The big sweepstakes for free agent pitchers is in the books, with the four biggest names—David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmerman—all having made their decisions. The Boston Red Sox, the team I root for, “won” the bidding for Price, but to me this looks like a Pyrrhic victory. I think the Red Sox are going to regret choosing the path they did.
Price got the most money of the four, with a seven-year deal valued at $217 million. At age 30, the last 2-3 years of that contract are going to be a huge drag. And while Price is a great regular season pitcher, he’s had his problems in the postseason. When you root for a team that’s finished last in the AL East for two straight years, maybe it’s getting ahead of myself to worry about the playoffs. But when you drop $217 million, is it unreasonable to want more than regular season success?
I would have much rather the Red Sox gone after Zimmerman, whom the Tigers locked up with a five-year commitment at $110 million. Zimmerman isn’t as dominant as Price, but the former Washington National is still pretty good and he stood apart from a lot of his Nationals teammates in coming up big in October—a Game 2 gem against San Francisco in 2014 that was lost only because Zimmerman was foolishly removed with one out to go.
Speaking of San Francisco, they’re the biggest winners of this free agent period. They got Cueto and a price that I found surprisingly reasonable—six years, at $130 million. He’s 29-years-old, so the contract is a bit long, but the overall value of the deal is very team-friendly. Cueto is as good, if not better than Price straight-up and when you factor in the difference in contract values there’s no comparison.
Cueto has had some of his own postseason problems, but unlike Price, Johnny has had some notable successes—notably a gem in the decisive Game 5 of the Division Series against Houston this year and a dominant performance in Game 2 of the World Series. And the Giants, but not dropping over $200 million on one pitcher, were able to also add Jeff Samardzija.
Any chance I can interest you in a rotation of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, a healthy Matt Cain with Samardzija and a tough veteran like Jake Peavy filling out the back end? I thought so. Even-year magic could be back in Bay Area for 2016.
Greinke switched NL West teams, leaving the Dodgers to take a 6-year/$206 million offer from the Diamondbacks. It’s hard to see this working out for Arizona, although I’m surprised Los Angeles showed fiscal discipline. Although Greinke losing Game 5 of the Division Series against the Mets this year hurt his status as the man who covers for Clayton Kershaw every October.
Moving back to Boston, I feel like the Red Sox naysayer—I was not on board at this time last year when they opened the vault for Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. As it turned out, my reservations were actually understated. I’m not nearly as down on the Price deal—he will be a big part of putting this young team firmly back into contention. But when all is said and done, I have a feeling Red Sox Nation will feel Price never lived up to his big contract.
The bottom line? San Francisco wins the sweepstakes, Detroit does well by themselves, while Boston and Arizona take too big of a risk.