David Price is waiting eagerly for the first occasion to cross paths with new Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
It's not just that Price wants to meet the Japanese import signed for $155 million, but to thank him. Because in Price's view, one of the primary reasons he is back with the Rays and was not traded was Tanaka's late entry onto the free agent market.
"I'm definitely going to give him a hug," Price said. "I may go from fist-bump to hug to a bow."
Price's theory is that teams held back from getting more involved in trade talks with the Rays because they were waiting to see if Tanaka was posted, and with the bidding dragging into late January, it became too late to work out such a major deal. Plus the overall starting pitching market was slow, the Rays were positioned to be strong contenders (and to make several other moves boosting their standing), and the rotation took a hit when Jeremy Hellickson had elbow surgery.
"If Tanaka comes out in 2015, I probably would have been traded," Price said. "I had everything go in my favor to stay here this year."
More went into it, obviously, as the Rays had several legitimate trade offers but obviously were not presented with a deal worth acting upon. Though executive VP Andrew Friedman has steadfastly declined to discuss any specifics of the decision to keep his ace left-hander, he did provide a glimpse of their thought process.
"Our mind-set every winter, every season, is to keep an open mind and try to be nimble and to assess kind of the changing landscape within baseball and position ourselves as best we can," Friedman said. "So every winter, every season, there's different variables, different things that pop up that certain times we can potentially take advantage of, and some things that other times we can't. This winter we had an opportunity to keep the core of this team together and to supplement around it and build around it, and we were aggressive to do so."
GUEST OF HONOR: Thanks to donations from other fans, Randi Oomens, a Rays fanatic who lives in Arizona — and is blind — will attend the season-opening series at the Trop. "I can't even grasp the words needed to describe how excited I am," she said. Oomens lost her sight in 2008 as a result of multiple sclerosis and became a Rays fan "because they were a light in the dark when I went blind. They saved my life. (Evan) Longoria started it." The $1,500 donations will cover a flight and hotel for Oomens and her guide dog; the team is providing a suite for the three games, and she'll get a personalized No. 3 jersey. For more info or to donate, see centerroof.com/ro-goes-to-the-trop.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Renovations and the new deck at the Trop are on schedule for completion by the March 31 opener (thus not for Saturday's Fan Fest), with the batter's eye wall — which will be dark blue — just completed. … Foxsports.com's Rob Neyer raised the interesting question of whether Joe Maddon, who is 60 heading into his ninth season, will be able to manage long enough to make the Hall of Fame. … Price and his dog Astro will be featured in a May 25 promotion of dual dog tags. There's word of another unique Maddon giveaway and a Wil Myers figurine — though wouldn't a hairbrush be more fun?