By: Brian Feldman, BaseballStL
He’s the big fish out there. Forget Johnny Cueto. Forget the newest Detroit Tiger in Jordan Zimmerman. Heck, even Zack Greinke doesn’t move the needle quite like this guy.
David Price is the man in the free agent class this year. He’s the king of the crop so to speak. No one would be the winner of the offseason quite like the organization fortunate enough to land the former number one overall pick.
And it’s not really a secret that the Cardinals are interested. I mean, why wouldn’t they be? The lefty from Vanderbilt by way of Tampa Bay, Detroit and Toronto is among the best in the game. He owns a career 3.09 ERA but compiled a 2.45 mark this past season in 220.1 innings. Throw in the fact he’s not attached to a draft pick due to being traded and you have yourself quite the commodity.
GM John Mozeliak always does his “due diligence” on players who appear to be good fits so it’s a lock that the team has at least kicked the tires on Price. But with the injury to Lance Lynn it would make sense for the urgency to ramp up even more. That doesn’t necessarily have to be Price, per se, but someone really good is most likely needed.
Here’s how I see the dominoes having to fall in order for the top free agent starter to land in St. Louis. It’s a lot. This won’t come easy. But there’s a few things that need to happen. If they do, I think the Cardinals have a good shot.
1) Zack Greinke must re-sign with the Dodgers.
This one is key. If the Dodgers miss out on their co-ace to Clayton Kershaw the last few years they will undoubtedly turn their attention to Price. I have less than a clue what Price thinks of the city of Los Angeles, let alone the Dodgers organization. But typically when the front office of that team sets its mind to something it typically gets done. I have little reason to believe Greinke won’t return to the Dodgers. He’s the closest thing to Price on the free agent market and he has been in LA for the last three seasons. They know him. They like him. There are no secrets. But if something goes sideways and Greinke ends up somewhere else (San Francisco?) then Price could be headed to the west coast – and not St. Louis.
2) Price has to really not want to go to Boston
The Cardinals will not make the highest offer to David Price. I think we all understand that. Should the Dodgers fail to re-sign Greinke it may well be them who come in on top. But even if they don’t it’ll likely be the Red Sox who do, according to several media reports. The reason the Cardinals historically stay out of these auctions on the free agent market is because they don’t like paying outrageous prices for talent – particularly pitchers. The Cards make offers on their terms. And they may go slightly above what they deem Price’s value to be worth but they won’t go too far past it. Price would have to be willing to forego the big offer that will undoubtedly come from the Red Sox. Is that possible? I suppose anything is possible. But more often than not the biggest and best offer wins.
3) The Cards have to compete with the Cubs (and others) in their final offer
The Dodgers and Red Sox won’t be the only teams interested in David Price. Reports state the Giants and Cubs are just as interested as those other teams in addition to the Cardinals. Price, as mentioned, would have to be willing to leave a few dollars in the table to come to St. Louis. But he’s not going to leave too much. The Cardinals can’t be his fourth or fifth best offer. They have to compete with everyone else except for the crazy Red Sox/Dodgers offers that may come. What will that look like? I would imagine they’ll have to guarantee him more than the five years they guaranteed Adam Wainwright a few seasons ago. I would imagine it would have to be the largest contract given in franchise history. It doesn’t have to be on the level of Boston. But it has to compete.
If all those stars align I think there is a very realistic chance David Price chooses the comfort and likability of playing in St. Louis. It’s not guaranteed. Things always go sideways. But if these three things happen we could see the Cardinals land the best pitcher in free agency this winter.