SAN DIEGO -- The Red Sox could save a lot of money by moving on from David Price.
They could also blast a gaping hole in their rotation that precludes them from seriously contending in 2020.
Welcome to Chaim Bloom's nightmare.
Rumors have swirled for a week that the Red Sox would rather move the three years and $96 million remaining on Price's contract than trade former MVP Mookie Betts. Given Price's injury history -- he just started playing catch after September surgery to remove a cyst from his wrist -- it would be hard to blame them for attempting to get out from under as much of that salary as possible.
ESPN on Tuesday reported that multiple teams have targeted Price. The opinions of rival executives in the lobby at the Manchester Grand Hyatt for this week's winter meetings run the gamut. One believes the Red Sox could make taking Price a requirement in any deal for Betts, a la the 2012 mega-trade with the Dodgers that carved about $400 million off of Boston's books and allowed for the reset that led to a 2013 championship.
Another not in contact with the Red Sox believes they could move Price, keep Betts, and then entertain offers for the five-tool outfielder at the deadline in July if they're out of contention, noting that the Nationals missed an opportunity to make a similar move with Bryce Harper in 2018 before he walked in free agency.
And still another with a team interested in Betts and to a lesser extent Price expressed mild surprise that the Red Sox hadn't reached out as of Tuesday afternoon.
While trading Price seems like the right long-term move, it would come with considerable risk. There's a clear path to a World Series in 2020 if Betts stays, Price and Chris Sale regain their All-Star form, and Bloom makes some smart acquisitions for the right side of the infield. Jettisoning Price eliminates the possibility that he muddles through another injury-marred campaign, but it also removes a potential ace, and his spot would either be filled with a mid-level signing or (ugh) another opener.
For all his faults, particularly when it comes to clubhouse distractions like picking a fight with Dennis Eckersley, Price has been better than he gets credit for in Boston. He's 46-24 (.657) with a 3.84 ERA and in his 2016 debut, he led the AL with over 230 innings pitched. He was otherworldly in the 2018 postseason, shedding his reputation as a playoff choker once and for all.
Thus far it has been hard to read the direction of the front office under Bloom, who's still learning the organization and has remained tight-lipped in his dealings with the media. That said, after spending a couple of days around the team, it feels like the Red Sox have been forced into a reactive position where they're serving as Plan B for a number of clubs, particularly as it relates to Price.
Any team that misses out on one of the top-tier free agent starters could make a case that Price's upside outweighs concerns over his health. Premium starters, after all, remain a precious commodity. Zack Wheeler and Stephen Strasburg have already signed nine-figure deals, Gerrit Cole could soon earn $300 million, and Madison Bumgarner and Hyu-Jin Ryu will draw interest, too. Once they're gone, anyone shut out of that market could consider Price.
The Red Sox know this, which is why they signed Price to a $217 million deal in the first place. Though he has yet to make an All-Star team or earn a Cy Young vote in four seasons here, he has dominated a postseason run to a title, and ditching him in a salary dump has some serious come-back-and-bite-you potential.
That said, if they can find a taker without eating too much money, it's hard to imagine they wouldn't pull the trigger. This winter is all about saving money, and clearing Price's $32 million salary off the books is the most palatable way to do it.
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