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Are the Boston Red Sox Setting Themselves Up for a Run at David Price?

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Are the Boston Red Sox Setting Themselves Up for a Run at David Price?
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
Are the Red Sox saving their money for a run at David Price?

The Boston Red Sox used the formula of giving short-term deals to high-character veterans in the winter of 2012 in order to build last year's world championship squad. This winter the Red Sox have shown enormous restraint, making only smaller deals to build the team's depth without making a big splash in free agency or through trade.

After keeping a low profile for two seasons, it might be time to wonder if the Red Sox have their sights set on a bigger prize next winter—namely trading for Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price.

The 28-year-old Price is exactly the type of pitcher the Red Sox should be targeting through trade. He is in the middle of his prime and has shown durability and an ability to pitch in the AL East. He has a career record of 71-39 with a 3.19 career ERA and a WHIP of 1.158. Price would likely flourish pitching at Fenway Park in front of packed crowds every night.

His career numbers in Boston are a sterling 6-1 with a 1.88 ERA during the regular season.

While Tampa Bay would be reluctant to deal within the division, the Red Sox are loaded with prospects needed to make a deal. The Rays will likely trade Price after this season in the attempt to get something for him before he hits free agency prior to the 2016 season. 

David Goldman/Associated Press
Pedro Martinez

Adding Price could have the same potential impact that bringing Pedro Martinez to the Red Sox in 1998 had. Pedro was 65-39 when the Red Sox traded for him, similar to Price's current career record of 71-39. Martinez had also won one Cy Young Award—exactly where Price currently stands as well. Price would be older, but there are a lot of similarities between the two pitchers. 

If the Red Sox are looking to make a giant splash by trade, then acquiring Price would be the way to go.

Lefty Jon Lester has already shown a willingness to take a hometown discount, and it would be surprising if the Red Sox do not get something worked out with 30-year-old before Opening Day. The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reports the two sides are talking. Lester's willingness to take less would allow the Red Sox to offer Price a full-market contract extension. 

The reason the Red Sox can contemplate this is because they will likely have John Lackey pitching at the veteran minimum due to a provision in his contract that provided the Red Sox protection in case Lackey suffered an arm injury during the length of his five-year contract. Lackey had Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2011 season.

It seems like a very prescient decision the way things have turned out. The Red Sox will also have Jake Peavy's contract coming off the books (though Peavy has a conditional $15 million player option for 2015).

Veteran Ryan Dempster is unlikely to return in 2015 after announcing that he was going to take this season off. The combined savings between those three pitchers alone will be $43.7 million, giving the Red Sox plenty of room to add Price if they want.

Looking at the seven-year deals given this winter to Clayton Kershaw ($215 million) and Masahiro Tanaka ($155 million), an extension structured around a six-year deal worth $180 million with an option might get the deal done.

Using Martinez's age-29 season through his age-34 season as a base, Martinez went 81-36 during those six campaigns. Would the Red Sox view Price going 81-36 as a good investment for $180 million? The club might expect a few more wins, but Price will have a larger body frame to hopefully avoid wear and tear as he ages—which may help him side step Martinez's late-career decline.    

Looking at a 2015 rotation with Price, Lester, Clay Buchholz, Lackey and either Felix Doubront or a prospect like Henry Owens rounding it out would be very impressive. Lackey's minimum contract will make him one of the most attractive trade chips on the market during this season and next.

It's the type of deal where Boston can flip him for a prospect to a team that would rather surrender a prospect than commit to a large free-agent pact. Doubront also becomes a very valuable trade chip due to his age (26), relative success and left-handedness.

Price's acquisition would allow the Red Sox to transition their prospects into the major league rotation when they earn it.

Price and Lester would be the core, then Boston could phase out Lackey, Buchholz and Doubront while feeding prospects Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo and Owens into the rotation. It's the way the Red Sox can continue to contend without having to be dependent on the free-agent market for every need.

Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus recently ranked the Red Sox as having the fourth-best farm system in the majors, while MLB.com listed nine Red Sox players in its recently released top 100 prospects list for 2014. 

While looking at the 2014 season and admiring what a great job the Red Sox have done rebuilding and simultaneously contending, it's hard not to look into the future and see the potential big moves the team can make next winter.

 

Information used from Baseball-Reference, Nick Cafardo/The Boston GlobeCot's Baseball Contracts/Baseball Prospectus, Ramona Shelburne/ESPN, Bryan Hoch/MLB.com, Jason Parks/Baseball Prospectus and Jonathan Mayo/MLB.com.

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