Does David Price have a future with the Detroit Tigers?


David Price doesn’t look quite right in a Detroit Tigers uniform. The longtime Tampa Bay Rays’ lefty was traded to Detroit in the middle of the 2014 season. Instead of putting the team over the hump and helping bring a World Series title to his new city, Price had an average showing by his standards as the Tigers fizzled to an American League Division Series exit.

With just one-year left on his deal, does Price have any sort of future in Detroit? This is a fascinating case to examine, especially with Max Scherzer‘s equally unknown status throwing a heavy monkey wrench Detroit’s way. Price makes the Tigers significantly stronger for 2015, but keeping him for the season’s entirety leaves the prospect of him walking on the free agent market.

In 2014, Price was rated as a 6.1 WAR pitcher by FanGraphs. He’s ranged from 3.9 to 6.1 in WAR over the past five seasons. Like nearly every MLB hurler whose pitched for a decade or close to it, Price’s velocity has declined. He’s only pitched six full campaigns in actuality, but he’s an innings machine who used to pump 100 mph cheese in the zone. Price tossed 170 2/3 innings with Tampa Bay in 2014, then an additional 77 2/3 frames for Detroit. This workload isn’t unusual for Price and puts his long-term value in question.

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Let’s not kid ourselves though. On the open market, look at what Jon Lester landed. Listen to the potential numbers Scherzer and his agent, Scott Boras, seem to command. Even James Shields, a strong workhorse who isn’t close to Price’s level, might land over $100 million. Being somewhat conservative, Price is likely worth at least $130 million on the open market. The figure he ultimately lands will likely be greater.

Detroit, are you willing to spend this kind of cash? With a horrid bullpen that hasn’t been addressed and an old lineup that probably can’t thrive past 2017 or so, would investing an enormous sum in Price be wise? Detroit has to weigh this quicker than one would assume.

To be bluntly truthful, Detroit’s bullpen issues will always prevent them from World Series glory, even playoff glory, for that matter, but the Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Justin Verlander deals aren’t exactly half-measure type of contracts. Doubling down and signing Price long-term fits into the scope of these deals, but it probably isn’t the best course of action for Detroit.

Remember when Lester was supposed to save the Oakland Athletics? Then, when Price to the Tigers happened and it was considered Dave Dombrowski’s method of sticking it to Billy Beane? As nearly everyone in the baseball world predicted an Oakland A’s – Detroit ALCS, both teams hit tailspins and never recovered. Lesson to the story; perhaps a true ace isn’t the answer to playoff demons or World Series absences. Maybe a bullpen, timely offense and just squarely strong enough starting pitching is the answer.

Beyond the simple prospects of a true ace’s value being overrated, it might also be look in the mirror time for Detroit. Price wasn’t initially happy when Tampa Bay shipped him out of town. Joe Maddon, Lester and an unreal assemblage of young offense have joined forces with the Chicago Cubs. That’s a logical landing spot and Price’s connection with Maddon is undeniable.

The Tigers can offer Price a long-term deal. They can cling to a Price – Verlander rotation, a Cabrera – Victor Martinez punch and hope each duo’s formidable enough to compensate for that dreadful bullpen and older lineup. My mindset walks a different path though. This is a flawed team. Pouring an outrageous amount of cash into Price might make sense for an organization in need of a splash. That doesn’t apply here though.

Detroit, you’ve made your splashes. You’ve signed your stars. You even traded for one, a guy by the name of Price, and it didn’t work out. So go ahead, offer him a long-term deal, just don’t wait on his answer too long. Because he might just walk away and leave you with nothing in the end.

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