3/10/2013 3:32 P.M. ET
Sternberg won't rule out effort to keep Price
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- David Price could very well remain with the Rays.
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner's status was one of the topics Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg addressed on Sunday at Charlotte Sports Park prior to the Red Sox-Rays contest.
When asked if he thought it would be possible to work something out to keep Price with the Rays for the long haul, Sternberg replied: "Oh yeah, sure -- absolutely."
Price will earn $10.11 million in 2013, but he won't be eligible for free agency until after the '15 season. This past offseason, the Rays signed Evan Longoria to a six-year, $100 million contract extension that could keep the All-Star third baseman in a Rays uniform through the 2022 season.
Speculation has suggested that the Rays would rather trade Price than subject themselves to going to arbitration with him, or eventually losing him via free agency.
"We haven't had those thoughts," Sternberg said. "Others have speculated. It's been speculation, but we haven't had those thoughts at all."
Sternberg noted that Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has mentioned that the club could handle a contract like one it would require to retain Price.
"But what are you able to put around him?" said Sternberg, offering the suggestion that having two large contracts on the Rays' payroll might hamstring the rest of the team. However, Sternberg made it clear that Price's contract is a matter that doesn't need to be addressed at this point.
"Right now, and correctly, David is focused on this season," Sternberg said. "We're focused on the season. And I think speculatively, it's way too early for people to focus on what's four years from now. But obviously, David is an enormous part of this organization and has been ... with all of his successes from 2008 [until this present]."
When asked about Sternberg's comments, Price responded with sincerity.
"Like I've said before ... I could spend my whole career here," Price said. "I feel at home with this organization."
Conversely, Price noted that he has paid attention to recent free-agent deals.
"I do understand what all is going on in the realm of baseball," Price said. "I do know what the going rate for starting pitching is these days. I don't want to sell myself short."
Price doesn't feel like he will be distracted this season by talks about his future.
"Whether I'm a Ray or whatever else I am, this mound is still 60 feet, six inches away from home plate," Price said. "It doesn't change what I do from a day-to-day basis. It doesn't weigh on me at all. I don't put any thought into it, to be honest."
Ultimately, being able to afford Price -- while keeping him and Longoria surrounded by talent -- could be an issue determined by whether the team gets a new stadium or not.
When asked for an update on the stadium situation, Sternberg said: "[St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster] and I had a meeting, a nice cordial situation," Sternberg said. "And we'll see. I'm optimistic. Nobody wants to hear me talk about stadium things, so we'll let the mayor and I try and handle that, and everybody else can focus on what's important, which is baseball."
Sternberg sounded optimistic that the Rays could find a more financially viable climate before long.
"Things go in cycles," Sternberg said. "We talked about it a little bit over the years, referred to it. And clearly, I won't say the worst is all behind us because you never know what's ahead of you, but the economy in general around the country -- and it feels like in the [Tampa Bay] area -- it bottomed out and it's improving.
"We just saw some numbers on Friday; employment is coming back. Obviously, that doesn't do any good for people who are unemployed, but it does give a little bit of a glimmer that things are getting better. The things that the government has done have obviously been working so far, a little bit, and we hope to improve on it."
The Rays' Opening Day payroll should come in above $60 million, which, according to Sternberg, will be a higher figure than what the team's payroll should be, given the circumstances.
"[The payroll] ought to be commensurate with what our business can handle," Sternberg said. "We've had a couple of years since we started here back in '06, a couple of years that it was lower than it could be. And we've had a number of years when it was higher than it should be. And this is one of those years.
"[Friedman] understands the ramifications of running a payroll well above our means -- what it means to the future and what it means relative to what we've done in the past. But obviously, if there's a move to be made that we feel significantly improves the team and puts us in a position to play [important] September baseball, that's meaningful. We're going to do everything we can to make that happen."
Looking toward the coming season, Sternberg said he felt "really good" about this year's team.
"We left no stone unturned," Sternberg said. "We had a plan coming in when the offseason started, and I think we nailed it pretty well."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.