Predicting the value of David Price’s free-agent contract

David Price is about to become a very wealthy man. Scratch that, David Price is already a very wealthy man. He’s about to become an extremely wealthy man. With the open market value of a frontline starting pitcher continuing to skyrocket, Price will most likely become one of the five highest paid players in the league this winter. Postseason struggles will do nothing to tamp down the feeding frenzy that will surround the 30-year-old left-hander who has already won 104 games and at least one Cy Young with a career ERA close to 3.00.

Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw set the market when it comes to starting pitching. Scherzer signed for $210 million over seven years with the Washington Nationals last offseason. Kershaw just wrapped up the first year of a seven-year, $215 million dollar extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Price is no Kershaw, but he’s got a much better track record than Scherzer had when he struck it rich.

Prior to signing with the Nationals, Scherzer had a career 91-50, and had led the American League in victories for two straight seasons. Some of that was a byproduct of having one of the league’s best offenses backing him. Scherzer had not managed to finish a season with an ERA below 3.00 until his sixth year in the league. Price has already had three such seasons, and in 2015, had a better ERA in the American League, 2.45, than Scherzer had pitching in one of the weakest divisions in the National League, 2.79. Scherzer did show how dominant he can be, throwing two no-nos, and flirting with a handful more. On a consistency basis, however, Price has Scherzer beat.

So, if Price is just as good, if not better than Scherzer, but not quite as good as Kershaw, where does his price tag fall?

Price is represented by Bo McKinnis. Price is, by far, his biggest client. McKinnis has never had the chance to negotiate a massive contract like this one, but he did get Price a record-setting bonus when drafted, and a record-setting $19.75 million in arbitration. Even if McKinnis is not Scott Boras, he knows how to get Price top dollar.

The logical starting point for Price is seven years, $210 million, exactly what Scherzer got. That’s the starting point. It seems fair that Price and McKinnis should want just a bit more than Price’s former teammate in Detroit. Tack on an extra $500,000 per year, and you wind up with seven years and $213.5 million dollars. Not quite as much as Kershaw, but a little bit more than Scherzer, a fair deal in my books. From there, it will be up to Price, McKinnis, and whoever signs the ace to figure out just how backloaded the deal will be. If Price somehow stays with the Toronto Blue Jays, the team may have pony up even more cash to help offset some of the Canadian taxes.

So, who’s got $213.5 million to spend over the next seven seasons? Theo? Theo?

3 Responses

  1. KB

    I pray the Cubs don’t sign him. Would much rather have Greinke for 5-6 years instead for probably 3-4 mil less, annually. Or Zimmermann…. or even Cueto who MLBTR has projected to only sign a deal for 5 years and $105 mil due to his mediocre 2015 and constant health concerns. For 33% discount annually and a 2 year shorter marriage….. I’d take it. Or I’d like to see them sign 3 bounce back candidates in Fister, Latos, and Samardzija. MLBTR has Fister getting a 1 year $10 mil deal, Latos a 1 year $12M deal, and Samardzija a 5 year $80M deal. I doubt Samardzija gets that many years but $16M annually might be on point. I’m thinking more like 3-4 years at $45-64M…. $15-16M annually. Latos looks like he just had a bad, unlucky year as his FIP was a full point lower than his ERA. Just 2 years ago he was an Ace or at least a top notch #2 quality SP. Fister just 365 days ago was a top of the rotation quality pitcher. All 3 have relatively low mileage on their arms at about 1,000 IP a piece. I say it is worth the gamble seeing as 2 of them are projected to only ink 1 year deals. Sure it’s not flashy or exciting but it has potential to be a stanky rotation if they all bounce back.


    With Hendricks patiently waiting to get some respect after a stellar first full season of work under his belt. He could possibly be a trade chip, or if all 3 FA SPs bounce back one of those guys could be traded at the deadline and be used to fill other needs if needed at the deadline and Hendricks slides in as the #5….. or for a pitching prospect. Hammel I think i going to be relegated tot he bullpen this year regardless of what happens because it seems definite that the Cubs will add at least 2 SPs this winter. I’d rather see hendricks in that rotation than Hammel. For those not liking this bounce back strategy because it isn’t flashy enough. Again, it could be. If they don’t bounce back only Samardzija would be inked for more than 1 year. Next year’s notable FA SPs include Strasburg, Matt Moore, and Gio Gonzalez. Nowhere near the level of this year’s market, and one of Strasburg and Gonzalez will likely ink an extension, but still. After the Cubs failed about 7 years ago after spending big bucks coupled with watching other teams spend money like crazy and not succeeding at all I don’t see the point of spending huge money. Ask the Dodgers how well a $200+ mil payroll is working for them. Or the Yankees. Or Tigers.

    • CascadianAbroad

      Good assessment. I think the Cubs will look at adding two SP and sticking with Hendricks in the rotation. He finished the season strong and has shown that consistency with his mechanics leads to success. Bosio should be able to keep him straight as he enters his third year.

      I hear what you’re saying, but Latos and Fister don’t really fit what the Cubs are trying to do in free agency IMO. Grienke will likely re-sign with the Dodgers. The Cubs offense is good enough to push them to the postseason year after year, so I think it makes sense to look for another dominate TOR starter to shorten postseason series. Arrieta, Lester and Price/Zimmermann coupled with a maturing offense is pretty formidable.

      I totally agree with you on payroll. Plus, the Cubs pockets aren’t quite as deep as one normally associates with a big market team. Until the TV deal is signed and the debt payments from the sale are complete in 2019, the Cubs will continue to add creatively. The FO did a great job of stocking the farm system with a surplus of tradable talent to bring in the necessary pieces in the meantime.


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