Could David Price return to the Dodgers this season?
The Dodgers’ decision to send Ross Stripling to the Toronto Blue Jays and not acquire a starting pitcher before Monday’s trade deadline presumably doubles as a vote of confidence for the rotation options behind Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and his crew apparently believe they can win a World Series with Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urías and Alex Wood starting playoff games.
But what if there is another, more established, option? What if David Price wants to pitch for the Dodgers this season after announcing he would not play at the beginning of training camp because of COVID-19 concerns?
In a conference call with reporters Monday, Friedman was asked whether Price is considering pitching in 2020 after news surfaced that Miami Marlins second baseman Isan Díaz sought reinstatement to play after deciding he wouldn’t in July because of the coronavirus. He didn’t shut down the possibility.
“It’s a better question for David,” Friedman said. “I’ve talked to him a decent amount and texted during games. We have not discussed that, but he’s definitely locked in on Dodger baseball, that’s for sure.”
A message to Price’s agent was not returned Monday.
The Dodgers didn’t obtain a top starting pitcher for the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Padres picked up nine players, including ace Mike Clevinger.
Friedman said Price would need commissioner approval to return. Ultimately, it would require an agreement between the MLB and the players’ union, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. On Tuesday, Díaz was reinstated and reported to the Marlins’ alternate training site. Díaz will be a welcomed addition to a Marlins club that finds itself unexpectedly in the playoff race with a 15-15 record entering Tuesday.
Price’s decision to not participate this season was a blow to a Dodgers rotation that had lost three-fifths of its members during the offseason. Hyun-Jin Ryu, second in last season’s NL Cy Young voting, signed with the Blue Jays. Rich Hill signed with the Minnesota Twins and Kenta Maeda was traded to Minnesota.
Price, who turned 35 last Wednesday, was acquired along with Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox as Maeda went out. Betts was the catalyst for the deal, but Price wasn’t just another salary dump. He’s a former No. 1 draft pick. He’s won a Cy Young Award. At one point, he signed the richest contract for a pitcher in major league history.
He was coming off a down 2019 season in which he posted a 4.28 earned-run average in 22 starts, but he said he was hindered by a wrist injury. He emphasized he was healthy and the Dodgers envisioned a bounce back effort as their No. 3 starter. Then Price, citing his family’s health during the country’s outbreak, decided to put that on hold until 2021.
Rather than add a major league piece at trading deadline, the Dodgers traded pitcher Ross Stripling to the Blue Jays for 2 players to be named later.
Price has kept in touch with his team. Players, including Joe Kelly, have said they’ve been in regular contact with Price since the start of training camp. He has also been outspoken on social media, speaking out about MLB’s handling of the season, racial injustice, police brutality, and athletes’ responses to recent events as one of the few prominent Black American players in the league. In June, Price donated $1,000 to each of the 221 minor leaguers in the Dodgers’ farm system before playing in a game for the organization.
Friedman said he didn’t know if Price had continued throwing after his decision, but he encouraged Price to do so. He recalled that Price “totally agreed.” Returning in any capacity this season, with less than a month before the playoffs, would be difficult. If it’s to start games, it could be impossible.
Even if he has been throwing, Price hasn’t pitched in a major league game in exactly one year — Sept. 1, 2019 — before he finished the 2019 season on the injured list. Would the Dodgers even entertain having Price’s first game of 2020 be a playoff start? Returning as a reliever, which would require less ramping up, could make more sense.
But all that is jumping ahead. Friedman maintained their conversations haven’t included the possibility of Price joining the team. It’s a long-shot possibility that could bolster the Dodgers in October. For now, they’re moving forward without him.
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