David Price: How Long Can the Tampa Bay Rays Afford Their Ace?

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David Price: How Long Can the Tampa Bay Rays Afford Their Ace?
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Is David Price the next great Tampa Bay Rays player to leave via free agency?

If they can’t trade him, he will likely become too expensive for the team to re-sign him when he becomes eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.

Rays general manager Andrew Friedman has said multiple times that the team cannot afford to pay full market value for starting pitching.

The Cy Young award-winning pitcher is entering his second of four arbitration eligible seasons. Even if his salary for 2013 takes him north of the $10 million mark for the season, he will still be greatly below his true market value. Especially if you compare it to other salaries of recent Cy Young award winners.

Roy Halladay, C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander all had 2012 salaries of at least $20 million. Felix Hernandez wasn’t far behind at around $18.5 million.

Hernandez’s salary was at about a million dollars more than the combined salary of the entire Rays starting rotation of Price, James Shields, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Jeff Niemann in 2012.

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This is why it is hard to envision a scenario where the Rays are able to sign their ace to a multi-year deal in the same manner as they did third baseman Evan Longoria earlier this week.

Longoria is coming off of a season where he only played in 74 games due to injury. His contract extension is a risk-sharing proposition for both sides, making it very understandable for both sides.

Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg told Marc Topkin from the Tampa Bay Times that they have to eventually make a decision on investing in Price or spreading the money over multiple players.

"At some point, it stops," he said. "You've got to make a decision. We're going to eat steak, and we're going to eat lobster, and we're going to order some wine, but we're not going to be able to turn the heat on, and the house isn't going to get painted."

Maybe Andrew Friedman and Stu Sternberg can find a way to eat pork chops and drink beer while warming up with a nice blanket. They could use the savings on some wallpaper for the Trop.

Jamal Wilburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

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