The Blue Jays and Red Sox are discussing a deal that would send veteran starter David Price to Toronto, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. While Rosenthal is quick to note that an official move isn’t close yet, it’s nonetheless notable that Price is in play for a Blue Jays team that has made abundantly clear its desire to upgrade the starting rotation.
The progress of the teams’ negotiations will hinge on Boston’s willingness to cover some portion of the remaining three years and $96MM on Price’s contract. It’s been no secret that the Red Sox, aiming to duck beneath the luxury tax threshold for 2020, are seeking a taker for Price, Nathan Eovaldi, or both. However, the team has simultaneously expressed its disinclination to include a promising piece simply to facilitate a trade. While that would strengthen the return for Price, and likely decrease the amount of cash needed to move him, it would either detract further from the big league roster or eat into an already-thin farm system.
Furthermore, attaching a more attractive player to Price likely isn’t necessary: the Red Sox, for their part, are said to be investigating other options for Price, who has garnered interest from other teams, including the Padres, Cardinals, and Reds, among others. He’s a valuable pitcher, albeit one who hasn’t lived up to the expectations that came with his $217MM price tag. So it makes sense that pitching-needy teams should explore whether they Price can be had for, say, $20MM annually.
From Boston’s point of view, it’s worth nothing that even offloading $20MM of Price’s yearly salary won’t be enough to get them under the tax line. As Rosenthal states, Roster Resource pegs the Sox’ current luxury tax obligations at nearly $238MM, meaning that almost all of Price’s salary would have to come off the books if they are to sneak under the $208MM luxury tax threshold. Of course, that’s part of why Eovaldi and Mookie Betts have also been named as candidates to be traded this winter.
Price, of course, made brief stint with Toronto in 2015, when he was acquired from the Tigers at the trade deadline. To be sure, remnants from that 2015 team are few and far between, with a new front office and manager in place, as well as a completely refreshed core of youthful position players.
The Jays have been frequently linked to free-agent southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu, who looks like the last remaining top-flight starter on the market. However, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting that as many as seven teams are in the running for Ryu’s services, there’s a very real possibility that Toronto will strike out on that front and be forced to pivot to alternate means of improving the rotation. They’ve already added Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson, but lack a real number one after trading Marcus Stroman last year.