The first real piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, that piece was on someone else’s table.
David Price agreed to a $217 million, 7-year deal with the Boston Red Sox yesterday, taking one of the major focuses of St. Louis’s offseason off the market. What might have made folks more frustrated was the fact that the Cardinals, from all reports, were right there, so close that they probably had a few Price jerseys at least in mockup.
Bob Nightengale writes about this at USA Today, noting that even Price expected to make the decision for St. Louis yesterday before Boston made yet another run at him. Blame Zack Greinke for giving deadlines, perhaps. Without that extra impetus, maybe Price goes ahead and signs. Maybe not, who knows.
What I found most interesting about Nightengale’s piece was that the Cardinals were going to offer Price seven years as well. The money didn’t surprise me–I knew they’d be going for a team record deal with Price–but I didn’t expect them to be so willing to stretch the term out, especially for a pitcher. While Price is a Nashville boy (so not terribly far from The Lou) and said he wanted to play in the NL, those things in the end didn’t matter. Some say you can’t put a value on intangibles, but for Price that value was $30 million, the difference between the two contracts.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this news has split Cardinal fans into two camps.
Camp 1 is irate, to put it mildly. They point to the upcoming television revenue, the lack of free agent signings, the need for a pitcher and they believe that St. Louis should have signed Price no matter what, especially with his interest level in the club. I had this conversation with our regular Conclave commenter on Twitter yesterday and while I understand that, and there’s some good points in this argument, I can’t say I’m sold on it.
I’m more in Camp 2. Yes, the Cardinals have a lot of money coming. As I said yesterday, I expect that they’ll spend it in some form or fashion. However, just because they have a deeper budget doesn’t mean I want them splashing around like me in a Star Wars store. There’s a reason this team has been as effective as they have been over the past 20 years. It’s focus, discipline, and smart maneuvering.
Look, it was just five years ago when the end of the world was coming. How dare the Cardinals not top any wild and crazy offer for Albert Pujols? They were saving the money just for him! There’s no reason that they shouldn’t break the back to keep one of the most iconic figures in franchise history.
That seems to have worked out pretty well for the Cards.
The Cardinals made a solid run at David Price and almost got him. At some point and time, you’ve got to give credit (or lay blame) with the player. Price decided the extra $30 million made up for some of the other advantages and benefits St. Louis had. That’s his right and his choice. I’m not sure the Cardinals should have raised their already high offer just to counter someone with deeper pockets, especially when even that wasn’t a guarantee that they would get him. With the resources Boston has, they could have easily raised the ante yet again if St. Louis had matched. You have to stick to your game plan, in my opinion.
So now what? That, my friends, is a real good question. My mental focus has always been on the Cards getting Price and re-signing Jason Heyward. You’d think that the latter just became much easier, given the money that they won’t be using on Price, but they are still likely going to need a pitcher. They aren’t going to get in on Zack Greinke, I wouldn’t think, so it’s either a lower-level, less-than-core pitcher like retaining John Lackey or signing Jeff Samardzija or pulling in a pitcher via trade. Of course, the question is, do the Cardinals have the trade chips to bring in a top-of-the-rotation pitcher and, even if they do, which of those kind of players is available? I’m not sure to either part of that equation, though you wonder if Stephen Strasburg, who is a free agent after 2016, might be someone to look at.
Or you could see them shift gears and sign both Heyward and Chris Davis, worrying more about the offensive side of things and letting the pitching chips fall where they may. The fifth spot might be weaker, but that’s usually what fifth spots are for. Not everyone has a pitcher that can put up a 3.00 ERA going last. I’m not expecting this–I really don’t think Davis is really on their radar–but it’s possible.
It’s disappointing to see Price put on a Red Sox cap. However, I don’t think faith in the front office needs to be shaken. I’ve heard you can’t win them all. That would seem to apply here, unfortunately. Let’s see the way the rest of the offseason plays out before we talk about cheap owners or incompetent management. My feeling is, by Winter Warmup, we’ll probably be pretty happy with the 2016 Cardinals.