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Price, Upton agree to one-year deals with Rays

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 11:34 AM

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ST. PETERSBURG -

David Price thought for a moment or two when asked what he might purchase with his first big paycheck.

His answer?

"I might ask (Derek) Jeter if I can buy a wing in his house for a little while," Price said.

Yes, Price was in a good mood Tuesday.

The Rays left-hander avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year deal with a base salary of $4.35 million, matching former Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis for the largest contract received by a pitcher during his first year of arbitration eligibility.

"It's awesome. You're always trying to set records, so it's pretty cool that I can tie him," Price said with a laugh.

The Rays also avoided arbitration with center fielder B.J. Upton, who finished his three-year run through arbitration with a $7 million contract, and reliever Burke Badenhop, who agreed to a $1.075 million deal.

Pitcher Jeff Niemann is the only Rays player headed to an arbitration hearing after the two sides could not agree on a contract. According to Jon Heyman of CBSsports.com, the Rays offered $2.75 million while Niemann asked for $3.2 million.

As per the Rays policy, Niemann can only avoid an arbitration hearing if he agrees to a multi-year deal. The Rays are 4-0 in arbitration hearings under executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.

Including relievers Joel Peralta, who agreed to a contract before the holidays, and J.P. Howell, who reached a deal Monday, the Rays settled with five of their six arbitration-eligible players.

"It's absolutely our intent when we start this process to resolve them all," Friedman said. "We've been very successful in the past in resolving them."

Upton, who was traveling Tuesday and could not be reached for comment, received a raise from the $4.825 million he earned in 2011. The subject of trade rumors since last July, Upton remains a big piece of the Rays offense.

He finished 2011 on a tear, batting .356 with five home runs, 14 RBIs, eight doubles, 10 walks and .462 on-base percentage and a .644 slugging percentage during the final 23 games of the season. The hot streak followed his move to second in the batting order.

Upton had 23 home runs and 81 RBIs for the season, despite batting .243 and striking out 161 times.

"He plays a very critical position for us defensively, and the team's success that we've had, he's been a big contributor to that," Friedman said. "I certainly understand that different people may perceive different players on our team differently, but we feel like B.J. is a big part of our past success and we expect him to be a big part of our success this season as well."

Upton becomes a free agent after the upcoming season, so his days for the Rays may be numbered.

Price, however, has two more years of arbitration remaining. He said Tuesday he would be agreeable to a multi-year contract with the organization that made him the first overall pick in the 2007 draft.

"I love being a Ray. I love the organization. I love all the guys in the organization, even with the trainers and the guys who work in the clubhouse. I love it here. I love the community here, as well. It's a good place for me to be," he said. "As long as I'm here I'll give it everything I got. If we can work something out, so be it. If not, it's part of the business, and you have to take it one day at a time."

Friedman, as his policy, would not discus that possibility.

"The feelings are obviously mutual in terms in our admiration for who he is and the type of competitor he is, but as far as contract status those are things we don't talk about publically," Friedman said.

Tuesday's contracts added more to a payroll that already seems stretched, but Friedman said the figures were factored into the projected 2012 payroll, which is now expected to climb above the $50 million mark.

"This process is something that really plays out around this time period," Friedman said, "but there is a lot of thought and energy leading up to this, so when we get to November we have it down to a fairly tight range on most guys, approaching it from what we think is a fair number, not necessarily a number where we win."


rmooney@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7227

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