MLB pressure complicates Price talks

Published August 13, 2007

ARLINGTON, Texas - As the Devil Rays continue discussions with top draft pick LHP David Price as Wednesday's signing deadline nears, they also have to talk to MLB officials about potential terms of the deal.

As a result, they could end up in a tough spot between heeding MLB's suggestions and meeting Price's demands.

Team president Matt Silverman said Sunday they had to "work within the industry parameters" and have to be "engaged in conversation" with MLB officials.

"It's something that has an effect upon the conversations," Silverman said, "but at this point the conversations are focused on David Price and not with Major League Baseball."

Silverman said the Rays "remain optimistic" about reaching agreement. "They're engaged in conversations and the tone is productive and both sides are working toward finding a middle ground that works," he said. "And both sides are committed to trying to find a solution here."

Neither the Rays nor Price's adviser, Bo McKinnis, have disclosed details except to say the talks were complex.

The New York Daily News on Sunday floated some numbers that even if remotely close illustrate the problem the Rays could have, reporting that MLB's recommended slot is $4-million and Price is seeking $7-million to $10-million.

Silverman declined to discuss potential ramifications if they exceed MLB's suggested limit, though with an owners' meeting scheduled Thursday there could be least some verbal rebuke.

Asked if the MLB limits ultimately could prevent the Rays from signing Price, Silverman said: "If he ends up not getting signed it's because we couldn't reach an agreement with him."

Twelve of the 30 first-round picks remain unsigned, including Nos. 1-3. Price has the option to return to Vanderbilt.

LEADING OFF: With 3B Akinori Iwamura (hitting .209 on the trip) getting a day off, power-hitting Jonny Gomes batted leadoff and had three hits. As surprising as it looked on the lineup card, manager Joe Maddon pointed to Gomes' .388 on-base percentage against left-handers, and Gomes said he handled the assignment regularly in the minors in 2002-03.

ROAD WARRIORS: Maddon refused to complain about the ridiculous schedule that had the Rays playing Sunday night in Texas, making a scheduled arrival in Boston around 5:30 this morning and playing again tonight at 7.

But a few players suggested they got such a tough draw from the schedule-makers because they're the Rays.

"I think they could care less," All-Star Carl Crawford said. "Whoever made the schedule won't lose an ounce of sleep about it. They're probably somewhere laughing about it."

To help, Maddon pushed today's report time back to 5:30 and canceled batting practice. Starting pitcher James Shields flew ahead of the team Sunday.

MISCELLANY: Class A Columbus OF Ryan Royster's home-run streak ended at six games; he had a single in three at-bats Sunday. ... The Rays won the season series from Texas 5-4. ... Sunday's game lasted 3:29. ... Crawford hit .571 (28-for-49) during the 12-game hitting streak that ended Sunday. "You always like to take it as far as you can," he said.