Why Price Can’t Be Right For The Tampa Bay Rays

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Rays NewsPardon the hyperbole,  but there are at least 200 million reasons why  signing Tampa Bay Rays Cy Young winner David Price to a long-term deal makes sense, at least for Rays fans. At the same time, and this isn’t hyperbole,  there are 200 million reasons why  it cant work.  It just doesn’t make economic sense for a micro market team like Tampa Bay.

It’s that time of year  for optimistic thinking, hope springs eternal. Yesterday, Rays Principal owner Stuart Sternberg  seemed to leave the door open for the possibility of the team signing Price to a long-term deal,  referring to the  $100 million extension that the team gave Evan Longoria as an example.

“Look at what Evan Longoria just got,” Sternberg said. “Once we get up to a number, they are gargantuan for us. They are extraordinary. Numbers like that are a huge commitment for any team, and for us, they’re as close to being as off the table as possible. Yet we did one this past offseason.” That’s the good news.

Tampa Bay  expects to have a payroll around $61 million this season and according to Sternberg, “well higher than it ought to be” based on last season’s attendance.

Rays springPrice is expected  to pull down $25 million per year beginning in 2016,  which begs the question; what could possibly change between now and then to turn Tampa Bay from a small market team to even a mid-market team?

Tampa Bay  has won 90+ games  four of the last five seasons and  attendance still languishes at the bottom of all Major League Baseball.  Insert your favorite reason here as to why,  whether it be the stadium,  the stadium location,  or the demographics, none of these are likely to change before Price  is ready for a new deal.

As Rays Index points out  the combined salaries of Evan Longoria($11.5MM), Matt Moore ($5MM) and the projected salary of  $25 million for Price would mean the Rays have $41.5 million committed to just three players beginning in 2016.

Suddenly the possibility of keeping Price becomes an improbability. As Sternberg said, “There is no question that we could handle a contract like David’s, but what are you able to put around him?”

The Rays will be in line for a new television deal, the current deal expires after the 2016 season, but keep in mind market size and ratings will drive the terms of the next deal. While the team pulls in $20 million per year now from deals with SunSports and Fox Sports Florida, it would take a significant increase in the new deal to make a case for signing Price.

For now Sternberg is saying all the right things, and to his credit he done plenty for the organization and the area. The deal that was made with Longoria was something of a perfect storm for Tampa Bay, but the fact remains the deal was made.

Could the Rays could could draw  30,000 people a game in 2013? Could St. Petersburg officials allow the team to explore locations outside of Pinellas County?  Could Tampa Bay  politicians  embrace the Rays  as a community asset, perhaps bringing with it a new television deal worth mega millions in revenue? Price could become baseball’s first $200 million pitcher.

Hope springs eternal , right?