David Price did not pitch for the Dodgers in his first season with the team, but still managed to make his presence felt.
Acquired along with Mookie Betts in February in what is already regarded as one of the most impactful transactions in franchise history, Price was much-needed depth for a Dodgers rotation that suffered losses. Hyun-jin Ryu and Rich Hill left in free agency, and Kenta Maeda was dealt to Minnesota in what was originally a three-team trade with Boston, but ended up being a separate transaction completed in the same day. That’s 68 starts of a 3.00 ERA from 2019 that needed to be replaced.
Had this been a normal season, Price probably would have filled in at least a third of those starts, and maybe nearly half if everything went well. But nothing about 2020 was normal.
During the four-month shutdown, a lot of the back-and-forth between MLB players and owners, especially publicly, was a labor dispute. But for players outside the union, the minor leaguers not on 40-man rosters, without the cushion of financial security, they were left to survive on $400 per week, in most cases, and oh by the way, be sure to also stay baseball ready despite having no access to team facilities.
An enterprising ownership group could gain a competitive advantage by simply choosing to pay minor leaguers a living wage — a relatively small expenditure in the grand scheme of things — so players could spend their off time training and eating healthier rather than needing another job to make ends meet. But, across the sport, that hasn’t happened yet, so minor leaguers get the short end of the stick.
To help fill some of that gap, Price arranged to pay every Dodgers minor league player, roughly 200 in all, an extra $1,000 out of his own pocket in June.
“I just want to help take care of the next generation of baseball. I never even thought about the fact that I never played a game for the Dodgers, or any of that stuff. It never even crossed my mind,” Price said on Ross Stripling’s podcast. “It was something I talked to my agent about, and they took care of. Maybe eight weeks, or a month and a half ago is when I told my agent what I wanted to do, and he went to Andrew [Friedman], and they have a very good relationship and talked about how they can work it all out.”
Once the plan for the season was finalized, Price joined the Dodgers in Los Angeles for summer camp. But on July 4, the first weekend of camp, Price opted out playing the season.
“After considerable thought and discussion with my family and the Dodgers, I have decided it is in the best interest of my health and my family’s health for me to not play this season,” Price shared on social media.
A few months later, in an interview with Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, Price said he originally planned to stay in Los Angeles during the season, but the summer spike in COVID-19 cases in the area might have prevented him from seeing his family regularly, which spurred his decision not to play.
Though he wasn’t with the team in person, Price followed along from home and kept in touch with the team via text messages all season.
Salary: none (Price forfeited $11.85 million, the pro-rated share of his $32 million full-season salary, by opting out)
Game of the year
Price appeared in two Cactus League games in spring training, with his best outing on March 7 against the Rockies at Camelback Ranch. He faced 10 batters, striking out seven, including each of his final four batters faced.
Price had three scoreless innings, allowing only a first-inning walk to Nolan Arenado.
Price is signed for two more seasons at $32 million each year, with the Red Sox picking up half the tab.