With the trade of James Shields and Wade Davis, on top of the salaries that had left via departing free agents, it appeared as though the Rays may have cleared enough room in their budget to potentially sign David Price to the long term extension that he desires. Considering Price is heading into his second arbitration hearing, it felt as though an extension may not just be nothing more than a far fetched hope.
Then free agents began to sign in earnest. Zack Greinke, the top free agent pitcher on the market despite his possible psychological and makeup issues, received a six year contract worth $147Million. Anibal Sanchez, a sub .500 pitcher who has been just better than league average over his career, received a five year, $80Million deal based on his potential and a solid run during the playoffs. Even Ryan Dempster, a .500 pitcher who has been almost exactly average over his career, received a two year, $26.5Million contract.
Price, who is going to be a free agent after the 2016 season, still has two more years of arbitration left as a Super Two player, so he remains under the control of the Rays. Yet, he has already made three All-Star teams and won a Cy Young Award, which matches the totals of both for the three aforementioned pitchers. In addition, Price has displayed a sustained level of success, and is entering the prime of his career. While Dempster has had a nice run from 2008 through 2010, and the beginning part of 2012, he got hit hard once he was traded to the Rangers, and turns 36 on May 3rd. Sanchez has yet to locate the consistency needed to become the top tier starter that the Tigers likely regard him as. Greinke followed up his Cy Young season by going 10-14 with an ERA of 4.17. While he had solid years in 2011 and 2012, is he truly the ace he is expected to be?
Meanwhile, Price may have seen his contract for 2013 increase by default. Originally expected to receive between $9Million and $10Million in arbitration, that number may be climbing with the contracts being signed this offseason. Should Price continue to produce the way he has over the past three years, he may not fit within the constraints that the Rays have on their payroll.
Even though the contracts for Greinke, Dempster, and Sanchez may have only been of passing interest to fans of the Rays, they may wind up having long-term ramifications for the Rays ability to keep one of their best players. As such, David Price may wind up beyond what the Rays can afford after this upcoming season.