David Price’s tenure in a Red Sox uniform has been anything but rainbows and unicorns. There have been complications with the fans, blowups with the media, a terrible postseason start, and more. Some fans recognize he’s been a valuable pitcher, but the majority has been met with him being overpaid and non-productive.
Back before the 2016 season, Price inked a seven-year, $217 million deal that made him the highest paid pitcher at the time. With that price tag, plus pitching in Boston, comes lofty expectations that might never be reached.
During the 2016 season, Price was good, not great, and definitely not what fans were expecting. He pitched to a 3.99 ERA (which actually got down after 6.75 in April). However, Price did lead the American League in starts with 35, innings pitched with 230, strikeouts with 228, and won 17 games with an ERA+ of 117. But he also led the league in hits allowed and gave up a career-high in home runs. His postseason start was disastrous where he only went 3.1 innings and gave up five earned runs against the Cleveland Indians.
Entering 2017, David Price was teamed up with Chris Sale which many thought would lead to less pressure. But early in Spring Training, Price suffered an elbow injury that sidelined him for a good amount of time. After being activated, in the first half of the season, Price made nine starts and went 4-2 with a 3.91 ERA. He had a great game against the Yankees in which he went eight shutout innings. But in his next start against the Angels, he didn’t fare as well and went on the disabled list again.
Speed up to September 14, Price was activated and it was noted that he was going to pitch out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season. This is where fans and everyone else should note the turnaround. From the 14th on, Price pitched 8.2 innings, allowed three hits, two walks, no earned runs, and helped the Red Sox clinch the division with a big performance escaping a bases-loaded jam against the Astros. Price was regularly touching 97 and it seems like he knew exactly where every pitch was going.
In the postseason, Price has made a name for himself for not showing up. But as a reliever, that was anything but true. Still, as a reliever, Price pitched 6.2 innings allowing five hits and two walks and still showing the dominating stuff had returned.
So what is to be expected heading into 2018?
Anything is but a given for Mr. Price. This is going to be Price’s most important year as a member of the Boston Red Sox. He has an opt-out option after the season. Pitching well could lead him to test the open market again. But if not, the Red Sox are going to be on the hook for four more years and $127 million. The average of $31 million a year could hinder their team for a couple years as well.
As for performance, he has to show he’s healthy, the ability to make 25-30 starts, and remain dominant during the process. The display he showed down the stretch of 2017 should provide a ton of optimism. Assuming regression is inevitable, if Price trickles down a little from those numbers, he’s going to return to the dominant starter that earned him the huge paycheck in the first place. Whether you are a fan of David Price or not, you should be rooting for him to pitch well in 2018.