As the MLB offseason progresses and the Hot Stove begins to cool down, baseball has seen a few top-tier starting pitchers sign to huge deals with their new (or previous) clubs.
Earlier this month, top free agent arms Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez agreed to massive multi-year contracts. Greinke—who was considered the top prize in the starting pitching free-agent pool coming into the offseason—was acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers by signing a record deal for six years worth $147 million.
The former Cy Young award winner's contract made him the second-highest paid starting pitcher of all-time. This is a player who's really only had two good seasons and is considered a big name mainly for his career year in 2009 when he put up ridiculous numbers.
Anibal Sanchez, who is the same age (29), hasn't had nearly as successful of a career as Greinke, yet he will still earn as much as $80 million guaranteed over the course of the next five years.
If one thing's for sure, solid starting pitching is at peek value at the moment, which has become very clear after the recent mega deals of Greinke and Sanchez. That leads us to the two main questions: What kind of insane price could Tampa Bay's David Price be worth on today's market? How long can the Rays afford to keep Price?
The reigning Cy Young award winner has already had three impressive seasons in his young career, two of which were outstanding (Cy Young runner-up in 2010 and winner in 2012). The 27-year-old phenom is arguably the best pitcher in the game right now and has an extremely bright future ahead of him. If Price were to be signed as a free agent on today's market he'd be offered a contract of absolutely insane figures.
After looking at how expensive Greinke's new salary with LA is, the Rays are probably not going to be able to afford Price when he becomes a free agent after the 2016 season, and likely even before that.
As Price's contract status stands right now, he'll be eligible for arbitration for the next three years. Price is projected to make about $9.5 million in 2013, so the Rays will be able to keep him in Tampa for at least another season before he is outside the range of their small budget. Unless Price takes any kind of significant downturn during the next two seasons, his '14 and '15 salaries are bound to only get higher.
Due to these circumstances, a David Price trade—perhaps within the next year—seems like a serious possibility. If he continues to put up the ridiculous numbers as he has in recent years, the Rays will eventually have to trade him away in order to remove the large chunk in the payroll.
The Rays will obviously miss having an ace of Price's caliber in their rotation, but with excellent starting pitching depth in their organization and a huge haul of talent in return, they should be able to continue their winning ways while maintaining a low-payroll roster.
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