David Price: A Risk Worth Taking
Words alone can’t describe how much I love this move. The Jays have the best offense in the MLB, led by arguably the best Third Baseman, Right Fielder and Shortstop in the game. Yet despite leading the MLB in runs scored with 543 (58 more than the second place Yankees) the Jays find themselves with a mediocre record of 52-51. This leaves them 6 games out of the AL East and 2 games out of the last Wild Card spot with 5 other teams within 4 games of the Twins. Their record has a lot to do with their atrocious record of 10-22 in one run games. This record has more to do with bad luck than their league-average bullpen that often gets more blame than they deserve.
Without a doubt the weak point of this team has been its starting pitching. The Jay’s rotation currently has the fifth worse xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching). This seems to have been the Blue Jays Achilles heel for years. David Price finally gives the Jays their first true ace since circa 2009 when Doc still dominated every fifth day like clockwork. Opening day starters since Doc: Shaun Marcum 2010 (without whom we never would have experienced this or eventually this), Rickey Romero 2011-2012 (time bomb disguised as a dependable timepiece), R.A. Dickey 2013-2014 (a sundial –outdated, unorthodox, still tell time as long as its not indoors) and Drew Hutchison 2015 (a wall mounted clock that is useless on the road). The Jays just went out an got themselves a Rolex.
I love the thought of Alex finally putting all of his chips into the middle and bet that this fantastic offense just needs an ace to go all the way. So why are there so many “fans” up in arms about this trade? It seems as though for every 2 ecstatic fans you have one Joe Blow with a computer ranting on the TSN or Sportsnet comment boards about the Jays screwing themselves over by “emptying the cupboards”. Just last night I argued with a guy on my ball hockey team because as he said “Norris is a stud, Boyd will be solid. Why give them up for 2 months of Price, especially since they already gave up Hoffman and Castro?” My response was something like “eff you and your prospect hugging, Price is a stud!”
Now I am aware that I might come across as one of those meat-heads that force-trades all of their prospects while playing GM Mode on MLB the Show until their rotation looks like Kershaw, Scherzer, Hernandez, Price and Baumgarner. I am almost the exact opposite. I choose a mediocre team full of veterans (AKA Phillies) and flip everyone for prospects and build from the ground up. Not only is this way of playing more lame, less fun and more time extensive, but I almost always lose patience and delete the team before it becomes any good. All I’m saying is that I am well versed in the ideology of prospect-hugging.
It seems as though the most common fear is that this deal will turn out like the Mets and Marlins deals in which we are now just left with old man Buehrle 3 months away from retirement, the Burger King and Josh Thole toiling in the minors looking for a taste of that sweet sweet knuckleball. All the while Hechavarria has been a defensive wizard (sorry), Alvarez has become a top of the rotation starter, Desclafani has become a decent pitcher in Cincinnati, Syndergaard looks like the Norse god of strikeouts and D’arnaud is outplaying JP Arancibia despite having a durability that can only be beaten by Michael Saunders (too soon).
Sure it’ll hurt that Jays have lost 3 of their top 10 prospects in 3 days. But Anthopoulos has proven time and time again that he is one of the best at restocking the cupboard and trading prospects at peak value. Just think, one year ago from today Hoffman’s future was still up in the air after recovering from Tommy John, Norris was just establishing himself as a top prospect, Boyd was a non-prospect and Castro and Labourt were in A-ball and under the radar. Within one year these prospects were key in picking up the Troy Tulowitzki (!!!) and David Price!!! Before you attempt predicting the career trajectory of the prospects traded, try and remember that it’s almost more uncommon for prospects to pan out than not (hello Russ Adams, Travis Snider, JPA etc.). If you don’t believe me look at the package the Marlins received in 2007 for Miguel Cabrera.
The people that are whining about Anthopoulos clearing out the cupboard need to start paying attention to the minor league system. Throughout all of these blockbuster moves Alex has been able to retain some substantial talent in Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey, Jon Harris and Sean Reid-Foley. With the young talent that they have already on their roster in Marcus Stroman, Devon Travis, Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez, the Jays roster looks poised to age well (or at least better than this year’s sellers Tigers and Phillies).
As for David Price he has been one of the best pitchers in the league since he debuted in 2008. From 2009 (the year Price was in the rotation full time) to 2015 Price has had the sixth highest WAR among pitchers with 29.3 and had the sixth lowest xFIP over the same stretch with 3.36 (out of pitchers who had pitched at least 1000 innings). Fangraphs’s Steamer projections predict that he will be 1.9 wins above replacement for the rest of the season, which is especially great compared to former Jays’ pitcher Felix Doubrant who is projected to add 0 wins of value (literally replacement level). So the fact that Price’s value could potentially add 2 wins to the Jays win total in Doubrant’s old slot could be the difference in whether they make the playoffs or not.
It could also be entertaining to have Price back in the AL East, as brief as it may be, to see if any bad blood is spilled between Price and the Red Sox in two remaining series in Boston.
I believe Anthopoulos is right for going all in on this year’s Jays team which boasts one of the most dangerous lineups the team has ever seen. Especially after being called “gun shy” after last year’s trade deadline, Alex has been one of the most aggressive GM’s at the deadline.
Coming off a 2014 season in which we saw Madison Bumgarner absolutely dominate the playoffs, the importance of an ace-level pitcher for a contender is more evident than ever. Price can be a stabilizing force for this Blue Jays rotation as he is pretty much a lock for a Quality Start every fifth day (every fourth once playoffs roll around). It’ll sure look better to have him in the one game Wild Card elimination than Dickey or Hutch.
David Price might be a rental, and yes it is likely that he bolts at the end of the season. But he is the hero that Blue Jays fans deserve.