St. Louis Cardinals: Could the Price be right with Boston?
By Matt Graves
As the Winter Meetings chug along, the St. Louis Cardinals are rumored to be interested in trading for David Price of the Red Sox. Does this fit?
These may not be on the top of the list of Red Sox players that St. Louis Cardinals fans want John Mozeliak to go after this winter, but let’s be honest, Mookie Betts isn’t happening. So far, the Cardinals haven’t done anything at this year’s Winter Meetings but they have been connected to multiple rumors but continue to keep in mind that the Cardinals are in a tough spot payroll-wise.
Back in the 2016 offseason, the 29-year-old David Price was a free agent. At that time, Price was one of the top pitchers and baseball and had been a five-time All-Star and a three-time top-two Cy Young finisher, including one win.
The Cardinals went after Price hard and fell short by a matter of hours when the Red Sox made a last-minute counteroffer. The Sox ended up signing Price to a seven-year, $217M deal that year and looking back, it’s a good thing the Cardinals lost out. Since that offseason, Price has never made an All-Star team, never been included in Cy Young voting, and has been injured frequently.
When Price has been healthy, he’s put up good numbers, with his ERA+ over the past four years being 112 at the lowest and 135 at the highest. He threw 230 innings in 2016 and then spent time in the bullpen and starting in 2017 before returning to starting the last two years. He hasn’t been worth the money he’s signed to, but Price has overall been good.
When the Mookie Betts trade suggestion came up, the biggest reason the trade would work is that the Red Sox would be able to get under the luxury tax in 2020. It was a big “if” on whether or not the Cardinals are willing to take on more salary and go past the payroll limit they set for themselves.
On Tuesday, the Cardinals were mentioned in the conversation with Price and one other Red Sox stud.
Over the next three years, Price is owed $32M a year. That is a ton of money that the Red Sox would love to get off of the books. As Mr. Jones notes, the Red Sox could balance Price’s contract with Andrew Benintendi and the Red Sox would likely have an interest in Carlos Martinez.
Benintendi’s first full year in the MLB was in 2017 where he hit .271 with a .776 OPS and 20 homers. This was good enough to earn the former top-prospect a second-place finish in Rookie of the Year voting.
Benintendi showed growth in 2018, batting .290 with an .830 OPS and 16 homers. Benintendi then had a down year in 2019 where he batted .266 with a .744 OPS and just 13 homers. The thing is, those numbers don’t show the full story. Benintendi hits a ton of doubles and has speed. In the last two seasons, Benintendi has hit 41 and 40 doubles and in the past three years, he’s stolen a combined 51 bases.
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Still just 25, Benintendi has room to grow and fits well as a speedy option with some gap power at the top of the lineup. Playing mostly as a left fielder in his career, Benintendi is slightly below average with the glove but that’s playing half of his games in Fenway with the Green Monster behind him. Benintendi is a left-handed batter which is reportedly what the Cardinals are solely searching for (for some dumb reason) and again is still young enough to grow into his potential while being controllable and cheap until he’s a free agent in 2023.
So we have the Red Sox side of the deal in those two, let’s look at the Cardinals side.
The main chip I would be comfortable giving up for these two is Carlos Martinez. As Mr. Jones said (again), the Red Sox were very close to signing Martinez out of the Dominican Republic before complications came up and the deal fell through. Martinez moving back to the rotation makes him much more valuable but he alone won’t be enough.
Brenden Shaeffer of KMOV gave his take:
My heart says this trade is a little light, but if the Cardinals are taking on all of David Price’s remaining contract, then the discount might be big enough where this works. I love this deal in particular because Garcia is blocked in the Cardinals system and at the age of 26, he’s ready to be an everyday player somewhere. Martinez can hop in the Red Sox rotation and Price can fill his spot with the Cardinals.
Benintendi can play left field every day and his speed, gap power, and .354 career OBP makes him an awesome choice for a #2 batter in the lineup from the left side. Again, his defense might not be great, but with a -3 DRS, it’s not bad enough to fret playing him out there in the Cardinals’ normal left field.
Price is 34 and is owed a ton of money, but he’s proven to be a very viable third starter when he can stay healthy. He along with Adam Wainwright would be a fantastic source of veteran leadership and postseason experience for Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson.
Benintendi may be from Cincinnati but he trains in St. Louis during the offseason and may love the change of scenery. If the Cardinals are willing to take on about $20M more in salary for 2020 and beyond, this deal makes perfect sense.