Much was made of the Cardinals' payroll muscle over the last few years. Rising revenues, fantastic attendance, multiple playoff appearances, and an upcoming local television deal promised to put more money into the Cardinals' pockets and in turn, more money was going to be spent on the Cardinals on the field. There were murmors of the Cardinals interest in David Price for some time. Price has been consistent, nearly injury free and the Cardinals might be ready to shatter their record for a pitching contract after dipping their toes into the water with Jon Lester last offseason before he signed with the Cubs.
Sometimes, it appears the stars are aligning for a big move, but with David Price, it is not to be as the Red Sox have set the market well beyond where the Cardinals were likely to go, signing Price to a seven-year, $217 million contract, per Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.
Ken Rosenthal confirmed the report and added a few tidbits of his own.
Confirmed: Price deal with #RedSox is seven years, $217M. No deferred money. Three-year opt-out.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 1, 2015
It is sometimes hard to build a consensus amongst fans on what a team should or should not do with money that is not their own, but the Red Sox likely just created that consensus for Cardinals fans about David Price. The Dodgers or Giants are likely to do the same with Zack Greinke. It is not that the Cardinals were smart to bow out of this race. At this price, at this time of the offseason, the team never even made it to the starting gate, and for good reason.
Update: Looks like the Cardinals were a lot closer to signing Price than I thought, per Bob Nightengale.
Long term contracts for pitchers are a risk. The Cardinals maby should have gotten involved if the demands of Price dropped to perhaps a little over half of what he received, but the Red Sox jumped the gun to make sure Price had no other offers to consider. On a much smaller scale, the Cardinals did this Jhonny Peralta a few years ago. They paid to make sure he did not see any other offers. For a player of David Price's caliber, that cost is incredibly high, and the Red Sox felt comfortable paying that cost, likely uncomfortable with the alternatives.
The Cardinals offseason should not need to shift in an alternate direction. The market for David Price was not likely to drop to a place the Cardinals felt comfortable. If there is a plus to this signing, it is that the Cardinals do not have to face Price multiple times a year as a member of the Cubs, and in the past few days, the Cubs options for upgrading their rotation as they try to make it to the playoffs again have diminished.
Jason Heyward should always have been and hopefully will be the Cardinals top priority this winter until he signs a contract keeping him in St. Louis for the foreseeable future. David Price is a fantastic pitcher, but he is 30 years old and there other very good pitchers and the Cardinals already have a solid rotation. Jason Heyward is a once-in-a-generation player when it comes to availability in free agency. The Cardinals could have paid to keep Heyward from listening to other offers perhaps a year ago or six months ago, but those opportunities have passed. They are now competing with the rest of the league for a 26-year-old star. David Price was an abstract distraction. Jason Heyward is the real prize.