Oct 23, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher David Price throws a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning in game six of the ALCS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
A few days ago we learned that Lance Lynn will not be pitching for the Cardinals in 2016. Given his overall production over the last few years (averaging 3.4 WAR, 3.25 ERA, and 3.35 FIP), that’s quite a blow. From what we can tell, even John Mozeliak is thinking that it’s time to buy a starting pitcher, and I don’t think you’d find many fans or analysts who would disagree.
As you wade into the free agent market, it becomes readily apparent that David Price is the top free agent available this year. He’s a Cy Young Award winner (and may well win a second this year), has put up fantastic numbers everywhere, and is an undisputed ace. Of the thirty teams in baseball, about thirty of them would be interested in employing David Price if money weren’t an issue.
Of course, money is an issue, and the St. Louis Cardinals have shown an aversion to throwing around cash just for the fun of it. So far, that strategy has worked well, and the Cardinals have been the best team in baseball over the past 5 years — and it’s not terribly close. 2015, however, showed how close the Cubs and the Pirates might actually be, and it appears as if St. Louis will spend some money this off season. The first priority is clearly Jason Heyward, but Lynn’s injury may make the rest of the picture a little bit clearer, and it looks like the St. Louis Cardinals are in the market for a starter.
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But “being in the market for a starter” and “being in the market for the season’s top free agent” are two very different things, so do we even dare to think that maybe our GM has set his sights that high? It would be foolish to say that the Cardinals are absolutely going to pursue David Price, but I see a couple of reasons to believe that it might not be as far fetched as it initially seems.
To begin with, this is the time to spend money if you want to. David Price isn’t the best available pitcher in a lukewarm free agent class; he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. This free agent class is stacked, and future off seasons don’t look nearly as ripe.
Additionally, the St. Louis Cardinals recently signed a billion dollar TV deal that goes into effect in 2018. Finally, a number of big contracts will run out for the Cardinals in the next season or two. Factor all of those things together and you see a team with a fair amount of payroll available and a lot of free agents worth spending the money on.
That doesn’t tell the whole story, however, and doesn’t make a case for David Price in particular, just for spending money on free agents in general. The reason I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Cardinals jump into the fray for Price in particular is his somewhat unique situation. Because he was traded in the past season, the Blue Jays weren’t able to offer him a qualifying offer, meaning that signing him won’t cost a team it’s first round draft pick.
If past history is any indication, the St. Louis Cardinals are loathe to part with draft picks. The most recent Cardinal free agent signing of consequence was Jhonny Peralta, who also was not extended a qualifying offer. Of course, the fact that Price doesn’t have a draft pick attached to his name will probably drive his final price tag up, but it seems to me that Mozeliak will be more likely to dive into that market if he isn’t also required to give up the potential for six cost controlled years of some future talent.
As I said earlier, it would be foolish to suggest that the St. Louis Cardinals are likely to pursue — much less sign — David Price, but given his unique situation, it isn’t as crazy as it might initially seem. As per usual, take any rumors with a grain of salt, but don’t immediately discount info connecting the Cardinals to Price. It might just be the right deal at the right time.