How Long Will David Price Be the Ace of the Tampa Bay Rays?

Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays have built themselves into a winner with a small-market mentality by drafting good, young talent and letting them blossom in the major leagues. They don’t out-spend anyone in free agency, more often bringing in role players and wily veterans on the cheap, instead leaning on their home-grown talent to carry the team. However, that small-market mentality runs into trouble when those young prospects turn into major league stars and demand big league contracts. That being said, how much longer can the Rays hold on to David Price?

The 27-year-old lefty is the undeniable ace of one of what has been one of the deepest starting rotations in baseball the last few seasons. Selected No. 1 overall in 2007 out of Vanderbilt, Price shot through the minors and made his MLB debut the following year. He’s been one of the best starters in baseball ever since, finishing second in the AL Cy Young voting in 2010 before taking it home in 2012 when he posted a league-leading 2.56 ERA and won 20 games. Price and the Rays avoided arbitration this season, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $10.1125 million (up from $4.35 million in 2012).

But that’s a short-term solution for a big problem coming down the tracks for Tampa Bay. Price won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season, so the club retains his rights for another three seasons at least. What the team would like to do is get a long-term deal done with the same multi-year framework they gave third baseman Evan Longoria. Price, however, is letting the world know his services won’t come cheap.

“I don’t play this game for the money, but I don’t want to be underappreciated. What I’ve done for this organization so far, I feel like I’ve helped this organization a great deal. So if they want to show me some appreciation, then fine.”

Or to quote the philosopher Rod Tidwell: “SHOW ME THE MONEY!”

If the Rays are unable to reach a middle ground with Price on a deal that the team can live with, then there may be a framework in place for what happens to the talented southpaw as early as next off-season. Despite having James Shields under club control for two more season, the fiscally conservative Rays traded him away, along with Wade Davis, in return for prospects. Could that be a glimpse into David Price’s future?

Price is unquestionably one of the premier arms in baseball and he deservedly would like to be paid like one. Will the small-market Rays stick to their small-market strategies or will they reverse course and break the bank to show their ace “some appreciation?” When we know the answer to that, then we’ll know how long Price will remain in Tampa.

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