Here's how a potential David Price opt-out could impact Red Sox

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John Tomase
·3 min read
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Tomase: Could Price deliver the Sox a $16M gift? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Could David Price be preparing to make the Red Sox another $16 million gift?

According to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, the veteran left-hander hasn't decided whether he's going to play in 2021, and his decision could significantly impact the type of talent the Red Sox pursue this winter.

Speaking to Dodgers reporters via Zoom on Thursday, Roberts disclosed that Price is still evaluating the safety of playing in 2021 as the COVID pandemic rages across America. Price opted out of the 2020 season rather than risk exposure, cheering from home as the Dodgers won the World Series.

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"David is very in tune with what's going on, very intelligent," Roberts told reporters. "I don't know. My hope -- I love being around him, and we're better when he's with us -- but as things become more clear, David will make a choice for him and his family."

Responding on Twitter to a fan who said he wants to watch Price pitch in 2021, the left-hander said, "That's the plan!" But until he officially notifies the Dodgers of that plan, it's worth considering what a second consecutive opt-out would mean.

The February deal that sent Price and Mookie Betts to the Dodgers included considerable cash. The Red Sox and Dodgers agreed to split the remaining $96 million on the final three years of Price's contract, with the Red Sox chipping in $16 million annually.

When Price opted out of the 2020 season, the Red Sox saved that money (or at least the prorated portion of it that he would've been paid for 60 games). If he opts out again without being declared a high-risk individual, the belief is that they'd save all $16 million, per multiple executives.

Taking Price's money off the books would theoretically expand the team's space under the luxury tax threshold from roughly $40 million to $56 million. For a club that could use upgrades in center field, second base, the bullpen, and at least two spots in the rotation, that's a serious amount of money, and could create the possibility of the Red Sox adding, say, Jake Odorizzi and Corey Kluber to their rotation, while also retaining Jackie Bradley Jr. for center field.

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However, even if Price announces tomorrow that he's sitting out the season, spending that savings won't be as simple as it appears. Since players are allowed to opt back in during the year -- as Atlanta's Nick Markakis did three weeks into last season -- it's possible that Price could decide to return to action after Opening Day, at which point the Red Sox would once again be on the hook for half of whatever he's paid in 2021.

If we take Price at his word on Twitter, however, he's planning on coming back and just hasn't let the Dodgers know it. Until that conversation officially occurs, however, there's no harm in wondering how the Red Sox might spend his money.