The Rays on Monday avoided arbitration with American League Cy Young winner David Price, signing the 27-year-old to a one-year, $10.1125 million deal, a record salary for a second-time arbitration eligible pitcher.
Along with winning the Cy Young, Price led the American League last season with a 2.56 ERA, was tied with Jered Weaver of Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for wins and held opponents to a .318 slugging percentage, the lowest in the AL. Additionally, Price made 23 starts of seven innings or more to lead the majors.
The deadline to exchange salary figures for arbitration is January 18, but undoubtedly the Rays made the deal a priority as it gives them a clearer figure as to the amount of monies remaining for the team’s remaining arbitration eligible players and potential free agent signings.
The only options picked up were those of closer Fernando Rodney ($2.5 million) and catcher Jose Molina ($1.8 million) leaving Jeff Niemann, Ryan Roberts, Matt Joyce, Reid Brignac, Chris Gimenez and Sam Fuld as their remaining arbitration eligible players.
Price earned $4.35 million last season in his first year of arbitration eligibility and was projected by many to command at least $9 million had he gone through the arbitration process.
With the trade of James Shields ($10.15 million in 2013) and Wade Davis ($2.8 million in 2013) plus not re-signing B.J. Upton ($7 million – 2012), Carlos Pena ($7.25 – 2012) and declining Luke Scott’s option ($6 million – 2013) the Rays cleared $33 million off their payroll.
In five seasons with the Rays, David Price has gone 61-31 with a 3.16 ERA and earned three All-Star selections (2010-12). In club history, he ranks second in wins (61) and third in innings pitched (786.1), strikeouts (725) and starts (120). His .680 winning percentage (51-24) since the start of 2010 ranks third highest in the majors behind only Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers and CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees.
The Rays have one more club option year on Price and though there still remains an outside possibility that a long-term deal can be made it's becoming much clearer that Price could become too expensive to remain a Tampa Bay Ray.
Price has said many times that he'd love to stay, but his agent Bo McKinnis told the Tampa Bay Times that while "it becomes increasingly difficult" at this stage of his career, "it's not too late."
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said the Rays in theory could afford to sign Price, but eventually they will have to make choices to ensure they can put enough talent around their stars.
"At some point, it stops," he said. "You've got to make a decision. We're going to eat steak, and we're going to eat lobster, and we're going to order some wine, but we're not going to be able to turn the heat on, and the house isn't going to get painted."
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