Left-hander signs six-year deal with Rays worth $11.25 million
BOSTON — With an 11:59 p.m. ET signing deadline approaching, the Devil Rays brought David Price into the fold around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, signing the top pick of Major League Baseball’s June 2007 First-Year Player Draft to an $11.25 million deal.
“It’s definitely a great feeling to get it done; it’s done,” said Price during a Wednesday night conference call. “Now I can do what I’ve done the past 15 years, which is play baseball.”
Price, whom the Rays selected with the top pick in this year’s Draft, signed a big league deal that covers six years (2007-12).
Price’s signing bonus is $5.6 million. Within the contract is Minor League salaries that add up to $2.9 million and Major League salaries adding up to $5.65 million. A total of $8.5 million — the bonus, plus the Minor League salaries — is guaranteed.
“I think we had a chance today to add a very important building block and an upper-echelon pitcher, and we were prepared to do what it took to make it happen,” said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
Price sounded excited about becoming part of the Rays organization, as he noted: “They’ve got a ton of talent.”
“In several years, they’re going to be very good,” Price said. “I think they have a good team now; things just haven’t been falling their way.”
Price was particularly excited about the prospect of joining the Rays’ young starting rotation, which includes Scott Kazmir and James Shields.
“That’s definitely something you want to be a part of,” Price said.
Friedman described the overall negotiation with Price’s agent, Bo McKinnis, as gaining steam in the past couple of days, though they had to overcome some “hiccups” on Wednesday before hammering out a deal.
“I think until you get a signed term sheet, there’s always some nervousness when you’re working up to a deadline and it’s a firm deadline,” Friedman said. “Both sides were a little nervous in that, but we were able to overcome them very quickly and proceed.”
Price will be added to the Rays’ 40-man roster immediately. To clear a spot, catcher Shawn Riggans was moved to the 60-day disabled list. Price will most likely report to Class A Hudson Valley to get indoctrinated to professional baseball, but Friedman said the Rays will take a cautious approach with regard to his development, so it is unlikely he will take the mound in any games until instructional league starts in the fall. But first, Price will be at Tropicana Field prior to Friday night’s contest against the Indians.
Had the Rays not signed Price, the hard-throwing left-hander would no longer have been the property of the club, and it would have been compensated with a “same slot” pick in next year’s Draft.
Wednesday’s deadline applied to all Draft picks in all rounds, except college seniors, but compensation “same slot” picks were awarded only to teams with unsigned players chosen in the first, sandwich or second rounds. Once the deadline passes, all unsigned picks who were not college seniors were no longer the property of the club that selected them. Those players must now return to school and/or enter next year’s Draft; they do not become free agents.
Signing rights for college seniors remain the property of the clubs that selected them, since they do not have the option of returning to college, but only for a year. If they’re unsigned by the 2008 Draft, they can re-enter next year.
Price has a nice body of work, but what was most impressive about the lefty was the performance he put forth as the ace of the USA Baseball national team’s gold medal-winning squad that competed at the FISU World University Championships in Cuba last summer. Price finished 5-1 with a 0.20 ERA in eight starts, with 61 strikeouts and only seven walks allowed in 44 innings.
Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said Price is everything the organization is looking for in a front-line Major League starter.
“He’s big, he’s strong, he’s athletic, he’s left-handed,” Harrison said. “He has two plus pitches, and we believe that the changeup is not far behind. It’s just a matter of, he hasn’t used [the changeup] an awful lot at the college level. He commands his fastball well, he competes, his character is unquestioned by those people that have been around him, he’s a good top prospect.”
The Rays grew enamored with Price after seeing him pitch in each of his starts this season and for Team USA last summer.
Harrison called Price “dominant” when he’s at the top of his game.
“He’s got a knockout pitch with his breaking ball,” Harrison said. “When he’s at his best, he’s like any top pitcher; his fastball command is well above average.”
During the regular season, Price compiled an 11-0 record with a 2.71 ERA, and he led NCAA Division I with 175 strikeouts.
“I’d say he has a pretty good feel to pitch,” said Harrison, who noted Price is an exception among college pitchers, because he calls his own pitches. “He has a pretty good idea of how to pitch.”