Thursday, March 2, 2017

Save Our Sox: How to Replace David Price


Danville, Kentucky -- Folks, disaster can strike when you least expect it. Take it from me. Just the other day, my whole lunch was ruined when I tried to use an expired Wendy's coupon. The only thing that got me out of bed that morning was the idea of digging into a hot bowl of chili, baked potatoes with sour cream, topped off by a Baconator.


I planned my entire day around a trip to Wendy's for an early lunch. I got to my local Wendy's promptly at 11:15 AM, and placed my order: 1 bowl of Dave's famous chili, 1 baked potato with all the fixings, and 1 extra-large Baconator. My mouth was watering at the mere thought of that heaping stack of beef with thick peppery bacon snugged between those sizzling patties. I could practically taste the rich sour cream, chives, and shredded cheese that so lovingly adorn every wholesome baked potato served by Wendy's. I had a coupon for each component of my order. But when I went to pay, the cashier shot me down. My coupon was expired - the promotion only lasted through January. My world was upended. I was not prepared for this contingency. I had to improvise.

Good baseball teams are prepared to deal with unpredictable contingencies: like the stunning news that David Price might have to undergo Tommy John surgery. This revelation has caught the unprepared and poorly-managed Boston Red Sox totally flat-footed. Aside from acquiring the temper-tantrum prone Chris Sale in a blockbuster trade, the Sox have spent the off-season shedding invaluable pitching depth like Clay Buchholz, despite the voluminous injury histories of Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz.

The Red Sox would be better positioned to absorb the loss of Price if they had kept Buchholz and been more aggressive in pursuing many of the high marquee pitchers available via free agency and trade. Jered Weaver could've been had. John Danks, R.A. Dickey, and Bartolo Colon were available as well. Any of those four pitchers would've made great additions to the suddenly thin Red Sox rotation. Big Bart Colon, in particular, was signed for a bargain price - he would've been an excellent fit in Fenway, and has been considerably more successful in the postseason than the overpaid playoff under-performer David Price.

But the past is past. The Red Sox need to look to the future. Fortunately, all is not lost. David Price is not as hard to replace as you might expect; especially with Rick Porcello, the reigning Cy Young champ and stalwart groundball guru, still leading the rotation. There are plenty of worthy arms available on the free agent market or via trade that would make excellent additions to the Red Sox rotation. Here are just a few:

DOUG FISTER


If I'm Dave Dombrowski, this guy is #1 on my list of replacement options. I laid out the case for why the Colorado Rockies should sign him earlier this winter. He's a groundball guy - the type of batted ball profile you want when you play home games in Fenway Park, a toy stadium that turns lazy fly balls into two-baggers thanks to the Green Monster. He rebuilt his value by winning 12 games in limited action with the Houston Astros last season. Just a couple of seasons ago he was a serious Cy Young candidate with the Washington Nationals, posting a sterling 2.41 ERA and 16 wins.

Moreover, Doug makes sense from a chemistry perspective. Dave Dombrowski knows this - back in 2011 he swung a season-changing trade for Doug Fister while serving as GM for the Detroit Tigers. In addition, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello are former teammates; while Rick is clearly now the groundball master, he wouldn't be what he is today if Fister hadn't taught him how to Dougie.

JAKE PEAVY


If I'm Dave the dealer, Peavy is option #2. The chemistry case for Jake the Snake is obvious. As the GM of the Tigers at the time, Dave is no doubt aware of the three team trade made in 2013 between the Tigers, Red Sox, and Chicago White Sox that won Boston the World Series. Avisail Garcia to Chicago. Jose Iglesias to Detroit. Jake Peavy to the Red Sox. And from there, the Red Sox to a World Series championship. In 2013, Peavy helped shepherd the Red Sox to the promised land. The next year, Peavy won the World Series again with the San Francisco Giants. Rings on rings on rings.

Peavy was injured in 2016, but posted a solid 3.73 ERA in 2014 and an even better 3.58 ERA in 2015. Both of those ERAs bested David Price's bloated 3.99 ERA in 2016. It's shocking to me that he is still unsigned. With the 2013 championship core slowly disappearing from the team - David Ortiz has retired, Mike Napoli has moved on, Buchholz has been traded - it's important to have some guys who have "been there before" around. Peavy has been there before. Bring him aboard, Dave.

CONCLUSION

There are other great options to be had. Perhaps the Tigers could be persuaded to part with the electric Mike Pelfrey. Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, and Matt Cain are other veterans who could be had for a bargain price, and who also have extensive postseason experience during the San Francisco Giants' reign of even-year dominance over the MLB. But Fister and Peavy are both no-brainers for the Red Sox. They can go toe-to-toe with David Price, particularly in the postseason where Price has always been a non-factor.

Sometimes you have to improvise. I ultimately didn't get my chili, baked potato, and Baconator. I planned my day around that Wendy's coupon - but life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. An expired coupon, like an unexpected elbow surgery, can be a bit of a gut punch. But it wasn't the end of the world, though I did have a bit of a meltdown that resulted in an embarrassing trip to the county sheriff's office and my expulsion from that Wendy's restaurant. I ate at Popeye's Chicken later that day and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of their mashed potatoes and spicy chicken. It wasn't the Baconator that I so craved, but sometimes, your second best option can be just as good as the real thing. Hopefully the Boston Red Sox learn that lesson before it's too late.