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Mensching: If Tigers splurge, it should be for David Price

Kurt Mensching
Special to The Detroit News
David Price

Maybe this is strictly a thought exercise. Maybe the Tigers will be setting their sights a little lower than the David Prices and Zack Greinkes of the world when they set out to add that frontline starting pitcher to the equation this offseason.

After all, their needs run deep. Starting pitchers, relief pitchers, maybe a left fielder. And free agency might not be the best way to attack the problem. It's cost inefficient and can hamstring a team for years if its front office bets wrong.

But these are the Tigers. Owner Mike Ilitch might set his sights on the sun but can still be happy when he comes away with the moon.

After an unexpected last-place finish in the AL Central and lackluster, bland crowds at Comerica Park, the Tigers know it's going to take something a little more than a trade for James Shields or a smart, understated free-agent acquisition to sell those season-ticket packages in December.

They've got to think big.

So let's start with Price and Greinke and work our way down from there, which is probably exactly how the Tigers are going to approach this issue, as well.

From purely a baseball standpoint, it's kind of hard to go wrong here.

Greinke's 1.66 ERA and eight strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) really catch the eye. From mid-June to late July, Greinke went 45.2 innings without giving up a run. That's the fourth-longest in the expansion era of baseball.

Then you've got Price. His numbers aren't quite as gaudy -- "only" a 2.45 ERA. He did strike out more than a batter per inning though. And that without having the luxury of facing pitchers.

Both pitchers had nearly identical FIPs -- that's the somewhat predictive fielding independent pitching stat, based on what a pitcher is believed to be able to control, like strikeouts and walks and set to the same scale as ERA -- in the high-2s, or low-3s if you choose to control for home runs or not. Either way, pretty good.

No one doubts that Greinke or Price would benefit the Tigers, though. The real question is which pitcher to choose.

Similar to the question of Price or Max Scherzer a year ago, the simple answer here is "whoever is happy to sign in Detroit."

Zack Greinke

The Dodgers might choose to go hard after Greinke to keep him in Los Angeles. Price might have found his short time in Toronto to be enjoyable and wish to stay, all things equal.

They're both going to be looking for $200 million deals and they're both probably going to get them.

But if you've got a real choice, you take Price, who had a 2.90 ERA and 220 strikeouts in about a season's worth of starts in Detroit.

Why? Because he's younger. It really does come down to that.

Price just turned 30 on Aug. 26. Greinke just turned 32.

With two players where nearly everything else appears identical, take you take the younger of the two.

Discussions about whether Price can win in the playoffs should be set aside here, too. The playoffs have always been a bit of a crapshoot. But to win the World Series, first you have to qualify for the postseason.

You can quibble whether the Tigers should spent $200 million on a single player -- and the honest answer here is "no." They already have too much money tied up in too few players.

But if they're going to spend like a sailor on shore leave, Price is their man.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at bybtigers@gmail.com.