As of Thursday, left-hander David Price will approach the upcoming season as if he’ll play for the Tampa Bay Rays.
That’s because he and the Rays agreed to terms for the 2014 campaign.
The ace will make $14 million, a healthy bump from the $10.1125 million he earned last year. The announcement comes a day before Major League Baseball’s arbitration deadline, meaning Price and the Rays will avoid a hearing to determine the pitcher’s value.
The deal represents the highest one-year salary the Rays have offered any player. First baseman Carlos Pena earned $10.25 million in 2010.
"I’m definitely happy to have it out of the way, so you don’t have to worry about going through a hearing, and that can be during spring training," Price said in a conference call. "That’s not something you want to have to do. I’m happy to have that done. And I’m still having the same mind-set moving forward that I think I’m going to be a Ray."
Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, is a three-time All-Star. He went 10-8 last season with a 3.33 ERA in 27 starts despite missing 44 games with a left triceps strain. Upon his return from the disabled list on July 2, he went 9-4 with a 2.53 ERA in 18 starts with 102 strikeouts and just 13 walks.
There was widespread thought in recent months that he would be dealt in the offseason, given his cost and potential value for the Rays in a possible blockbuster deal. He’s not scheduled to become a free agent until after the 2015 season, and history has shown Tampa Bay is unafraid to part ways with key members of its staff if a move means deep value in return.
Right-hander Matt Garza was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2011, while right-hander James Shields was dealt to the Kansas City Royals in 2012.
Though Rays pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 14, there still remains a possibility Price will be dealt. The deadline for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka to sign with an MLB team is Jan. 24, and the urgency for a suitor to land Price could be heightened once the Tanaka situation is resolved.
"My mind-set hasn’t changed," Price said. "I wanted to stay here. Everybody knew that. So if I had a chance to be able to come back, that was what was going to happen. I think it has kind of worked out well for me to come back. That’s what’s going on right now. Hopefully, not too much changes."
The 28-year-old is a six-year veteran who’s Tampa Bay’s all-time leader in ERA (3.19) and winning percentage (.645). He ranks second behind Shields in victories (71), games started (147), innings pitched (973), strikeouts (876) and complete games (eight).
Price’s future remains uncertain, though with each day that passes until spring training, the likelihood he stays with the Rays increases. Wherever his destination, he’ll enjoy a rich payday.
"I want to be a part of it," Price said of the Rays’ upcoming season. "I think we’re going to have a really good team this year. I would love to see what would happen. Hopefully, I’m there for the duration of it."