ST. PETERSBURG — David Price feels his career in Tampa Bay ended the moment the Rays were eliminated from the American League Division Series on Tuesday night.
As was the case with every highly paid player in team history, Price thinks he has priced himself off the Rays' payroll.
“If you go with what's been done in the past, I guess you're going to have to think you're going to get traded,” Price said Wednesday night on a conference call.
Price said he has not discussed his future with executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. And Friedman, when asked earlier in the day about Price's future with the club, declined to get into specifics.
“From our standpoint, we don't comment on 'what ifs,' ” Friedman said. “It's easy to talk about what he means to this organization, what he's done for it, and the success that we have he's been a very large part of, but with any player we have, it's just not helpful for us to comment on 'what ifs.' ”
Price won the American League Cy Young Award after going 20-5 with a league-leading 2.56 ERA in 2012. He was the first pitcher in the organization to win 20 games in a season and the first to win a Cy Young. He struggled this season, going 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA in 27 starts during a year interrupted by a 47-day stay on the disabled list because of a triceps strain.
Price, in his second year of arbitration eligibility, might see his 2014 salary bumped up from the $10.1125 million he made this past season to $13 million, a deal on the short end of what he's worth because of the time missed this season. Still, that would be too rich for the Rays. James Shields was traded last December, just ahead of a season that called for a $10 million salary.
“It's not disappointing or anything like that,” Price said. “This is a place I love to be. My teammates and everyone in the organization knows that. It's part of baseball and it's something I've seen go on, it's kind of something I somewhat prepared myself for.”
The more veteran Rays have been through this before. After the 2010 season, it was free agent Carl Crawford who was on the move. Last year, it was B.J. Upton's turn at free agency and the prospect of a Shields trade that came to fruition.
“Sure, I've thought about that,” Ben Zobrist said. “Obviously, nobody in this clubhouse wants to believe that he won't be here next year, but it's a possibility. We'll see what happens in the offseason. We're definitely going to be watching.”
The choices facing Friedman are these: Trade Price this offseason, sign him to a one-year deal and move him at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline if the Rays are not in contention, or sign him to a one-year deal and trade him after the 2014 season, hoping he stays healthy in 2014, returns to his 2012 form and his value increases.
Price could return for next season if Friedman believes the team he will assemble this winter can compete for the division title and advance deep in the postseason, and Friedman always believes that about his teams.
But Price took the mound Saturday in Boston during Game 2 of the ALDS knowing it could be his last start as a Ray. Some in the organization think that was the source of his postgame comments about Boston slugger David Ortiz and his Twitter rant.
“It's crossed my mind several times, in Texas (in the tiebreaker) as well and every other (elimination game) we've played,” Price said.
He said he wasn't comfortable having those thoughts.
“It's definitely something that weighs heavily on my mind,” he said.
It's an uncomfortable thought for his teammates, as well.
“It's a sad thought. It really is, because this group has gotten so close. David has really morphed into our go-to leader, our go-to guy that we look to for direction,” Alex Cobb said. “It's not a thought that I want going on all offseason.
“I really hope they can figure something out and at least squeeze another year out of him, maybe longer. I know it's been a thought in our minds this year that this could be our last year together. It's been tough at times to think about.”
Manager Joe Maddon said change is a part of the Rays' culture, and given their limited revenue, change means saying goodbye to the high-priced superstars.
“It's never an inviting thought to think David is not going to be with you. But we're faced with a lot of this stuff on an annual basis,” Maddon said. “It's part of who we are here. We understand that. We're hoping that it will turn out that he'll be able to be here, but I don't know how that is all going to play out. Players like David Price, you always want to have on your side.”
Price said he expects to know his future in the next few weeks. He couldn't speculate about the possibility of returning for the 2014 season on a one-year contract or signing a multi-year deal with the club.
When asked if he would be willing to give the Rays a “hometown discount” and take less than market value to remain a Ray, Price said, “We'll just have to see what that is.”