I’m a Yankees fan, but I’m a baseball fan first. That’s why it’s pretty troubling to hear the news out of Red Sox camp that David Price was scratched from a spring start because of elbow soreness, and now he’s heading to Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. Losing David Price for an entire season, or even for a decent chunk of time, would certainly be a blow to the sport.
Price—and this is an understatement—has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since he came up with the Rays, and he’s one of the best pitchers of his generation. Over 1671.2 major league innings, he has struck out 1600 while putting up an ERA- and FIP- of 80. If he indeed finishes his career decently, he’s a shoe-in for Cooperstown.
Even without the perspective of a national baseball fan, the loss of Price completely shifts the American League East conversation, more so in the favor of teams like the Blue Jays, Orioles, and of course the Yankees. I was particularly intrigued by an article over at FanGraphs yesterday that showed the full season depth chart implications, and it raises some eyebrows.
Instead of a projection of 46.5 WAR for the Red Sox, compared to 41.1 for the Orioles and 37.9 for the Yankees, losing Price would send their total to 42.5. The difference is enormous. Instead of a possible ten win gap between the Red Sox and Yankees, it would be shaved down to just 4.6, basically within the margin of error. A little luck for the Yankees, a little downward regression for the Red Sox, and boom—-the Yankees are in divisional contention.
This raises a lot of interesting questions, both about the Yankees’ direction moving forward, and a reflection on what they have already done. On past actions, it kind of shows a lack of foresight. Injuries happen all of the time in baseball, so it wasn’t completely impossible for a pitcher to lose a season. It happens every year. That’s why it’s so odd that the Yankees failed to sign another starter, and it makes their decision to pass on Jose Quintana, an asset whose value extends even beyond this year, even more puzzling.
Moving forward, though, it could open some potential opportunities. Say the Yankees are within striking distance at the trade deadline boasting one of the best farm systems in baseball: do they leverage that for a player like Quintana, or do they just sit and bide their time regardless? It’s interesting to think about. Then again, the other outcome is that the Red Sox double down on their all-in strategy right now and trade whatever assets they have left for Quintana. It’s certainly been a point of speculation.
This is of course just hypothetical. Price has not been sidelined just yet, and there’s always the chance, even if there’s a UCL tear, that he undergoes PRP injection therapy to get a speedier recovery, like with Masahiro Tanaka in 2014.
Nonetheless, an injury, especially with the Red Sox, would completely open up the division, possibly forcing teams like the Yankees, Orioles, or Blue Jays to take advantage in a year without Price. It’s not like the Orioles and Blue Jays have the farm system the Yankees have, and some may think their contention window is closing. It could create a rush to win while you can.
What do you think? If David Price is injured, should this at all change the Yankees’ strategy?