Last month, the Dodgers made one of the biggest trades in the history of the franchise. They acquired Mookie Betts, who a lot of people view as the best player in baseball.. not named Mike Trout.
Trading for a player of that caliber in their prime doesn’t happen too often. Adding a former MVP to an outfield with the current NL MVP might’ve been the biggest roster move of the offseason across the league. Don’t get me wrong, adding Betts was huge, and it easily was the best move the Dodgers could’ve made.
However, lost in the spotlight of the trade was the fact that the Dodgers also acquired another piece from Boston, former Cy Young Award Winner, David Price.
Sure, he isn’t the pitcher he was a decade ago, and that’s fine. The Dodgers aren’t expecting him to be. In order to acquire Betts, the Dodgers had to take on half of Price’s salary due to the Red Sox wanting to shed as much money off their roster as possible. Whether they knew it or not, acquiring Price could end up being the most valuable offseason addition for LA.
Price will be entering his age-34 season in 2020. A former No. 1 pick, he’s been in the big-leagues since 2008. In addition to his Cy Young Award, he’s been named to five All-Star teams, won an ERA title twice, and helped the Red Sox win a World Series title.
Back in 2016, he signed a seven-year deal with the Red Sox for over $200 million. For whatever reason, he appeared to have gotten a bad reputation during his tenure in Boston. “I think he got a bad rep from the media in Boston,” Justin Turner said to USA Today. “I’ve had a lot of teammates here that come from Boston and told me how tough it is over there to deal with. But everyone I talked to, everyone who knows David, loves him to death.”
If you take out his injury-riddled 2019 campaign, he was actually really solid for the Red Sox during his first three seasons. He went 39-19, posted a 3.74 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 1.18 WHIP and 119 ERA+. He also had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 4-to-1. Based off his contract, he didn’t live up to expectations, but by no means was he an awful starter.
Moving to his 2019, it was a tale of two halves. Overall, he went 7-5, posting his worst ERA (4.28) since 2009. His WHIP (1.31) was also the worst of his career since 2009. Through his first 11 starts, Price was actually looking like an All-Star. His ERA was at 2.70, and he had 69 strikeouts with only 14 walks in 60 innings. In eight of those 11 starts, he lasted at least six innings.
His outing on June 13 really blew up his season numbers, as he allowed six runs in only 1 1⁄3 innings. However, he bounced back nicely after that rough outing, going 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA over his next five starts. During that stretch opponents hit only .226 off him, and he struck out 31 in 27 innings.
He struggled to close his year out, as injuries ultimately sidelined him for majority of the second half. From July 19 through August 4, Price posted an ERA of 10.29. Opponents hit .375 off of him, and they had an OPS of 1.200.
I know when looking at stats, it’s unfair to pick and choose, but if you were to take his stretch of games from April 14 through June 8 and combine it with his stretch from June 18 through July 14, you get a starting pitcher who posted a 2.04 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 75 innings pitched. Not only are those All-Star numbers, those are potentially mid-season Cy Young contending numbers.
His stats last year are deceiving, but when healthy, Price was a really good starting pitcher. Even if you include every start he made, his SO/9 was still the highest of his career at 10.7.
“He’s going to do everything he can to help us win a championship,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said to USA Today. “He understands that Mookie was the headliner of the trade, but don’t mistake that for the confidence he has in himself. He’s a top-tier starter. He’s a stud.’’
Roberts is right, he is a stud. Price has arguably been the most impressive pitcher in spring thus far, though his outings have been brief. In 4 1⁄3 innings, he’s struck out 10. Seven of those 10 came in his last outing, a three-inning scoreless start against the Rockies.
After his dominant outing, Roberts said it was ‘really fun to watch’. “Really good today, and I think the thing is that he was down in the zone consistently all day,” Roberts said to reporters. “And you’re talking about the same lane (with) the sinker, the cutter, the changeup off of that. Getting called strikes, getting the swing and miss. Delivery was consistent. Really efficient.”
Following the game, Price spoke with SportsNet LA’s Alanna Rizzo where he said the start was a step in the right direction. “To me, it doesn’t matter what the count is,” he said. “I have confidence in all my pitches to throw them on both sides of the plate.”
His second start went a lot better than his first. In his first start of the spring, he allowed four of the first six batters he faced to reach base, and only lasted 1 1⁄3 innings. Price attributed his poor outing to the “nerves” of being back out on the mound. “My legs were shaking out there,” he said to reporters following the outing. “If you love what you do you’re gonna have nerves. I definitely had them out there today. It was fun. I definitely enjoyed it, getting back out there. Wasn’t missing by much. For the first time, I’m okay with it.”
Price will enter the 2020 season as the No. 3 starter. After losing both Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill to free agency this offseason, adding a veteran lefty to the rotation to replace them was huge for the Dodgers, and seems to have gone under-appreciated. Aside from Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, the Dodgers didn’t really have much experience in regards to their starters, especially for October when they’ll rely on them most.
Julio Urias, who will be the No. 4 starter, only a handful of starts in his career. Alex Wood, the No. 5 starter, has over 100 starts in his career, but only two career starts in the postseason. Buehler and Kershaw is still a great 1-2 punch in October, but after that, your guess would have been as good as mine as to who they would’ve turned to without Price.
Now, the Dodgers add a reliable arm to be a very solid No. 3 option for the postseason, something they’ve really lacked throughout the years. Though his postseason career got off to a very rocky start, Price was really good during the 2017 and 2018 playoffs. He appeared in eight games, starting five, while posting a 2.76 ERA and holding opponents to a .195 average.
He was brilliant against the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, posting an ERA of 1.98 while throwing 13 2⁄3 innings. As most Dodgers fans remember, he was practically untouchable in Game 5 of the 2018 World Series, in which the Red Sox clinched the series on LA’s field. He went seven innings, allowing only one run on three hits.
In Price, the Dodgers are getting one of the best No. 3 starters in the game. If things go right for him in 2020, he has the chance to not only be an All-Star, but a potential Cy Young candidate as well.
The good news for him and the team, they don’t need that from him. It would be great, but not a necessity. The Dodgers need Price to remain healthy, giving them probably at least 25 starts. They don’t need a Cy Young season from him, but if he exceeds expectations, nobody will be complaining.
A change of scenery can do wonders for Price. Dodger Stadium was 24th in ESPN’s ballpark factor rankings last year, and he no longer has to face American League lineups that have the designated hitter. In addition to Dodger Stadium being a pitcher-friendly ballpark, Oracle Park and Petco Park are also pitcher-friendly parks as well.
As I mentioned, he wasn’t awful in Boston, and injuries disguised what was a pretty decent season in 2019. Early on, he appears to be happy, but more importantly, he appears to be healthy.
Yes, the addition of Betts is what everyone remembers. But, if things go as Price and the Dodgers envision, he could wind up being the most valuable piece towards helping the Dodgers capture their first World Series title in 32 years.