When CC Sabathia became a free agent in the fall of 2008, he did not want to sign with the Yankees; he didn't want to play in New York. His preference would've been to sign closer to where he grew up, someplace in his home state of California. Understanding this, the Yankees stepped up and crushed all other bidders with a record seven-year, $161 million deal. The next fall, the Yankees won the World Series.
Fast-forward to this fall. As David Price became a free agent a month ago, friends of the left-hander believed that if everything were equal, his preference was to pitch in the National League, where he would be able to take regular turns at the plate. Maybe this would happen with the Cardinals, friends speculated, because St. Louis is located relatively close to where Price grew up in Nashville. Or maybe this could've happened with the Cubs, where he could pitch for his former manager, Joe Maddon. But the Boston Red Sox, understanding that they probably weren't Price's first choice of destination, stepped up and crushed all other bidders with a record seven-year, $217 million deal. A few weeks ago, rival executives had anticipated the Red Sox would obliterate other clubs with their offer, as detailed in this space, and that's precisely how it played out, as Bob Nightengale writes.
As the possible parallel to Sabathia plays out, the Red Sox will know next fall how far Price will take them. But already the Price signing is impacting the rest of the sport.
Some of the places the Price ripples are touching:
1. The playoff chances of the 2016 Red Sox
Look, there are legitimate big-picture questions about whether the Price contract is a wise long-term investment, given his age of 30, the 22,724-pitch mileage on his arm and his repertoire; he's mostly a fastball-changeup pitcher, and when he inevitably loses velocity, rival evaluators wonder how he'll adapt. Boston's ownership has assumed this risk at enormous cost, following a two-year debacle of management: It was less than two years ago that the Red Sox lowballed Jon Lester with a four-year, $70 million offer to be their ace. Because of that complete misread of the market, player and the team, Boston now must pay Price about $150 million more than the Lester offer, when it probably could've locked up Lester for about $100 million. That's on principal owner John Henry, not on former GM Ben Cherington.
But give Henry credit for moving on and effectively acknowledging a mistake, because the Price addition gives the Red Sox exactly what they need. Last year, Boston ranked 24th in rotation ERA (4.39), and with Price now moving to the head of the line, the Red Sox rotation looks very different, potentially much better and deep in quality.