By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Things could be better for David Price.
He’s 9-6 with a 4.44 ERA. He’s coming off a terrible outing vs. the worst offensive team in Major League Baseball, a start which came after an embarrassing performance on national TV against the Yankees. With the media breathing down his neck and the fans going every which way on the guy, he’s not feeling like most $30 million pitchers probably feel.
But with all the time Price has had to deliver “Fortnite” jokes and mockingly call himself the “softest guy in the clubhouse,” Price claims that he has not taken any time to think about what he may do at the end of this season.
Jon Morosi of MLB Network and Fox Sports asked Price directly if he’s contemplated the ability to opt out after this season.
“I want to win, I want to win here and I want to win now,” Price told Morosi. “We all know the amount of ability we have in this clubhouse. … I’m focused on winning right now. I haven’t thought about opting out.”
Price’s seven-year, $217 million contract included an opt-out clause following the 2018 season. The idea was that Price, so long as he continued to pitch at his career norms, would be able to opt out and make even more money as a free agent at age 33. But Price has not pitched to his prior standard — not even close. Complicating matters, the MLB free-agent market last year saw an enormous dip. Teams weren’t spending like they used to.
After the 2018 season, Price has four years and $127 million left on his deal. There’s absolutely no chance he could get anything close to that as a free agent next winter. The performance, combined with the age, combined with the unresolved elbow issues, combined with the still murky postseason abilities would all lead to Price maybe getting a two-year deal that might pay him $40 million, if he’s lucky.
That may seem extreme, but look at Jake Arrieta for a reasonable comparison. Arrieta had none of those aforementioned issues that Price has. He posted a 54-24 record to go with a 2.71 ERA over the past three years, and he won a World Series and won a Cy Young. Yet after a long offseason of unemployment, all the 32-year-old could get was a three-year, $75 million deal (with an opt-out after two years) from Philadelphia.
Price, over his last three years, sports a 32-18 record, 3.99 ERA, no World Series wins, and no Cy Young Awards. He did put together an excellent nine-start stretch, but he’s now allowed 12 earned runs in his last eight innings pitched. Teams won’t be lining up to pay him.
That much is obvious. Yet at the same time, Price does not appear to be happy with the way things are in Boston. The video game jokes, the “mild carpal tunnel,” and the self-inflicted barbs about toughness are just the latest examples. Last year, he predicted he would “catch crap” for opting with Starbucks over Dunkin Donuts. He then proceeded to snap at a reporter before berating Dennis Eckersley on a team flight, a mistake which never went away because Price didn’t know how to make it go away. That came after an offseason where he mockingly roasted himself on Twitter for losing in the playoffs, and after a postseason where he sarcastically and dismissively told a reporter that the only reason he signed with Boston was for the money. The history of unease, distrust, and discomfort is getting quite long at this point.
Considering all of that, one would have to imagine that a person in Price’s position who is quite clearly unhappy would — in the four days between every start — have to think long and hard about the future. There’s obviously a lot more money to be made by staying in Boston, but the peace of mind that could be found playing somewhere else for less money with a lighter spotlight and fewer expectations could be life-changing. And for someone who’s already made more than $140 million, there comes a point where health and happiness might actually be worth passing up about $100 million.
Doing so would still be considered improbable, no matter how much money Price has already made. But, again, given the issues he’s had in the past, and given that things don’t appear to be getting better any time soon, the possibility of Price opting out after this season still has to be considered quite real. Once he starts thinking about it.