For those still holding out hope that David Price will sign a long-term deal, thus keeping him from being traded sometime in the next 12-18 months, they point to how much Price loves playing for the Rays. The hope is that his affection for the team, his teammates, and the area will convince him to accept less-than-market value to stay with the Rays long-term.
But while Price may want to do that, it is also unrealistic. And in an interview with Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, Price explains why…
“[Even though I love being with the Rays] I don’t want to sell myself short. I don’t want to mess up for the future of other guys that could be in my position as well. That’s something you have to look out for. We are a brotherhood as MLB players. We don’t want to set the bar at some point, when somebody could get higher, and then it kind of sets the bar for the future. You don’t want to do that, because that’s not only affecting you, that affects everybody else. I want to be happy. I don’t want to sell myself short. I guess ‘appreciation’ is the word I could use the most. I just want to feel appreciated.”
I have long said that there are limits to the mythical “hometown discount.” If one team is offering Price a 7-year, $200 million contract (not unrealistic), he might only turn that down to stay with the Rays if they are at least in the same neighborhood. He is not going to turn down $200 million if the Rays are just offering $100 million. It doesn’t matter how much you love being somewhere, you don’t turn down that difference in money.
And the secondary point is something that Price hints at: The players’ union just wouldn’t allow it. The union wants all players to make as much as possible. But that is even more important for the top-tier players who set the bars. Price’s free agent contract is not just impacting how much money he will make, but it impacts hundreds of players that will negotiate deals after him.
Finally, Price (indirectly) points out another fallacy of fans’ reactions to large contracts. The argument goes like this: “Can’t he live just as well on $100 million or $150 million?” or “Isn’t the right situation more important than an extra $50 million?”
When the top-tier players are shooting for the moon and trying to get the largest contract possible, in many ways it is no longer about the actual money. Price says he wants to feel “appreciated.” Players want to be respected. And being paid an amount that, in comparison to how much other players make, is reflective of how important that player is, is very important to players. Hell, it is important to everybody. If you are doing more work than the person in the cubicle next to you, but they are making more, that will bother you. And it doesn’t matter if you think your salary is already fair.
I always laugh when I hear somebody say they would play baseball for free. Sure, you might do that for a little while. But at some point, you are going to see how much the owners are making and how much other players around you are making, and you will want your cut.
And we are also talking about people who are highly competitive by nature. And how their contracts stack up next to other players is just another way in which these guys compete.
Price wants to be “appreciated.” And no team will ever appreciate him more than the Rays. But the Rays just can’t afford to give him the appreciation he needs and deserves.