Red Sox

David Price told us he held all the cards. Is he starting to play them?

David Price told us he held all the cards. Is he starting to play them?

First off, let's get this out of the way: David Price has earned his money.

The Red Sox paid the left-hander $217 million to win a World Series. And though his path to that goal wasn't exactly direct, he ultimately delivered. With Chris Sale pitching at about 60 percent and the rest of the rotation on fumes, a case can be made that the Red Sox don't win it all without Price finally emerging as the A-1 alpha the team expected the night it wooed him at his favorite Nashville steakhouse in 2015.

For all the plaudits sent Nathan Eovaldi's way, the right-hander technically took the only loss vs. the Dodgers. Price? He was nails, winning Games 2 and 5 and losing the World Series MVP award only because Steve Pearce smacked an insurance homer in the clincher.

Price exorcised his postseason demons in dramatic fashion, and if you think we're building to an "and yet," you'd be right. So here goes:

Price memorably declared that he held all the cards, and now I can't help but wonder if he's starting to play them.

On Thursday, the Globe's Alex Speier relayed some fascinatingly candid comments from the veteran left-hander, who experienced underachievement in Tampa and Detroit, and knows how quickly promising seasons can end with stars scattered to the wind. The 2011 Rays opened 1-8 before manager Joe Maddon gathered players for shots. Tampa won 22 of its next 29 and then rallied to overtake the Red Sox on the wildest final day in baseball history.

Three years later, Tampa couldn't survive an even worse start, and Price landed in Detroit at the deadline. Discussing those experiences led him to theorize about a doomsday scenario involving the current Red Sox.

"If we don't start playing better, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, maybe myself, we could get traded," Price told the Globe. "We're, what, 30th in minor league systems? We're dead last. We don't play better, Mookie Betts will be traded, J.D. Martinez will be traded. It will be tough for a while here."

What a fascinating and unexpected direction to steer the conversation! There are multiple interpretations of that quote. One is simply that as a leader, Price wants to convey just how seriously the team takes its 6-13 record and last-place standing in the American League East, a whopping 8.5 games behind the Rays with a three-game set in Tampa kicking off Friday.

In this scenario, Price is standing up as a spokesman to address the rocky start. It's what leaders do: we know we need to be better, or we'll be gone. Multiple team sources have consistently painted him as all-in, particularly since the World Series. That's the charitable reading, and maybe it's the accurate one.

But here's my gut reaction, and I can't help but wonder if this thought motivated him, too: he wants out.

There's a reason the opt-out in Price's contract dominated discussion for the last two years. From his discomfort with criticism to his public spat with a reporter to his ill-advised confrontation with Hall of Fame broadcaster Dennis Eckersley, signs pointed to Price slamming the eject button the moment he had the chance.

But elbow troubles combined with a deteriorating market for free agent pitchers made such a decision irresponsible. Why leave $127 million on the table when the odds of recouping that money elsewhere were practically nonexistent? I appreciated Price's honesty this spring about opting in.

"You've seen this free agent market?" he retorted. "It wasn't very hard." He went on to say he came here to win multiple World Series and eventually even acknowledged that he loved the fans in an answer some found compelling and I had to squeeze like a sponge to extrude the sarcasm.

"Fans, I love you guys," Price told the cameras. "I have no problem with you. I get asked about you all the time. I'm sorry. I love you guys. That's it."

Price is right that some of us will never believe him when it comes to his feelings for the city. And perhaps there's no point trying to convince anyone. His contract doesn't say anything about liking it here. He's paid to perform, and on the biggest stage last October, he delivered. He'll probably do so again, if given the chance.

But it's interesting that he cited the team's prospect ranking. The farm system indeed ranks 30th, according to Baseball America, the result of not only Dave Dombrowski's trades for established talent, but also because youngsters like Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers are helping the big league club.

It certainly reads as a shot at the organization's decision makers, especially since Price asked to be educated about the farm system before he signed, because he wanted to join a team that was built for the long haul.  Dombrowski presided over the ownership-mandated fire sale of the Marlins in 1998 before building the nucleus that won a title in 2003. He hasn't been much for rebuilds ever since, spending his last 10 seasons in Detroit in win-now mode, an approach he successfully imported to Boston.

