When David Price signed his massive 7-year, $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox this past off-season, he joined his third team in as many years. That kind of jumping around doesn’t usually bode well for the player racking up frequent flyer miles. It either means he didn’t fit in with several organizations, or his talents didn’t live up to what his teams thought they were getting. Teams tend to shy away from players with too many stops on their résumé. With Price, though, frequent movement has meant something entirely different.
Price spent much of his career dominating batters as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, though few were around to see it. For six and a half years, he played in front of minuscule crowds at Tropicana Field, compiling a record of 82-47 and being recognized by those who pay attention as one of the best in the game. Still, his name never seemed to be mentioned with guys like Roy Halladay or Justin Verlander. Whether it was because he played in Tampa or some other reason, it felt like Price could never fully crack the top tier of elite pitchers.
Then, at the 2014 trade deadline, Price was shipped to the Detroit Tigers, a team chasing a World Series title. The Tigers felt that Price would put a rotation that already featured Verlander and Max Scherzer over the top. Upon landing in Detroit, Price went 4-4, and though the Tigers fell short of the World Series, Price settled in nicely the following season. He posted a record of 9-4 with a 2.53 ERA in the first half of 2015, before another team chasing a World Series ring came calling for his services.
This time, it was the Toronto Blue Jays, an offensive juggernaut looking for an ace to lead their pitching staff through the playoffs. The pressure was like an anchor on Price’s shoulders. After he moved to Canada, ESPN wrote an article with the headline “Toronto’s Title Hopes in David Price’s Hands.” Talk about heavy expectations!
But Price thrived in Toronto. He went 9-1 in 11 starts in the regular season with a 2.30 ERA, and the Blue Jays charged to the top of the AL East, eventually winning the division. During the stretch run, he was virtually unhittable, and he ended the season with a WAR (wins above replacement) of 6.0, second best in the American League.
Though he was inconsistent in the playoffs, the Blue Jays managed to return to the ALCS for the first time since 1993. When the off-season came, and Price became a free agent, the Red Sox pounced to make him the lynchpin of their rotation. More high expectations will follow, to be sure, but something tells us Price can handle it. This is nothing new.