable starter that gets a high amount of quality starts. If every fifth day, Boston can send out a guy who has given his teams 200+ innings per season for five of the last six years (with 186.2 in 2013, the one year he didn’t throw 200 innings), that’s one less game where manager John Farrell has to send out an overmatched starter or expend his bullpen.

Baseball Reference project his numbers to remain on par with his career averages – a 13-8 record with a 3.09 ERA, 195 innings, 193 strikeouts, 1.128 WHIP with 8.09 strikeouts per nine innings (contrasted with 1.9 BB9). FanGraphs’ various projections elevate those numbers, but as a result of pitching more innings and winning those games.

Red Sox starters in 2015: 59-60 with a 4.39 ERA, 785 strikeouts, 1.33 WHIP with 7.46 K/9 and 2.73 BB/9. Quite sure Price will earn $30 million this season by lowering those team totals alone.

Not since trading for Pedro Martinez before the 1998 season have the Red Sox acquired a pitcher who could change the dynamic of the entire franchise. Along the way thus far in his career, Price has been considered a great regular season pitcher who the wheels fall off of when the stakes rise in the postseason. As unfair as the reputation is, it’s one that sticks with people who only define the worth of a baseball player solely by the random hops of the postseason. Yet, this is a team which has built its own reputation of seeking a high-priced, quick fix in chasing another World Series title.

Both David Price and the Boston Red Sox have at least the next three years to find some sort of redemption together.

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