David Price was eager to finalize his 2013 contract because he didn’t want negotiations to linger and become a distraction as he prepared for the upcoming season.
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Jan. 18 deadline to trade arbitration figures by 17 days when they agreed Tuesday on a one-year that will pay Price $10.1125 million.
"It’s not necessarily something I wanted to take all the way into spring training," Price said of the prospect of protracted negotiations. "I guess I could either go to spring training for the first couple of days then leave for the arbitration hearing or decide not to report until I go to arbitration, so that’s really not something I wanted to deal with.
"I like the way we structured my deal for this year. It was fun to do it."
Price’s deal is the second largest in franchise history behind the $10.125 million former first baseman Carlos Peña was paid in 2010. It also is the largest given to a second-year arbitration eligible player, according to MLB Trade Rumors, topping Jared Weaver’s $7.33 million contract in 2011.
Price avoided arbitration in 2012 by agreeing to a $4.35-million deal hours before the deadline to exchange figures. He then became the first 20-game winner in team history and led the American League with a 2.56 ERA.
"Both sides genuinely wanted to get a deal done and in David’s mind he was very open to doing that earlier than the deadline," Rays executive vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman said.
Friedman wouldn’t specify when asked about a long-term deal for Price, but did point to his track record of signing young players to long-term contracts. With Price, an elite pitcher who will be a free agent after the 2015 season and already passed the $10-million a year threshold, that might be hard to accomplish.
"If it happens that would be awesome," said Price, 27. "I love being a Ray and everything about it. I’ve said that since Day One. If it happens, it happens. If not, I understand it’s part of the business. The Rays are going to do everything they can to make sure they not only win at the present time, but they want to win in the future as well. I understand that. It’s part of the business."
When the Rays signed third baseman Evan Longoria to a six-year contract extension in November that will pay him $131 million over the next 10 seasons, owner Stuart Sternberg said adding a second big contract to the payroll might upset the Rays’ chances of remaining competitive.
"It’s a difficult thing to answer without all of the variables, term, money, all of those things, so it’s a difficult question to answer on any one specific player," Friedman said. "But we can certainly add another larger contract.
"But as Stu alluded to, it puts a lot more pressure on our remaining funds, which will be much smaller to fill out 23 guys around Longoria and whoever that contract is (for) to be able to win. Because at the end of the day that’s what motivates us, winning and having a competitive team that we can sustain. So it’s not an easy thing to answer in a vacuum."
NOTEWORTHY: Friedman hopes to reach agreements with the remaining arbitration-eligible players – OF Sam Fuld and Matt Joyce, RHP Jeff Niemann and INFs Ryan Roberts and Reid Brignac before the Jan. 18 deadline, he said. …Friedman is still looking for a few more arms for the bullpen as well as another bat or two, but said he is not close on any deals …Joyce’s annual baseball camp to benefit the North Brandon Little League will be held Jan. 20 at the league’s complex. Registration is $100 per player (ages 6 to 13). Players can register at www.nbll.org. The camp raised $10,000 for the league in 2012.