The Price of Price

The Tigers traded away a their wildly popular starting Center fielder, Austin Jackson. They added in their best pitching prospect, who filled in the rotation quite well in 2012, was their best bullpen arm in 2013 and a solid contributor to the rotation in 2014 in Drew Smyly.

They also added in Willy Adames, who Dave Dombrowski was quoted as saying he received many requests for in trades and told everyone he was only available for high end, non-rental talent in return. Which explains why the Tampa Rays were able to get him in exchange for David Price.

Price threw a gem on opening day for the Tigers but that isn’t the reason they need to extend his contract immediately. They need to extend him because of the talent they gave up to get him and the pitchers they let go because he was in the rotation this year.

David Price has spent parts of 7 years in the majors, stepping in as a regular starter at 23 with the Rays, starting 23 games that year. In 2010, Price started 32 games and with the exception of missing a few starts in 2013 (started 27 games) has had at least 200 Innings pitched each year of his career, including a career high 248 last year.

David Price is a dominant lefty work horse with minimal injury history that has a career ERA+ of 121 (regular ERA of 3.21 for those not into fancy stats). He has thrown over 1200 IPs with a BB/9 of just 2.4. He is fantastic. Pick a stat, advanced or not and Price’s line shows he’s been a great pitcher for his entire career. And he plays for the Tigers, for now.

The Tigers have a lot of money wrapped up in Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Anibal Sanchez & Ian Kinsler. This should not be a part of the decision to extend Price and based on comments from the Tigers and Price’s agent, they have started discussions. The question that lingers is, How much is David Price worth?

We can use two recent signings that involved the Tigers to get a better idea on this, first, Max Scherzer, who signed a 7 (being paid for 14) year deal with the Nationals for $210 Million. He will play for 7 years but be paid for 14 years, bringing his average annual salary down from $30MM to closer to $25MM, which is what I will use for this comparison.

I’m not sure there needs to be a second comparison after looking at the stats of Scherzer v. Price, but I will also look at what Rick Porcello just signed for with the Red Sox, 4 years, $82.5MM, a $20.065MM annual average.

David Price had a better start to his career than Max Scherzer, but the past few years (Scherzer being 1 year older) were very similar.

  • Both won Cy Young & Finished 12th in MVP voting in same season
  • Both have a top 5 Cy Young finish in addition to the win
  • The Numbers:
Scherzer Price
IP 1239 1221
K 1321 1147
WHIP 1.219 1.142
ER 493 435
ERA+ 117 121
W 91 86
CG 1 11

Those are some very similar numbers, in addition to that, they both hit free agency after their age 29 season. With Scherzer setting the bar of an annual average salary for a 30 year old pitcher, no Tommy John surgury and over 1200 innings pitched in his career at $25MM, Rick Porcello confirmed that price.

Porcello gave up his free agency to sign a 4 year deal with the Red Sox that allows him to become a free agent after his age 30 season, 1 year later than Scherzer and Price.

Porcello has steadily improved each year in the majors, with the swan song being 2014 where as a 25 year old, he pitched on par with Scherzer and Price in their age 25 season:

Scherzer Price Porcello
IP 195.2 224.1 204.2
K 184 218 129
WHIP 1.247 1.137 1.231
ER 76 87 78
ERA+ 120 150 116
W 12 12 15
CG 0 0 3

Porcello agreed to forgo a potentially huge signing day of a 8+ year contract as a free agent starting pitcher heading into his prime in exchange for just over $20MM per year for 4 years, which will be above what the inflation adjusted cost of what Scherzer & Price received in arbitration in the seasons following their age 25 season.

Porcello looks to make more career money than both Scherzer and Price, but he started his career age season before each, allowing him to become a free agent much earlier.

If the price of keeping Porcello out of free agency is 4 years/$82.5MM and Scherzer received 7 years/$210MM, the starting point for negotiations for the Tigers should be in the same ball park. A $20-$25MM deal for about 7 years. Price isn’t looking to cash in twice like Porcello, so he is looking longer term, 7+ years, where 8 years could be had for less AAV or 6 or 7 years could be had at a higher rate, pushing $30MM per season.

David Price is willing to negotiate during the year, which is a step in the right direction over Scherzer. Price also has made comments about how much fun it is to play for such a passionate fan base and making him late to the ball park on opening day may end up not being a bad thing, as it helps prove the point to him: Playing in Detroit in front of capacity crowds most nights, all year long, is a great way to spend the rest of your currently borderline Hall of Fame career.

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