Skip to main content

On at least two levels, the Blue Jays' fate will be decided at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night.

There's Game 6 itself. If the Jays lose (knock wood twice), they go home with a sense of having acquitted themselves manfully in the playoffs. It will sting for a bit, but a week from now the 2015 season will already have achieved a dull, hagiographic glow. It'll seem like a minor saint – not Francis or a Cecilia, but say a St. Athanasius. It's hard to beat a battling monk.

However, if they win, a panoply of possibilities open up, now and months from now.

Beyond a Game 7 and a World Series berth, there will be the sense that the Toronto Blue Jays' organization kept the faith with starter David Price, and helped him push his playoff boulder over the peak.

While we're in the midst of it, it is too early for fans to start thinking about next year, but it's too late for Blue Jays' management. They can't affect what's happening on the field. Their primary job is keeping their most important off-season free-agent target – Price – pliant and happy.

Although it's not really their fault, that effort is not going well. It's been that sort of playoffs for Price.

On Thursday afternoon, he sent out one of those paranoid Tweets about "the media" that is becoming tiresome par for the Toronto clubhouse's course.

"Haha media is funny" Price said. "never said I was mad or upset about anything that's gone in the playoffs. And stop twisting my words around ... cheers."

Presumably, this was in reference to a Yahoo Sports column that called Price a "puppet" because of his repeated potential and actual use as a reliever.

Asked about it during his media session, Price brushed the question away in vague (and quite believable) 'I'm all about the team' terms.

Then he said this: "Texas might have been a little weird, but we've definitely moved past that."

In other words, there was a problem. There just isn't a problem now. When you're in competition with New York, Boston and Chicago to re-sign Price, that's an Everest-sized problem.

He might not be thinking of it this way, but Friday's start is Price's final job interview. He's interviewing the Blue Jays, rather than the other way around.

This winter, Price will be showered in cash. At that level, it's not about money, per se. It's about respect. Price (and, more important, his agent) will expect a 'highest ever'-type number. That would put him into the $220-million (U.S.) range.

Shortly after he arrived, Price told Sportsnet that "I guess the Blue Jays would be ahead" in the David Price Sweepstakes. That sounds more like good manners than an honest assessment. With every passing day, it sounds less and less believable.

Price is an enormously good-humoured fellow, but you can see the happy-go-lucky guy bleeding off slowly. He has his pride. It's got something to do with failing to be a superstar in these playoffs. As Price himself keeps reminding us, if you don't like it, pitch better. But the team didn't help him much during that disastrous seventh inning in Game 2. Manager John Gibbons has effectively demoted him to the No. 2 starter.

If he was inclined to be insulted, there's plenty of non-paranoid reasons to feel that way that have nothing to do with the media.

The most important question GM Alex Anthopoulos will want to ask himself in the coming days is 'What are my chances with Price?' Right now, they appear exceedingly poor.

It's not Toronto's fault that Price's entire October has been spent trying to convince people he's better than his record (which he is), but it will doubtless seem that way to Price.

When he thinks back on his three months in Canada, what's front of mind will be "was cursed" and "reduced to situational relief." All the fun of August – scooters and bathrobes and a 2.28 ERA – will feel like a long time ago.

That can change Friday and then Saturday.

The best chance Toronto has of keeping Price is finding a way to allow him to lead them into a World Series.

That means he must be allowed to pitch a Game 1 against the New York Mets on short rest on Tuesday. Whether or not the Jays get there, that intention has to be made clear to Price. However, they have to win on Friday night, and he must be the key reason they do so. Otherwise, there's no point.

If the Jays do not keep Price, 2016 will be a struggle. The Yankees and Red Sox will be better. They may get better after signing Price.

If he leaves, Toronto's rotation is Marcus Stroman (yay!), Marco Estrada (yay) R.A. Dickey (yay?) and two other guys they still have to figure out. That isn't terrible, but it's a very long way from optimal.

Price changes that equation. He isn't just the best available free-agent pitcher. He's the best player, full stop.

He turns the Blue Jays into a World Series favourite, and for several years to come. There is no limit to what Toronto should do to keep him.

He says he's not unhappy. There's a chasm between "not unhappy" and "happy." It's been a while since Price told anyone about how happy he is to be here.

Yes, the World Series is the most important goal right now. But putting yourself in a reasonable position to keep your best pitcher is a very close second.

By any measure, the last three months have been more sportsy fun than Toronto's had in a generation. You'd like to keep that feeling alive.

If Price wins on Friday, it's still possible. If he loses, it's edging into "good try" territory.

Because we all live in the present, a playoff elimination game was always going to be the most important Toronto Blue Jays tilt ever. But this one? It's also got the future riding on it.