Prior to the start of the 2015 season, David Price attempted to engage the Detroit Tigers in talks for a contract extension. Even with his pending free agency after the season, Price was content to consider staying in the Motor City after just 11 starts. The talks went nowhere, and Price was flipped to the Toronto Blue Jays for a mother lode of prospects. Realizing that the need for a “reboot” was greater than keeping Price for another five or six seasons, the Tigers made the decision to pull the trigger on the big deal.
Price has done nothing but dominate with the Blue Jays. He’s 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA in ten starts for Canada’s team. With a league-leading 2.34 ERA and a string of clutch starts in a playoff hunt, Price should claim his second career Cy Young Award. The five-time All-Star was brought to Toronto with a focus on the 2015 season, but when it’s all said and done, do the Blue Jays have a chance to land Price long-term?
Geographically, Toronto sits just four hours and 230 miles (372 km for you Canadians!) from the heart of downtown Detroit. If Price was willing to consider making Detroit his permanent address, he’s hardly making a big jump to stay in Toronto. It’s doubtful the city’s location in Canada would come into play for Price. The Vanderbilt University product has always shown a great personality and interest in life away from baseball. Outside of New York City, there are few cities in North America that offer a more diverse set of cultural experiences than Toronto. Throw in the remarkably clean city’s beautiful setting along Lake Ontario, and there is very little not to like about Toronto. As evidenced by the 47,000 Torontonians hanging on every pitch in the Rogers Centre, Canada’s biggest city is a great sports town, with a less in-your-face attitude than cities like New York and Boston.
The Blue Jays will have the ability to break the bank for Price. They have only $73.7 million committed to 2016 salaries. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and R.A. Dickey have very club-friendly options for next season, and the remainder of the key contributors on the roster like Kevin Pillar, Ben Revere, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, and Roberto Osuna are under team control for a few more years. Working out an extension with Josh Donaldson to buy out the remainder of his arbitration years should be a priority. Even with Donaldson set to add a bigger number to the books, the Blue Jays are in great position because sluggers like Encarnacion and Bautista are not getting $25 million per season.
The Blue Jays should have the ability to pay Price close to what Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer are getting. Price has proven he is a $30 million per season type of pitcher. That’s the going rate for an ace, and Price has to be considered a top-five pitcher in the league. Whether it’s a five- or six-year contract is yet to be determined. A seven-year contract with an opt-out after five years seems most likely. Scherzer is signed beyond his 37th birthday. That’s where discussions with Price will have to begin.
The Blue Jays have shown a willingness to be aggressive this season, but without an ace like Price atop the rotation, it could turn the team’s playoff run this year into a one-year wonder. The farm system has been bankrupted of starting pitching talent. Despite the best offense in the league, Toronto was a scuffling, .500 ballclub with a mostly empty ballpark until the Trade Deadline. The fine folks at Rogers Communications who run the team won’t want to see this year’s momentum wasted. They’ve got something too special on their hands right now. That means the checkbook will be opened come the offseason. Price will be the number-one priority, especially if Mark Buehrle retires.
It’s not hard to see Price becoming more than a rental for the Toronto Blue Jays. He is not the type of player to hide his emotions, and it’s clear he is having fun playing for the Blue Jays. The only thing that could derail a return to Toronto is that presence of Joe Maddon in Chicago. The Cubs also have a lot of room to offer Price a big contract given the youth on their roster. Price loved playing with Maddon in Tampa Bay, and it’s not hard to envision a reunion in the Windy City. However, the Cubs may not feel a necessity to add another ace given the emergence of Jake Arrieta.
Chicago and Toronto seem to be the most likely destinations for Price. The Tennessee native does not strike you as the type who would want the bright lights of Los Angeles or the pressure of New York City. Price can be a part of a team building something special in either Toronto or Chicago. It will be up to him to decide where he wants to play out the rest of his prime.