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David Price likely to become too costly for Rays to keep

One smart-aleck take on Tampa's plans to give AL Cy Young Award winner LHP David Price a key to the city Tuesday was that he'd need permission from St. Petersburg officials to say thanks. The other was that it was a parting gift for when the Rays — whether this winter, in July or next offseason — inevitably deem Price too expensive and trade him.

But what about a long-term deal — however unlikely — to keep him beyond his 2016 free agency?

Price, 27, has said repeatedly he would love to stay, and agent Bo McKinnis has said that while "it becomes increasingly difficult" at this stage of Price's career, "it's not too late."

But, McKinnis also suggested, it's going to take quite some creativity. And lots of money.

Price, McKinnis noted, is driven to be the best in everything from pitching to golf to video games to Twitter.

"So in a similar sense," McKinnis said, "he wants to have the best contract in baseball, however that may be defined. He expects to be the best in everything that he does. So hopefully we're able to make that marriage between the Rays and that best contract. But we also recognize the economics of the game may not allow that."

Though it appeared the Rays made a choice when they recently gave 3B Evan Longoria a $100 million extension, principal owner Stuart Sternberg said it was possible — "in theory" — to also sign Price.

But they would force him to decide how much he really wants to stay because, like their deals with Longoria and others, it would have to be at somewhat of a discount, certainly off the top-tier dollars — $20 million-plus a year — Price could get on the open market. For the next three seasons, he is arbitration eligible, with a likely 2013 salary of $8 million to $10 million. McKinnis said there have been only general talks of a long-term deal.

"Although it would break his heart to ever have to leave the Rays," McKinnis said, "he also recognizes that the economics have to come into play at some point."

WHAT'S NEXT: The off-season is about half over, and there is still a lot we don't know about the Rays' plans, topped by whether they will make a big deal to trade James Shields to the Royals, Rangers (more likely after missing out on Zack Greinke?) or elsewhere; a lesser one involving Jeremy Hellickson or Wade Davis; or go to spring training with all eight starters. But here are things we think we do know:

The biggest need at this point is power, as a DH, outfielder or swing guy. Free agents include Raul Ibanez, Travis Hafner, Delmon Young; trade possibilities Juan Francisco, Michael Morse, Josh Willingham. … If they don't get an outfielder, look for Matt Joyce in left, Desmond Jennings in center and Ben Zobrist in right. … LHP Cesar Ramos, who is out of options, is slotted for a bullpen slot, as is at least one of RHPs Dane De La Rosa, Brandon Gomes and Josh Lueke. … Davis is ticketed to start, somewhere. … Sean Rodriguez could end up the right-handed hitter sharing first base with James Loney and/or at times in the outfield. … There's interest in upgrading at catcher, but it's not the priority. … If Shields is traded, with payroll commitments already exceeding $60 million, it won't be for another $10 million player.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: TV pre-/postgame host Todd Kalas is in the mix for radio play-by-play jobs in Houston and Seattle. … 1B/OF Henry Wrigley, whom the Rays let go despite 20 homers at Double and Triple A, signed a minor-league deal with Colorado. … Manager Joe Maddon serves his Thanksmas meals at Tampa Bay area Salvation Army shelters this week. … Chuck Ricci (formerly with Cleveland) was hired as a national scouting cross-checker, Bobby Heck (Houston) a special assignment scout, former minor-leaguers Ronnie Merrill (Florida) and Josh Arhart (southern California) as area scouts.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.

David Price likely to become too costly for Rays to keep 12/08/12 [Last modified: Saturday, December 8, 2012 9:33pm]
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