01/03/13 3:51 PM ET
Friedman not afraid of doing long-term deals
Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations pleased with Price contract
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner signed a one-year deal for $10.1125 million, which was well in advance of the Jan. 18 deadline for clubs to exchange arbitration figures with players.
"It's always our intent [to get a deal done prior to the deadline]," Friedman said. "Sometimes it works out, other times things gravitate toward the deadline. ... I think the spirit of this deal was to try and do something that was fair for both sides, however you define that. And both sides continued to want to get a deal done. And in David's mind, he was very open to doing that earlier than the deadline."
While the Rays avoided going to arbitration with Price, they have yet to bring him into the fold with a long-term deal, as they did with Evan Longoria earlier in the offseason. Friedman offered his usual disclaimer about discussing player contracts when asked about the possibility of signing Price to a long-term deal.
"We don't comment specifically about long-term deals," Friedman said, "but obviously, if you look at our track record, we like to do long-term deals when it works out for both sides. And so it's one of those things with David, or really anybody else on our roster that qualifies, and obviously the dollar figures vacillate among the different guys. So it's just one of those things that has to line up well for both sides."
In many cases, the longer it takes to reach a long-term deal in advance of a player reaching free agency, the tougher the chances of signing the player to a new deal becomes. Price can become a free agent following the 2015 season, and Friedman was asked if the club felt any pressure to reach a deal with Price well in advance of him becoming a free agent.
"We try very hard, and this is not a response to David specifically, but we try very hard in all of our dealings to not feel pressure to do something," Friedman said. "And so when there are certain things we feel like may turn into more pressure-filled situations than they are now, our intent is always to get ahead of them.
"And whenever it doesn't work out, at least we know we tried to get in front of situations to where we really don't feel like people/teams operate well under pressure. So we do everything we can to remove that element."
Friedman addressed the difficulty of adding another large contract to the Rays' payroll given Longoria's six-year, $100 million extension.
"It's tough to answer [whether the Rays can add another large long-term contract] without [knowing] all of the variables -- term, money, all of those things," Friedman said. "So it's a difficult question to answer on any one specific player, but we could certainly add another larger contract.
"But as [Rays principal owner] Stu [Sternberg] alluded to [the day Longoria signed his extension], it just puts a lot more pressure on our remaining fronts, which would be much smaller. To fill out 23 guys around Longoria and whoever that contract is, to be able to win, because at the end of the day, that's what motivates us is winning and having a competitive team that we can sustain. So it's not an easy thing to answer in a vacuum."
The Rays still have business to take care of prior to the arbitration deadline. The club's remaining arbitration-eligible players include Jeff Niemann ($2.5 million in 2012); Matt Joyce ($499,500); Reid Brignac ($490,600); Sam Fuld ($489,400); and Ryan Roberts ($2,012,500).
Once contracts are tendered, clubs can negotiate with the player right up until their arbitration hearing. However, the Rays' self-imposed policy is to conclude their negotiating by the numbers filing deadline. The club's exception to this deadline is to negotiate a multiyear deal.
Niemann was the lone Rays player who went to arbitration in 2012. He lost and earned the $2.75 million offered by the club rather than the $3.2 million he sought.
Tampa Bay remains unbeaten in six salary arbitration cases, and under the current Rays regime, the team is unbeaten in five cases. In addition to Niemann, the club twice won against former catcher Josh Paul, and it won against former backstop Dioner Navarro and outfielder B.J. Upton.
"I think simply said, our approach in this process is not to try and win a deal, but to arrive at a fair number," Friedman said. "We put a lot of work into that according to the arbitration guidelines, and we operate within them. I'm not exactly the biggest proponent of the system, but it is what it is, and it is incumbent upon us to do the best job we can within [the system]. So our approach is always to try and do a fair deal as opposed to win a deal."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.