tampabay.com

Price is worth it for Rays

Deadline looming, the top pick gets among richest draft deals ever.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published August 16, 2007


BOSTON - As the minutes crept toward Wednesday's midnight deadline to sign No. 1 overall pick David Price, all of baseball wondered if the Rays would be able to close the deal with the Vanderbilt All-America left-hander.

One person who wasn't involved in the clock-watching was Price, who received word a deal was done while he was on the eighth hole of a Nashville golf course with his father.

About 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Rays signed Price to a six-year, $8.5-million major-league contract, which included a $5.6-million signing bonus, the second-largest given to a drafted player. Price, 21, could make up to $11.25-million depending on how much time he spends in the majors.

"I was very happy," Price said on a conference call Wednesday night. "I wasn't screaming or anything. There was just a sigh of relief. ... Now I can do what I've done the past 15 years, which is play baseball."

Price's signing bonus trails the $6.1-million Justin Upton received from the Diamondbacks in 2005. The $8.5-million guaranteed is the third-largest sum given to a draftee. The Cubs gave Mark Prior $10.5-million and the Rangers gave Mark Teixeira $9.5-million, both in 2001.

And despite pressure from MLB to keep contracts low, the Rays doled out a sizable amount for a player they hope will one day be a part of a starting rotation with current young hurlers Scott Kazmir and James Shields.

"That's something you definitely want to be a part of," Price said. "I think they have a good team now, but things just haven't been falling their way."

Price was 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA in his junior season at Vanderbilt, striking out a school record 194 in 1331/3 innings, and won six national player of the year awards, including the prestigious Golden Spikes award.

"This is a situation with the best player in the country and in our estimation one of the best amateur pitchers in some time," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "I think we had a chance today to add what we believe is a very important building block and a potential upper-echelon starting pitcher, and we were prepared to do what it takes to make sure he became part of our organization."

The Rays were confident throughout the negotiating process with Price's adviser, Bo Mc-Kinnis, despite a last-minute "hiccup," as Friedman called it, on some details of the deals.

The deal includes $2.9-million in minor-league salary and $5.65-million in major-league salary.

Price will report to short-season Class A Hudson Valley to work out and get accustomed to professional baseball, but Friedman said it's "not likely" Price will pitch in a game this season.

Price has been working out at Vanderbilt, throwing and running to stay in shape and keep his legs strong. He said he felt he could pitch this season.

"Even if he doesn't (pitch), we think it'll be very valuable to gain exposure to pro ball and some of his teammates and coaches and also to get him in shape for the instructional league," Friedman said.

First, Price said he will arrive in St. Petersburg today to meet with team officials and throw a bullpen session before Friday's home game against Cleveland.

He said he didn't pay attention to the negotiations. When he received a spike of text messages about New Jersey high schooler Rick Porcello nabbing a $7.285-million deal from the Tigers - a deal that was supposed to skyrocket price tags on first-rounders - Price said he had no clue what people were talking about.

"I told my adviser that I didn't care if some other guy made more than me," he said. "You make more in the big leagues, but you've got to get there first. Everything else will take care of itself."

The Rays added Price to the 40-man roster. Catcher Shawn Riggans was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make space.

The Rays also closed deals on their fourth-round selection, left-hander David Newmann out of Texas A&M, and outfielder D.J. Jones of Gulf Shores, Ala., the 11th-round pick.