DETROIT – Can the Cubs afford a David Price megadeal?
That became the biggest question walking away from Price’s locker inside the home clubhouse at Comerica Park, because otherwise the Detroit Tigers left-hander sounds like a perfect fit.
Price stood there with a group of Chicago reporters on Wednesday afternoon and raved about the freewheeling style Joe Maddon developed while managing the Tampa Bay Rays.
Price explained his close relationship with Derek Johnson, the minor-league pitching coordinator who recruited him to Vanderbilt University and helped him blossom into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft.
Price even acknowledged the same sense of history and ego that appealed to Jon Lester when he chose the Cubs and signed a six-year, $155 million contract last December.
“It’s very special, absolutely,” Price said. “There’s probably not another city that’s dying for a World Series more than Chicago. I think everybody would probably agree with me on that. That’s special. It’s absolutely special. But it would be very special if we won here as well.
“Obviously, winning a World Series is special anywhere you play, but that would be pretty crazy.”
Price, who will turn 30 this summer, is already making almost $20 million in his final year of arbitration. The Cubs now have a $120 million payroll that’s inflated by the $20 million leftover from losing the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, which helped finance the Lester deal.
Where do the Cubs go from here? Maybe the TV megadeal comes sooner rather than later and the Wrigley Field renovations start producing incremental revenues. It all depends on how creative the Ricketts family, Crane Kenney’s business operations department and Theo Epstein’s front office can get next winter.
Price is a smart guy who understood the line of questioning, diplomatically bringing certain answers back to Detroit, comparing Tigers manager Brad Ausmus to Maddon and saying his camp never broke off negotiations in spring training.
But just fill in the blanks to Price’s response when asked what will be important to him when he decides what he wants to do for the rest of his career.
Imagine Price, Lester and Jake Arrieta at the top of the rotation next year and a lineup anchored by Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant through the 2021 season. Picture one of those postgame dance parties at Wrigley Field.
“I want to win,” Price said. “I think winning sets a precedent over everything else. That’s something I want to do. I want to do it now, and I want to be able to do it for a long time.
“Obviously, you want to be able to have fun. You want a loose clubhouse, like we had in Tampa, and like we have here. You got to be able to look forward to coming to the field every day.”
As a September call-up in 2008, Price wound up pitching out of the bullpen for the Rays team that went to the World Series. He emerged as the American League’s Cy Young Award winner in 2012. He can see what the Cubs are building now.
“They’re very young,” Price said. “They have a lot of guys they’re going to be able to control for a long time. It’s very similar to when I first came up with Tampa, just a bunch of young guys going out there and having fun. That’s what it’s about. Obviously, winning is what it’s about, but you got to be able to have fun.
“To have that kind of core group of guys that you have a chance to be there with for a long time – that always makes it more special.”
Maddon doesn’t know how much his relationship with Price will matter in free agency, but the manager believes Chicago will sell itself.
“How could you not want to go there?” Maddon said. “Unique city, one of the best in the world, not just in our country. A ballpark that truly embodies, indicates or demonstrates the history of baseball in one little confined area: The Friendly Confines.
“It’s just an incredible place to play, to go to work every day. The fan base is extremely loyal and supportive. A young team with a really nice nucleus building for the future. There are so many positives – the front office, the ownership.
“I’m not saying anything that anybody else doesn’t already know about. This is just stating the obvious – Captain Obvious right now – this is what we got going on.”
The Tigers took care of another Cy Young Award winner (Justin Verlander) and locked up an MVP winner (Miguel Cabrera), committing more than $470 million to those two superstars. But Price sounds willing to see what else is out there.
“I’m always prepared for a change,” Price said. “You don’t want to get blindsided in this game, because that’s never any fun. You got to be prepared for it, even if it doesn’t happen. You still have to be prepared for that. I’m always prepared.”