David Price is one of the few No. 1 overall picks in the June draft who has lived up to his potential. Of the 17 pitchers drafted first overall, Price is second on the all-time WAR list, and he'll pass Andy Benes next season. He'll also be making a lot more money.
The free-agent left-hander is coming off a season in which he went 18-5 with an AL-leading 2.45 ERA for the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays. After a heavy workload in 2014 in which he pitched 248 innings and faced 1,009 batters, Price made two fewer starts in 2015, pitching 220 innings and facing 888 batters. Still, he's been durable throughout his career, a pitcher who hasn't had a major arm injury, with just one short DL stint in 2013 with a strained left triceps.
He's two years younger than Zack Greinke, so he's expected to get a bigger contract in terms of total dollars, although Greinke may inch him out in average annual salary. If there's one strike against Price, it's his postseason record -- he's never won in eight career starts, with a 5.46 ERA. He has 51 strikeouts and eight walks in those games, so those peripherals look fine, but he has allowed 10 home runs. It's certainly something for teams to consider as they offer him $200 million-plus.
Here are five possible destinations:
1. The favorite: Boston Red Sox
New Red Sox POBO (that's president of baseball operations) Dave Dombrowski made his intentions clear when he traded four prospects, including highly regarded outfielder Manuel Margot, to acquire closer Craig Kimbrel from the Padres: The mandate is to win now, no matter the cost, as everyone thought the Red Sox paid a steep price in talent for Kimbrel. Dombrowski then said he'd sign an ace pitcher rather than further gut the Red Sox system. That has all arrows pointing to Price coming to Boston.
The big advantage is Price has spent his entire career in the American League. As good as Greinke has been with the Dodgers, that's been in the National League and in a pitcher-friendly home park. Johnny Cueto's late fade with the Royals and his tender elbow earlier in the year have to be concerning, and Jordan Zimmermann is more of a No. 2 who has thrived against the bad offenses of the NL East. Price is the guy the Red Sox most likely want. And for what it's worth: In 11 career starts at Fenway Park, he has a 1.95 ERA.
2. The possible reunion: Chicago Cubs
With a young lineup to build around, all signs point to the Cubs spending their offseason cash on pitching. That, of course, has led to speculation about Price joining forces again with Joe Maddon, his manager in Tampa Bay. So why aren't the Cubs the favorite? They're just heading into the second year of Jon Lester's $155 million contract, so committing over $300 million to just two pitches is a risky proposition, even for a big-market team like the Cubs that just announced a big increase in average ticket prices and may be gearing up for its own cable network in the future.
Aside from that, however, the Cubs may prefer to eventually give Jake Arrieta the big money (he has two more seasons until free agency). Also, signing an ace is less valuable when you already have one or two (depending on how you evaluate Lester). An ace is the guy you line up for two starts in the Division Series; for the Cubs, that guy may be Arrieta or even Lester, not Price. The Cubs may also want to spread the money around, maybe going after Cueto or Zimmermann or John Lackey and a relief pitcher to help add depth to the bullpen.
3. Staying put: Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays re-signed Marco Estrada for two years, but there is conceivably still room in the budget for Price, especially considering the increased ticket and merchandise sales in 2015 thay led to a reported $40 million in revenue above the Jays' projected budget. That enthusiasm should carry over to 2016, as the Jays should reach 3 million in attendance after hitting 2.79 in 2015, their highest total since 1995.
With Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion both free agents after 2016 -- but getting older -- the Jays may simply let one of them walk and use that money to re-sign Price. The biggest question may be: Does Price want to pitch in Canada, and how much more would the Jays have to pay to cover the higher taxes?
4. They have the money: Los Angeles Dodgers
Obviously, this list is all about the big spenders. If the Dodgers aren't able to re-sign Greinke, they have to be considered a strong contender to land Price. Brett Anderson did accept the team's qualifying offer, but he's also coming off his first 30-start season since 2009. With Hyun-Jin Ryu also coming off an injury, the Dodgers would want a reliable workhouse to complete that 1-2 punch alongside Clayton Kershaw, something Anderson or Ryu can't be counted on to provide.
5. The sleeper: Washington Nationals
The Max Scherzer-Price duo wasn't able to deliver a championship to the 2014 Tigers, but maybe they could do it in Washington. Zimmermann is gone, Doug Fister is gone and Stephen Strasburg is a free agent after 2016. By this time next year, the Nationals could suddenly be scrambling for rotation help. But this is the offseason to go after starting pitching. The Nationals could backload the contract, as Jayson Werth comes off the books after 2017. Otherwise, Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman are the only two players signed to long-term deals. Yes, there's the Bryce Harper extension to worry about, but there's almost zero chance he signs without testing free agency ... when the Yankees sign him to a $400 million deal.