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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Drenonomics | Price Quotes

Is there a finer sound in the unrestricted sonance of baseball than the efficient hum of the Rays talent machine? Yes...but probably only 2: The crack of Bo Jackson's bat and the timbre in the voice of Buck O'Neil. Both are captured HERE.

Anyway, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg has recently been altering the perceived trajectory of David Price's career arc:
Of course he added a caveat that reflected what it seems like everyone was thinking:
In response to the assumption that his club would have to trade Price, Sternberg added:
So, what are the chances any of that is true? Seem slim to none. Price's agent, Bo McKinness, has been grandiloquently quoted on the subject: 
Best could be very differently defined by an agent (like McKinness) and an owner (Sternberg.) Not every player is going to sign team-friendly deals like Price's teammate Evan Longoria (As discussed in the Longoria Window series) or fellow Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver (Who "[doesn't] give a _____.")

Price could be baseball's first $200MM left arm...if Clayton Kershaw doesn't beat him to the punch. The Tampa southpaw is making $10.1125MM this year with 2 arbitration seasons ahead of him. He and the Rays (and perhaps the arbitration panel) will be molding some ground-breaking precedents over that time. So, can Tampa Bay afford Price if he commands a record-setting contract? Or is the front office posturing in an effort to keep his inconceivable potential as trade manna from precipitating?

The latter seems more likely, especially since it's pretty simple to get a read on the subtext in Sternberg's comments:
Right. With Longoria and Matt Moore clambering up the pay scale, $20MM+ to Price would leave the Rays little room to fill out the rest of the roster without raising payroll. This problem exists even after the team shed James Shields' contract and the economic paradigm shift that occurred when Wade Davis became a reliever. And Price doesn't sound like he's planning on being a bargain:
"I guess 'appreciation' is the word I could use the most. I just want to feel appreciated."
And if that sounds narcissistic in the slightest, consider the profit margins. Even though the Rays rank 29th in MLB (according to the Forbes Team Valuations List,)  the franchise is still worth $323MM. In 2012, Price's contract "Occupied" just above 1% of that, but it doesn't seem likely that those Wall Street protesters will picket the Trop on his behalf. Though, Price isn't only concerned with himself when it comes to crunching numbers:
A rough spring projection has Tampa's 2013 Opening Day payroll around $61MM. They've worked wonders in the past, in spite of the stark limitations their naked bleachers present them. But, they may have simply been too wonderful in terms of player development. Assuming no major trades, Friedman & Co. will need to raise payroll just to sustain a similar core around their burgeoning stars. The same can be said in multiplicity for 2015 and beyond.

Unless the turnstiles produce a more rapid revolution, the Rays won't be able to justify setting aside 25% to 35% of their payroll for one player...especially since Sternberg has already said the payroll is presently disproportionate to attendance: 
"...we've had a number of years when [the payroll] has been higher than it should be. And this is one of those years."
That may be posturing as well, but they may need the practice. If the front office sat back and allowed speculation that they would be FORCED to move Price, they would lose the profound upper hand they should have in trade negotiations. 

Those rumblings in the distance may have prompted the speculation even though Tampa Bay has control through 2015. Price will likely lose value (however slightly) as time marches on, due to the perceived anxiety Tampa will suffer trying to get the most out of their cash cow. Sternberg may have been trying to put up a front, and if he was, it must've worked to some extent. The difference may be as simple as the quality or the mere presence of the letters P, T, B, N & L. Or it could be much more significant.

Maybe the owner is telling the truth. Whether he and Friedman end up negotiating with McKinness or another team, The Rays will have to hold their collective poker faces either way to keep that talent machine cranking.  

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