It’s the question that won’t go away- how much longer will David Price last as a Tampa Bay Ray? Is an extension possible? Is a trade inevitable? Rays fans will be on the edge of their seats for next several months and maybe even years seeing what happens to Price, and they’re nervous to see how things will play out. However, while there’s nothing fans can do but wait, Rays fans had to be feeling a little better about Price’s future with the Rays after hearing owner Stuart Sternberg’s comments to reporters on Sunday.
"On the possibility of keeping 2012 American League Cy Young Award pitcher David Price, who will make $10.1125 million in 2013, beyond this season:“(Executive vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman) said and correctly that there is no question that we can handle a contract like David’s, but what are you able to put around him? But right now, and correctly, David is focused on this season and we’re focused on this season and speculatively it’s way too early for people to be focused on what’s three years from now, four years from now. David is an enormous part of this organization and has been so through all the success from 2008 to 2013.”On the widely popular belief that the Rays will be forced to trade Price after this season:“We haven’t had those thoughts. Others have speculated. There’s been speculation but we haven’t had those thoughts at all.”On whether the Rays can keep Price next year:“Oh yeah, sure. Absolutely.”"
The last comment is the one that has really made the headlines, but that really indicates the fatal flaw in the general baseball public’s view of Price and the Rays that the media (myself included) has been milking and exploiting for a long time: since Price is getting more expensive, the Rays can’t afford him and have to trade him even next year as his salary could approach 15 million dollars. That’s simply not true. The Rays held on Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena for all their seasons of team control despite both of them, like Price, getting their salary into eight figures. Price’s salary will be higher than that, but that doesn’t mean the Rays can’t fit him into their budget for next year. What we have seen the Rays do is seize opportunities to trade players when they get an offer they couldn’t possibly refuse, with the most recent example being when they received Wil Myers and more from the Kansas City Royals for James Shields. If the Texas Rangers give the Rays a ridiculous package of prospects headlined by Jurickson Profar, the Rays would probably pull the trigger on the trade. If the right offer doesn’t come, though, the Rays will raise their payroll a few more million dollars and maybe skimp a little more on the free agent market and keep Price without too much of a problem. In saying that the Rays could “absolutely” keep Price in 2014, Stuart Sternberg was stating something that should be pretty obvious, and the fact that it isn’t a statement of our “talk-show caller” sports mentality where people are generating all sorts of crazy opinions about situations they know far too little about.
The Sternberg comment that was much more interesting was when he said “It’s way too early for people to be focused on what’s three years from now, four years from now.” In the Rays’ minds, their concern about Price’s future in Tampa Bay is not right now, not next year, but in 2015 when Price will be in his last season under team control. Those plans are always subject to change if the right offer comes along, but the Rays are set to have Price as the ace of their rotation and their highest paid player for the next two years almost for sure and they’ll see what happens after that. The Rays aren’t going to trade Price no matter what happens after this season. They’re certainly not trading Price and going into a rebuilding process following the season. There are things up in the air, but money is far from the only consideration for the Rays in regards to keeping David Price. Anything can happen and we can’t be sure what the Rays will do, but assume nothing and realize that the Rays are going to make whatever decision is best for their ballclub, and keeping Price even as his salary gets higher certainly qualifies for that.