David Price learned Thursday what he his salary will be during the upcoming season. But the question remains: Who will foot the bill?
Price and the Tampa Bay Rays agreed on a one-year, $14 million contract, thus avoiding arbitration. It is the richest single-season deal in Rays history, topping the $10.25 million the Rays paid Carlos Pena in 2010. Price made $10.1125 last season during his second year of arbitration.
While Price talked Thursday during a conference call about his chances of remaining a Ray -- “The chances continue to get greater, I guess, as the days go by. Just kind of sitting back and watching like I have all offseason,” he said -- he acknowledged the outcome of the bidding for Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka could change everything.
Teams that lose out on Tanaka could turn their attention toward the Rays ace left-hander, a three-time All-Star and 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner.
The deadline for the Tanaka Sweepstakes is 5 p.m., Jan. 24.
“I don’t think a whole lot’s going to happen until after Tanaka signs,” Price said.
Price added that if he is with the team when the Rays pitchers and catchers report to Port Charlotte on Feb. 14 than he believes he will be with the team during the regular season.
“I think if I’m in camp, I will be on the team because that would stink if I’d be a part of the team in spring training and everybody thinks I will be there along with them then I get traded a couple days into spring or something like that, I think that would be much tougher to take as opposed to something happening before the spring,” he said. “I think if it was, probably Feb. 1 would be the time period that I would think would kind of let me know that I would be here. I think that’s a week after Tanaka signs.”
Price’s thoughts on his short-term future with Tampa Bay has changed since Oct. 9, the day after the team was eliminated from the postseason, when he last spoke about the subject. Back then, Price assumed he would be traded. So did the majority of those in and around baseball.
With two years remaining before Price reached free agency, this offseason seemed ripe for the Rays to make a trade and maximize their return on the 28-year-old, who could be the No. 1 starter on many staffs around the major leagues.
“I didn’t think I would be (back), really, just the way everything happened with our organization,” Price said. “But I guess everything this offseason kind of played into the best way for me to stay here, especially with the Tanaka thing. So I think it’s kind of a sign. Hopefully I can stay here for a while. My mindset hasn’t changed. I wanted to stay here. Everybody knew that.”
Andrew Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, and others in the front office maintained throughout the offseason that the Rays could afford to keep Price in 2014. The Rays have added payroll this winter with the contracts given to first baseman James Loney, catcher Ryan Hanigan, relief pitcher Heath Bell and outfielder David DeJesus.
Friedman said the payroll is approaching the 2010 high water mark of $72.8 million because the front office feels the Rays have a chance to be “great” this season.
Price said he is eager to remain a part of what could be the best team in franchise history.
“That’s awesome. On paper right now, I feel like we have a very good team,” Price said when asked about the offseason moves. “Hopefully we can make some kind of run and then let something happen. If we can have this team that we have right now on paper and everybody stay healthy and produce the type of team that we can all produce, I think we can do something special.”
The Rays have six remaining arbitration-eligible players: pitchers Jeremy Hellickson, Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos, outfielder Matt Joyce, catcher Jose Lobaton and infielder/outfielder Sean Rodriguez.
Both sides have until 1 p.m. today to reach an agreement on a 2014 contract, otherwise they head to arbitration, where the Rays have never lost a case.
The Rays Fanfest is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Feb. 22 at Tropicana Field. Admission and parking his free. Fans can pay to receive autographs from Rays players as well as more than 25 former big leaguers with the proceeds going to the ALS Association Florida Chapter. Manager Joe Maddon will again hold his Thanksmas dinner. For more information, call 888-FAN-RAYS or log on to raysbaseball.com/fanfest.