Something that has begun to happen over the past few weeks and months is that Rays fans have begun to come to grips with the fact that David Price is unlikely to be in Tampa Bay for much longer. As just a second-time arbitration-eligible player this offseason, Price agreed to a 10.1125 million dollar contract, and his raise of over 5.5 million dollars from his 4.35 million dollar salary in 2012 was the record for a player going through arbitration for the second time. As Price just gets more and more expensive, how could the Rays possibly afford him given their limited budget? Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opined that it may just be possible.
With another $25 million coming in on a national TV deal next year, it’ll be tough for even the Rays not to extend David Price.
The typical way that a team suddenly has more budget under its disposal is that new ownership takes over or the team gets a new stadium built. The triumvirate of Stuart Sternberg, Andrew Friedman, and Matthew Silverman in the front office has completely turned the Rays around so we have to hope that the ownership of the Rays is not about to change, and it seems pretty clear that the Rays are not about to start construction on a new stadium. However, there’s a third way that a team can suddenly see a major increase in revenue: TV deals. The deals that Major League Baseball signed with ESPN, Fox, and Turner Sports will give the Rays and every team in baseball a 25 million dollar increase as Cafardo. In addition, the Rays’ current TV deal with Sun Sports expires in 2016, and they will be able to negotiate a new contract that will guarantee them plenty more income per year, even 40 million dollars or more a year, which is around 25 million dollars more then they’re making now. It would be best if that new deal was negotiated with a plan for a new Rays stadium already in place, but nevertheless, the Rays will be taking in more money and will be able to raise their payroll significantly. Could all this TV money coming in for the short-term and long-term be utilized in part to sign Price to a long-term extension to keep him in Tampa Bay?
Earlier this offseason, Zack Greinke signed a 6-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers worth 147 million dollars, an average of 24.5 million dollars per season. When he’s eligible for free agency following the 2015 season, David Price is primed to receive an even bigger deal. Is it worth it for the Rays to spend half or more of their incoming TV money on a Price contract of that magnitude? Price is an incredible pitcher, but the answer to that question is far from a resounding yes. Instead of running their team with a higher payroll, improving their team across the board, and signing more of their quality young players to extensions , the Rays would instead remain the same type of small market team, only with Price still in the fold taking up a third or a quarter of their budget. That also goes without saying that the Rays would be in serious trouble should Price get injured. Unless Price is willing to agree to a “hometown” discount (Price is from Tennessee, although he does live in Tampa now), something Rays fans hope he would do but also seems unlikely to do given that he never agreed to a team-friendly extension with the team, the cost in terms of both dollars and financial flexibility of the Rays signing Price to a long-term deal might be too high for it to realistically come together.
One thing that the TV money could mean though is that the Rays are in no rush at all to trade Price away and may in fact do what they did with players like Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton and simply keep him through his free agency. Plenty of people have suggested that the Rays are going to trade Price after this season because he’ll be making 13 or 14 million dollars in 2014 and how could the Rays possibly afford that! With the TV deal incoming, though, the Rays could very well do exactly that. Maybe a team offers the Rays a ridiculous package of young players and prospects for Price and they deal him nevertheless. But just as likely might be that the Rays sign Price to a contract extension covering his final two arbitration eligible seasons, and Price spends not just next season but the next three years at the top of the Rays’ rotation leading the Rays to postseason runs and helping the Rays’ young pitchers to continue the tradition he helped start as the Rays find a way to move on without him.
Even with their increased TV revenue, it still may not be feasible for the Rays to sign David Price to a deal that will keep him in Tampa Bay for the long-term. However, the impending revenue stream will allow them to keep Price in a Rays uniform for the rest of his time under team control without a problem and there will not be a situation where money forces the Rays to trade Price like so many people seem to think. It still seems like Price will eventually depart from the Rays- but the Rays will do everything to make the next three years the best their franchise has ever seen with David Price anchoring their rotation and leading them wherever they go.