The 2018 Major League Baseball season ended Sunday night, and with that end comes a new beginning: free agency.
In earnest, free agency begins on Nov. 3, the last of three important dates on the calendar over the next week. Right now, players with opt-out clauses have until Oct. 31 to exercise those, and teams have a five-day window from Oct. 29-Nov. 2 to exclusively negotiate with their own free agents; the following day, Nov. 3, is the deadline for clubs to tender their pending free agents the qualifying offer, which players have 10 days to decide on, and at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, QO or not, all players are officially on the market for everyone.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in his end-of-season press conference that the rotation will be a focus point for the Yankees this winter, so over the next two weeks, we'll take a look at three pros and three cons of 10 possible options for the Yankees' rotation.
Today is Day 2 of that three-day opt-out window and five-day negotiation window, so today's spotlight shines on the second of the two big fish in the option pool: Red Sox lefty David Price.
LOL HECK NO THANKS. Probably what you thought of immediately when you saw the title of this piece, right? Understandable, given that Price has become a villain to most if not all Yankees fans, but in the name of due diligence, one has to be ready for the possibility of Price in pinstripes, because he does have the chance to opt out after helping Boston win their fourth World Series in 15 years. The Red Sox will hold their victory parade on Wednesday, so it's likely a decision that won't be announced either way until parade time at the earliest, but it is a possibility.
Price was 16-7 with a 3.58 ERA in 30 starts this season, and after a really bad outing against the Yankees in the ALDS, rebounded with 24 1/3 strong innings of work on Boston's march to the title. 9-5 with a 2.73 ERA in 26 starts this season, and then made five starts and one relief appearance in the postseason, logging a total of 191 1/3 innings overall. He can opt out of the final four years and $127 million remaining on his deal, and given that he'll turn 34 in the middle of next year, he may seize what could be a "last chance" to cash in, even if he only equals his $32 million AAV for a longer term.
But, is he a fit for the Yankees?
-Beast of the East. Price has made 299 appearances (289 starts) in his career, and all but 32 of each have come in an AL East uniform. He also has a career ERA of 3.28 or better against all four AL East teams not named the Yankees, and has equivalent numbers at Rogers Centre (3.32 ERA), Fenway Park (3.08), Tropicana Field (2.89), and Camden Yards (2.72). For at least half the schedule, you know that with Price, you're getting a "dude," as Aaron Boone might say.
-Left Makes Might Here, too. Just like with Clayton Kershaw yesterday, one of the positives of Price comes simply from the hand he throws with. Price's platoon splits aren't crazy, because he's dominant against almost everyone, but he's held lefties to a .226/.272/.330 slash line in his career, including a .210/.291/.381 mark this year.
-Reverse the Curse. David Price is awful in October! It's a familiar refrain, although perhaps this year, the lefty finally silenced it. The Yankees ate him up in Game 2 of the ALDS, sure, but he posted a 2.59 ERA in 24 1/3 innings in the ALCS and World Series, the finale seeing seven innings of one-run ball (on short rest, no less) in the Game 5 clincher.
-One Shining Moment. Price had a strong October, but if you want a poster child for how one good October doesn't predict future success, the Yankees have one, and his name is Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod hit .245 in his first four postseasons in pinstripes, went bananas in 2009, and then hit .160 over the next three before finishing by going 0-for-4 in the 2015 Wild Card Game. Who is to say Price won't go back to being the guy who had a 5.59 October ERA (for four different teams, no less) from 2013-17?
-Cash Rules Everything Around Me. Actual salaries per year aside, Price has $127 million total left on his deal. If he opts out, he's not going to do so unless he feels he can make at least that over the next four years, a time period that brings him to the age 37. The best you might be able to look at is the same deal as Yu Darvish (six years, $126 million), which spreads the same money out over two more years. That's still $21 million per on a pitcher in his mid-30s, which isn't a formula that's working out for a lot of other teams who signed elite players north of 30 to lengthy deals in recent years.
-New York, Boo York. Remember those AL East stats above? Yeah, well, Price has a 4.83 career ERA at Yankee Stadium -- fourth-worst of the 27 ballparks he has pitched in, and one of the ones below it is Coors Field -- and his .818 OPS against in the Bronx is also fourth-worst, and also counts Coors Field as one of the three ballparks he has been hit harder in. Add in his noted truculence with the media at times, and he may not be the kind of player the Yankees would want to introduce into their clubhouse chemistry set.