It's hard to imagine Dombrowski suddenly becoming a seller, especially with only one year remaining on his contract, but Price didn't mind opening that door. Maybe he was simply serving as a spokesman on a team with reluctant leaders like Betts who'd prefer not to answer questions after every tough loss. But forgive me if I smell the whiff of an exit strategy, too.

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Dave Dombrowski: Red Sox 'long way' from blowing up roster despite struggles

Dave Dombrowski: Red Sox 'long way' from blowing up roster despite struggles

The Boston Red Sox enter Thursday at the bottom of the American League East with a 6-13 record, but despite the disappointing start to the 2019 MLB season, team president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski hasn't reached the point where seismic roster moves are being considered.

Dombrowski stressed Thursday on WEEI's "Dale and Keefe" show that the Red Sox are not close to blowing up the roster.

"I didn't see David's comments," Dombrowski said. "No, we're not in a position to blow things up at this point. But we do have to play better, there's no question about that. I think his point was probably to people, that, hey, we can't keep playing this way, things end up happening. But we're a long way away from being in that type of situation."

The topic of making wholesale changes came up after David Price told The Boston Globe that J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts and potentially himself might find themselves on new teams if the Red Sox don't turn around their season.

"If we don’t start playing better, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, maybe myself, we could get traded. We’re, what, 30th in minor league systems?” Price noted, referencing Baseball America’s recent organization rankings that did indeed feature the Red Sox with the No. 30 farm system. “We’re dead last. We don’t play better, Mookie Betts will be traded, J.D. Martinez will be traded. It will be tough for a while here.”

The Red Sox still have 143 games remaining in the regular season, but they're already 8.5 games out of first place in the AL East. Boston needs to go 89-54 (.622 win percentage) over the rest of the season to reach 95 wins. Last year, 95 wins wasn't enough to clinch either of the two wild-card playoff spots in the AL. That said, this Red Sox roster has way too much talent to just give up. Boston won the World Series last year after a 108-win regular season, and relievers Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly were the only notable depatures over the offseason.

There's no time to waste, though. The Sox need to show drastic improvement ASAP or the 2019 season could soon be lost.

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David Price lays out Red Sox doomsday scenario in surprising comments

David Price lays out Red Sox doomsday scenario in surprising comments

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has avoided pressing the panic button amid Boston's abysmal start to 2019.

It's safe to say David Price has a different mindset.

The Red Sox pitcher made some eye-opening comments to The Boston Globe's Alex Speier on Wednesday night, suggesting major changes could be coming for the defending World Series champions if they don't improve on their 6-13 start.

Here's the kicker:

"If we don’t start playing better, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, maybe myself, we could get traded. We’re, what, 30th in minor league systems?” Price noted, referencing Baseball America’s recent organization rankings that did indeed feature the Red Sox with the No. 30 farm system. “We’re dead last. We don’t play better, Mookie Betts will be traded, J.D. Martinez will be traded. It will be tough for a while here.”

Price was drawing on experience, as the Rays' disappointing 2014 season following a 2013 playoff berth prompted a fire sale in Tampa Bay that included his trade to the Detroit Tigers.

The Red Sox still have plenty of time to right the ship in 2019, but Price seems to have a bit more urgency.

"It needs to happen now," Price said. "Boston doesn’t handle losing well. I get that. The Celtics are good, the Bruins are good, the Patriots are always winning, and the Red Sox are always good.

"If we don’t play better, there’s going to be a lot of changes around here. I remember when Boston won the World Series in 2013. In 2014, they were trash. Trash."

Price may just be trying to light a fire under his teammates, but considering the Red Sox are less than 20 games removed from a World Series title, these are pretty strong remarks. Not that he's totally off-base: Martinez hits free agency this offseason while Betts will command a massive contract the following year, so if Boston continues its free fall, a move to shore up its depleted farm system might not be too crazy.

That's all to say the Red Sox should probably start winning games, especially with a three-game series against the American League East-leading Rays looming this weekend.

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