While his teammates were on the Dodger Stadium field participating in the Summer Camp, David Price announced he will opt out of the 2020 MLB season.
“After considerable thought and discussion with my family and the Dodgers, I have decided it is in the best interest of my health and my family’s health for me to not play this season,” he wrote in a statement. “I will miss my teammates and will be cheering for them throughout the season and on to a World Series victory.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers rebased a statement saying they fully support Price’s decision, and understand how tough of a decision it was to make.
Manager Dave Roberts has been having ongoing conversations with players who were uneasy about returning to play as the pandemic has picked up in recent weeks. It’s not clear if others will join Price, though president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Saturday he is not expecting any.
Friedman and Price have talked several times in recent months about the prospect of playing in a pandemic. As recently as Wednesday, Price planned to play this season, according to Friedman, but the pitcher changed his mind.
“Like everyone, David has for a few months now tried to wrap his arms around everything,” Friedman said. “My role in this has been just to support him through it and not have any kind of rooting interested in what is supposed to be a very personal decision.”
Price, who turns 35 next month, is a five-time All-Star, World Series champion and Cy Young winner, just joined the Dodgers this offseason via trade. The team planned for him to become their No. 3 starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler.
So where does the organization turn now with the vacancy left by Price?
Dodgers Plan Without Price
Roberts still plans to use a five-man rotation in the shortened season. In Price’s absence, the Dodgers depth will come in clutch. The team could turn to seasoned swingman Ross Stripling, veteran Jimmy Nelson, or young right-handers Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin.
The favorite to replace Price in the rotation is Stripling. He has been used by the Dodgers in every conceivable way in recent years, transitioning back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen. Roberts’ comfort and familiarity with Stripling puts him as the favorite.
More on Price’s Decision
Price’s decision to officially opt out of the season was not a spur of the moment act. For months since the pandemic hit the U.S., Price has voiced his concerns. Price and his wife, Tiffany, have two young children at home and their safety is his top priority.
“I want everybody to be healthy. I want that to be first and foremost,” Price told The Athletic in May. “That’s the most important thing. I know a lot of people are scared, and this is uncharted waters for everybody. I‘m just thinking of my family and my parents back home and everybody else. This is a tough time, and I want health and safety for everybody.”
Impact on His Relationship with the Dodgers
How will this impact Price’s relationship with the Dodgers? I don’t expect it to hinder the relationship all that much.
Last month, Price gifted $1,000 to more than 200 minor leaguers across the Dodgers organization when he heard their season would be canceled. So his respect in the locker room will not take a hit because he looked out for players when the organization wouldn’t.
Front office friction? Don’t expect any of that either. He and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman have a long term relationship dating back to 2007. Manager Dave Roberts had ongoing conversations about Price’s concerns, so he understands the decision.
The Price to Pay
It’s not clear if David Price will be paid for this season. Friedman said Saturday the league and MLBPA were still sorting out such matters for opting-out players. If it is ruled players who opt out receive zero compensation, Price would be forfeiting $12 million in potential salary.
It won’t be too much of a hit to Price, who has earned roughly $175 million over his 12-year career and is still due $64 million across the 2021 and 2022 seasons. He is fortunate enough to be able to make this decision and still be financially stable.
So far, players who have made big money in baseball have been more likely to withdraw from the 2020 season. Seven MLB players have made public their decision to sit out. Four of them have earned at least $75 million over their careers. Two others have earned at least $25 million.
Only Nationals Pitcher John Ross has yet to reach free agency and earn his big pay day.