Stuart Sternberg held court with the media this weekend. And of course he was asked about the possibility of signing David Price to a long-term extension. And while his response was almost identical to the one given by Andrew Friedman in January, many Rays fans are suddenly optimistic that a deal can get done (via TampaBay.com).
When asked about the possibility of a long-term deal, Sternberg’s response started optimistically. “Absolutely,” said Sternberg. “There is no question that we could handle a contract like David’s.”
And if you ignore the rest of the quote, it is easy to see why Rays fans would suddenly have thoughts of geriatric David in a Rays uniform dancing in their heads.
But, Sternberg followed that statement by raising the same question Friedman rose. “But what are you able to put around him?” In other words, the Rays can afford Longoria and Price, but only if the rest of the team is making pennies. And if the rest of the team is making pennies, the team won’t be competitive, which is ultimately more important than keeping one fan-favorite player.
Sternberg went on to say that the payroll this season ($61.3M projected) will be “well higher that it ought to be” based on the club’s attendance.
Price is expected to fetch at least $25 million per year as a free agent, starting in 2016. That, combined with Evan Longoria’s ($11.5M) and Matt Moore’s ($5M) 2016 salaries, means the Rays would have $41.5 million committed to just three players.
And what about Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, Desmond Jennings, and Jake McGee, all of whom will be arbitration-eligible in 2016? That might be another $20 million. And now the Rays are committed to more than $60 million in salary for just seven players. And it is probably more like $70 million with less conservative estimates.
Of course, the Rays will have a new TV deal in place by 2017. And (knock on wood) they will hopefully have a new stadium deal in place. But like we have mentioned before, it is highly unlikely that both of those will be finalized before a decision has to be made on a blockbuster offer the Rays are likely to receive next winter from another team for Price.
In the meantime, it is OK to be optimistic and have wishful thoughts. But we also need to be realistic. And Price signing a long-term deal with the Rays is not.