Former Rays ace David Price signs record deal with Red Sox

David Price will be back at Tropicana Field more often — as a member of the Red Sox rotation.
David Price will be back at Tropicana Field more often — as a member of the Red Sox rotation.
Published Dec. 2, 2015

The Rays will be seeing plenty of old friend David Price.

Their former ace is headed to the rival Red Sox, agreeing Tuesday to a record-setting $217 million, seven-year deal.

The contract will make Price the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history, something he wanted to be, and the $31 million annual average matches the current high by Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera.

Price, 30, can opt out of the deal after three years (and $90 million) and become a free agent again. The St. Louis Cardinals were reported to be the runner-up, offering less than $200 million. The signing will be official Friday after Price takes a physical.

The decision stirred some mixed emotions from Rays players close to Price.

"On a personal level I'm beyond thrilled for David. I think he's worth every penny, on and off the field. The city will never be disappointed with his effort,'' All-Star ace Chris Archer said. "Him coming back to the AL East is going to be a fun challenge for us and the division. This definitely adds a little fire under us knowing we will continue to compete against the best for the top spot in our division.''

"It's always different facing him,'' third baseman Evan Longoria said. "I haven't had great success against him (0-for-9), but it will be cool to see him more often now. It's always fun when you play with, or against, someone as competitive and talented as DP. I'm really happy for him because I know how hard he works and cares. And as I'm sure you have heard, he's the best teammate anyone could ask for.''

"There is no one more deserving in baseball to be given a contract of that magnitude than David,'' said catcher Curt Casali, a fellow Vanderbilt product.

"He is a culture changer. I'm very excited to get the chance to compete against him a number of times a year.''

Price was considered the top prize on the free-agent market this offseason. His deal surpassed the $215 million, seven-year extension Clayton Kershaw received from the Dodgers and the $210 million, seven-year deal Max Scherzer got as a free agent to sign with the Nationals. Free agent Zack Greinke could surpass Price's annual average.

Price was drafted No. 1 overall by the Rays in 2007 and quickly became a star and centerpiece of their four postseason teams, winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2012. But with his salary rising, the Rays traded him in July 2014 to the Tigers, who kept him for a year and sent him last July to Toronto.

He has faced the Rays three times since, going 1-2 with a 4.26 ERA. The Rays and Red Sox meet for the first of six times in Boston in April 19-21, and for the first of three times at the Trop on June 27-29.

Joining the Red Sox can be challenging, given the intense fan interest, media scrutiny and cramped quarters at Fenway Park. Former Rays All-Star Carl Crawford proved to be cautionary tale that it is not for everyone as he struggled on and off the field after signing a $142 million, seven-year deal and ended up being traded to the Dodgers before the end of the second season. Also, Price has had some issues in the past with Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who is retiring after this season.

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RAYS' TENDER MOMENT: The Rays are working toward a midnight deadline to tender contracts to their nine arbitration-eligible players, though they don't seem to have much to talk about.

Barring an unexpected trade offer or opportunity to upgrade, the Rays are expected to retain all nine, listed with their projected salaries: left-hander Jake McGee, $4.7 million; DH/first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison, $4.1M; right-hander Alex Cobb, $4M; left-hander Drew Smyly, $3.9M; second baseman Logan Forsythe, $3.3M; outfielder Desmond Jennings, $3.1M; right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, $2.8M; catcher Rene Rivera, $1.6M; and outfielder Brandon Guyer, $1.3M.

Rivera's poor 2015 performance would seem to make his status worthy of conversation, but the Rays appear confident he will improve in being used as the backup to Casali and showed that by releasing veteran J.P. Arencibia last week.

Around the majors

BONDS NEAR DEAL: The Marlins formally offered Barry Bonds a job as hitting coach, and he has tentative plans to accept, USA Today reported.

TWINS SIGN KOREAN STAR: South Korean slugger Byung Ho Park, 29, agreed to a $12 million, four-year contract.

DRUG REPORT: Two major-leaguers had positive tests for banned stimulants and one for another banned substance, according to the annual report of the sport's drug program administrator.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.