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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Did David Price Actually Want to Sign with the Boston Red Sox?

If “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase taught 10-year-old me anything, it's that a sleeper hold could get me out of any physical altercation with limited damage. If he taught me anything else, it’s that "everybody has a price."

To that end, I’ve been wondering recently to what degree that idiom affects free agency in the sporting world.

The reason I bring this up is because of the saga of everyone's favourite Blue Jays trade-deadline rental, David Price. As we all know, the Jays acquired Price in exchange for a huge haul of prospects, and he in turn helped guide the Jays to their first playoff appearance since the halcyon days of the early 1990s. Subsequently, Price signed the largest free-agent contract for a pitcher in MLB history with - in a quasi-surprising move - the loathsome Boston Red Sox. The numbers are staggering: $217 million over 7 years, which works out to a tidy $31-million per season, and roughly $1-million per regular-season start.

What made the move surprising was that the scuttlebutt after the season had first-time free agent Price looking to:

a) Play close to his hometown of Nashville, most likely with the St. Louis Cardinals; or
b) Reunite with one-time manager Joe Maddon with the Chicago Cubs; or
c) Re-sign with our beloved Blue Jays. This was a late addition to the running - and as a direct result of the Jays' scintillating run to the ALCS. Price reportedly fell in love with the city of Toronto, its fans, and his teammates and as such was very open to a return.

However, there were also whispers of a Red Sox plan to sign the big southpaw that involved backing up a truck up and dumping a mountain of cash on Price's doorstep. That interest, though, seemed to be wholly one-sided.

Flying in the face of the seemingly misguided courtship was that it seemed at the outset that the lanky lefty wasn't very interested in joining the Beantowners. And would that be surprising? No, given the well-known and often-reported animosity between Price and the Red Sox - most notably with Big Papi himself, who described Price as "a little bitch."

And, if you aspire to the “happy wife, happy life” marriage mantra, the cherry on top/final nail in the coffin was this tweet from Price's then-girlfriend (now wife) Tiffany Nicole:
Given the Red Sox were only tangentially mentioned as a possible Price landing spot – and with the interest only coming from the team’s side – the question has to be asked: Did David Price really want to join the Red Sox?

As the saying goes, money talks and bullshit walks, but the Sox offer didn’t simply talk, it shouted, loudly, as one would expect from anything Boston-based. Their offer was superior by a wide margin, too, if we’re to believe rumours. The Cardinals finished The Price Wars in second place, $30-million short, while the Cubs finished a “distant third,” shy by $50 million.

Even in the world of professional sports - where millions are thrown around like quarters at a logging town strip club - that is a lot of frickin’ money. And as noble and principled as everyone thinks they are, and as noble and principled as everyone thinks professional athletes are (LOLZ!) there comes a point when there’s enough money flashed in front of you that you simply can’t say no.

We all have a price, and perhaps the Red Sox simply reached Price’s. (Please believe me when I say that was not in any way an attempted pun).

Of course, there's also the issue of him being pressured into joining a team he didn’t really want to join by the all-powerful Major League Baseball Players Association.

Professional sports unions – like, well, all unions, really – have an incredible amount of power, and they put immense pressure on players to sign for the most money possible. More money for an individual player equals more money for the collective group of players, or so says the conventional wisdom. So, how would the MLBPA react if Price said "fack off" to the Red Sox – and an additional $50+ million – and signed with the Blue Jays*, Cardinals, Cubs or any other team that didn’t want to offer an insane number?

Of course, it’s also entirely possible Price did want to sign with the Red Sox. They do have a recent, and annoying, habit of winning, while Dave Dombrowski and co. are well-versed in free-agent courtship, so anything is possible. I just have a hard time believing it.

*Please, spare me the bullshit about "the Blue Jays never made an offer," okay? That is such semantic, bullshit reasoning to make yourself angry about an untenable situation. Just because there was no official "offer" from the Jays, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t conversations between the front office and Price's representation. If, for instance, Price's agents went into a meeting with the Jays braintrust and said, "We've been offered $217 million over 7 years by Boston," at which point the Blue Jays already knew there wasn’t a chance in hell they’d match that insane number. So, why would they make an “official” - appreciable smaller - offer just to save some public relations face with irrational fans? It's stupid, get over it.

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