Red Sox

Trading David Price would save Red Sox a ton of money, but not without meaningful risk

Trading David Price would save Red Sox a ton of money, but not without meaningful risk

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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J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

SPRINGFIELD -- For five hours on Saturday morning at Winter Weekend, Red Sox players and coaches delivered basically the same message in regards to the 2018 cheating scandal: We're not at liberty to say anything until the league finishes its investigation.

And then J.D. Martinez stepped in front of the cameras.

The slugging DH, who earlier this offseason chose to remain in Boston rather than exercise an opt-out in his contract, minced no words when asked if the Red Sox did anything wrong during their championship 2018 season.

"You know, it sucks, to be honest with you," he said of the investigation. "It does suck. But you know what? I know I'm excited for the investigation to be over with just so that they can see that there was nothing going on here."

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So he believes the team is innocent of the charges that it used the replay room to steal opposing signs in real time?

"I believe that, yes," Martinez said.

And what gives Martinez this confidence, despite a report to the contrary in The Athletic claiming that the Red Sox stole signs?

"Because I was in there," he said. "I saw what was. . . . Straight up, everyone seems to forget that in 2017 and '16 this team was a really good team. This team won 93 games those two years and then we just got better."

Martinez spoke without hesitation, and also saluted departed manager Alex Cora, while offering some insight into why Cora decided to leave the team.

"Kind of heartbroken about it," he said. "I talked to him before and I understood his side of it. He didn't want to be a distraction going into the season. I know it was wearing on him and his family, so I obviously feel for him and I wish him the best. But I know he played a big, big role for our team and he was one of my favorites, if not my favorite manager that I've had. It's going to be tough."

Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell would check a lot of the boxes the Red Sox would be looking for in their managerial search. The popular former Red Sox third baseman is a Cuban-American who speaks Spanish and English and is media-savvy as an analyst for the MLB Network. 

Still, there's one condition he has that will probably take Lowell out of the running. 

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The 2007 World Series MVP and 2018 inductee into the team's Hall of Fame has no managerial experience, but told WEEI's Rob Bradford in a text message, "I would love to if I knew it was just for a year and Cora was guaranteed to come back."

Alex Cora, a Red Sox teammate of Lowell's for three seasons (2006-08), was let go by on Tuesday after he was named as the central figure in Major League Baseball's investigation of sign-stealing by the Houston Astros when Cora was their bench coach in 2017. Cora is also alleged to have brought a similar system to Boston when he became manager before the 2018 season. MLB is continuing to investigate the allegations against the Red Sox and it will likely result in a suspension of one season or longer for Cora.

Former Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for a season by MLB and subsequently fired by Houston.

With Cora facing perhaps a longer punishment, or perhaps even a lifetime ban from baseball -- and from Red Sox ownership's telling silence when asked if Cora would ever manage in the majors again -- Lowell's plan of temporarily filling in until Cora's return isn't likely to fly.