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Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Price back with Rays, but for how long?

TAMPA — If you're a Tampa Bay Rays fan, you should be celebrating.

You might be getting another year of David Price.

Who thought that was possible?

The Rays avoided arbitration and hard feelings from the left-handed pitching star by signing him for one season at $14 million, the largest one-year contract in franchise history. Price sounded subdued as he discussed his record deal.

You see, he might get traded in two weeks.

Then again, he might not.

Will this movie ever end?

You've got to figure that if Price hits training camp, no way the Rays would ever deal him unless the wheels completely fall off before next season's trade deadline.

But in terms of real Rays history, Price's $14 million isn't the number that matters.

Try seven years, $215 million.

$215 million.

That's the staggering, lunatic sum the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to pay their left-handed pitching star, Clayton Kershaw.

“It's crazy,” Price said. “It's monopoly money. It's very good for him, very deserving. He's the best pitcher in baseball, and he has been for a while, so he deserves that.”

Think that $215 million, that number, isn't rolling around in Price's head right about now?

Think prospective Rays trading partners aren't afraid of that number?

“Wait, we have to give them our top prospects AND fork over $200 million to Price?”

Then there's the other shoe that has to drop. The race for Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka ends next Friday, the deadline for a major-league team to reach a deal with him.

Will the losers in the bidding then turn to Price as Plan P?

All of it seems very confusing, but it matters to the Rays, financial Have Nots in a system where the Haves keep setting the bar preposterously high.

Price can't possibly be a Ray after next season, and surely not after 2015. But the market clearly never developed, at least at the Rays' asking price.

I think part of Price won't believe he's a Ray until he's a Ray on Opening Day, or even the start of spring training.

“I think that I'm going to be a Ray,” he said. But he's not completely sure.

He seemed ready to not be a Ray, which raises the question: Can he check back in mentally?

The mega-deal never materialized. It might not appear after Tanaka signs, though maybe the Yankees land Tanaka, so the Dodgers turn to Price, or maybe someone else does. If the Yankees lose out on Tanaka, the Rays would never send Price to the Bronx.

For the Rays, the end game remains the same: balancing the most they can get out of Price against the most they can get for him.

And what if they get caught holding the bag in 2014?

Well, boo-hoo, they get: a Cy Young winner, 162 games of a possibly stupendous starting rotation, headed by Price and Alex Cobb. Maybe they get another playoff team. What baseball club wouldn't be better with David Price?

He wants to be here. But he wants his deal, too, no hometown discount. And Clayton Kershaw's power-ball number is out there.

That $215 million, that's the number that matters.

The deal for Tanaka, that's the deal that matters.

If Price is in spring training, he might be here all season. A Rays fan has to be happy. Rays management has to be wondering if the right kind of market will ever emerge.

This is going to end.

We just don't know when.

One last thing:

215 million.

Monopoly, anyone?


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