The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have agreed to a six-year contract with Vanderbilt pitcher David Price, the top overall pick in this year's draft, worth a guaranteed $8.5 million. The native of Murfreesboro, Tenn., received a major-league contract.
After earning a $500,000 salary this year, the pitcher will have
split contracts from 2008-2012 -- meaning his salary will depend on
whether he's in the majors or minors. Also, he can void his salary
and file for arbitration any year in which he's eligible. Price received a $5.6
million signing bonus.
"I didn't really care if somebody else in the draft made more
money. You're going to make your money in the big leagues," Price
told The Associated Press.
"It's definitely a good feeling. Now I can do what I've been
doing for the last 15 years, play baseball."
The Devil Rays moved catcher Shawn Riggans to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Price on the team's 40-man roster.
The Devil Rays plan to send the 21-year-old to Class A Hudson
Valley, where he will work out and get acclimated to pro ball -- but
likely not pitch this season.
"We're going to be overcautious. We don't have all the
information we want [about what shape Price's arm is in after not
pitching in a game for the past two months]," said Devil Rays vice
president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, according to AP.
The 21-year-old Price, who was the first left-handed pitcher taken No. 1 overall since the Yankees took Brien Taylor first in 1991, won the prestigious Golden Spikes Award as the top college player in the country in 2007.
He also was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year and the SEC Athlete of the Year, and won the fourth annual Brooks Wallace Award, also given to the nation's top college baseball player.
He was ranked No. 2 among those eligible for selection in this June's draft, according to ESPN Scouts, Inc., and led all Division I pitchers with 194 strikeouts.
He was a member of the 2006 U.S. junior national team.
Price works primarily as a fastball/slider pitcher, although he shows up to five pitches, including two- and four-seam fastballs, a slider, a change, and a split. His fastball touches 95 and he'll work in the 91-93 mph range.
The slider is his best pitch, with good tilt and a hard, late break toward the back foot of a right-handed hitter. His changeup has good fade and he has a good feel for the pitch. His delivery isn't consistent, with a tendency to cut himself off and some recoil in his finish.
He's an outstanding athlete with a great pitchers' build and has been very durable through high workloads at Vanderbilt.
Price's signing leaves five first-rounders unsigned, including the second overall pick, Mike Moustakas, selected by the Kansas City Royals.
Friedman said the Devil Rays were not concerned about losing the
rights to Price.
"It's never as easy as you'd like it to be," Friedman said of
negotiations, according to AP.
He added there were a couple of "hiccups" Wednesday, but that
he never believed talks would break down.
"This is a situation with the best player in the country, and
in our estimation one of the best amateur pitchers in some time,"
Friedman said. "We were prepared to do whatever it took to get him
in our organization."
Keith Law, formerly the special assistant to the general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, is the senior baseball analyst for ESPN's Scouts, Inc. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.