Have the Blue Jays given up on David Price?

At the time of the trade, David Price seemed like a rental for a team in win-now mode. Though there have been reports that David Price would prefer to stay with the Toronto Blue Jays, there are far clearer indications that such a thing is far from likely to occur.

The Boston Red Sox are expected to spend through the nose to make sure the Cy Young left-hander ends up in Beantown next year. The Red Sox being heavily involved in the bidding war for Price should not necessarily count the Blue Jays out from re-signing the coveted ace, but it is starting to appear as if Toronto’s front office is content to let Price leave after only 11 starts.

As the Blue Jays announced J.A. Happ‘s new three-year, $36 million contract Friday afternoon, it told the people of Toronto all they needed to know.

David Price is not coming back.

New team president Mark Shapiro is not wheeling and dealing with the same frenetic, fast-paced gusto of Alex Anthopoulos, the former general manager responsible for all of the moves that turned a .500 team into a juggernaut at the trade deadline. All those moves, however, left the upper levels of the Blue Jays’ farm system totally bankrupt of big-league talent. Shapiro needs to fix that. Without fresh blood coming up through the system, the Blue Jays will be in the same boat every year as they were before the trades this year — great offense, no pitching.

Talk of rebuilding the Triple-A starting rotation will not resonate with the fans of Toronto, fans who just packed the Rogers Centre, 50,000 strong nearly every single night in August and September. Shapiro has the reputation as a farm system rebuilder, but in the moment, that means very little to the city of Toronto, a city that just re-discovered its love of baseball.

The most popular move would be to offer Price the same amount as the highest bidder and see just how much he enjoyed his time in Toronto. It’s highly doubtful that happens though, as both ownership and Shapiro are either unwilling to extend a $200-million offer to Price or just flat-out do not think he is worth that much money or long-term risk. While the signings of Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ will not move the needle in Canada’s biggest city, both are on short-term deals.

Estrada, Happ, and Jesse Chavez should fill out a rotation with Marcus Stroman and R.A. Dickey. Estrada pitched like an All-Star in 2015, while Happ pitched like an All-Star in the second half of the season after being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. While Estrada may not replicate his 3.13 ERA, and Happ will definitely not replicate the 1.85 ERA he gave the Pirates over 11 starts, the Blue Jays will be fine if both can deliver a sub-4.00 ERA.

There is a risk that Estrada could be a flash in the pan or that Happ could turn back into the pitcher who went 19-20 with a 4.39 ERA in three seasons with the Blue Jays. That risk is very manageable, however. A seven-year contract for David Price comes with a risk that is not manageable in the long run.

David Price may pitch in the American League East in 2016, but it won’t be with Toronto. Maybe the Blue Jays haven’t given up on Price. Maybe they never really wanted him back in the first place.

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