Before the Winter Meetings, Andrew Friedman said that the Rays were not in a hurry to deal David Price. His actions certainly bore that out. While rumors flew and other teams made big free agent signings, the meetings ended with David Price still a Ray. Then the news broke that the Rays solved their first base problems by signing James Loney as a free agent for three years at $21 million. That demonstrated 1) the Rays are willing to pay a reasonable price to sign a unique talent; and 2) they believe they will contend for the pennant in 2014.
Both Maddon and Price said they expect Price to be traded before spring training. Since Price is eligible for arbitration it’s almost certain he will once again be the highest-paid Ray if he remains on the team in 2014. Can the Rays afford that? MLB teams in 2014 are scheduled to receive another $25 million from their television rights fee deals. That can cover paying Price the $13 million he is projected to make, and still leave room for James Loney’s $5 million signing bonus. Even after the Loney signing, there is no reason the Rays cannot afford to pay David Price.
With Price, the Rays keep one of the strongest starting rotations in the majors intact. They still have Odorizzi and one-game wonder Enny Romero available should any of them falter, but staying with their starting five of Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, and Chris Archer would give them a rotation as good as any in baseball. Price also brings more to the table than his pitching skills. His leadership of the Rays’ young staff contributed to their success. Chris Archer said several times during the season that Price was a role model for him. Rays fans still remember the sight of Price warming up in the bullpen on short rest in the last game of the ALDS, ready to go in if the team needed him. That combination of skills, leadership, and will to win makes Price one of the most valuable pitchers in the majors.
The Rays have won a lot of games since 2008, but they have not been back to the World Series. A full year of Wil Myers and David DeJesus, along with the return of Loney, ought to enable the Rays to score more runs in 2014. Returning a healthy Price to the rotation gives the Rays a much better chance to win the American League pennant in 2014 than sending him to another team for prospects. And all nine Rays starters plus all five members of their starting rotation, including Price, are under team control for at least the next two years, giving the Rays the opportunity to not just achieve more success but sustain it. Maybe another team absolutely overwhelms the Rays with an offer and Price is dealt. But until that comes to fruition, do not count out the Rays keeping David Price and giving their talented roster every chance to go farther in 2014.