No. 1 Draft Pick Price, Rays Reach Deal

The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 15, 2007; 10:03 PM

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- David Price didn't sit around waiting for his agent to complete a deal with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The top pick in this year's baseball draft headed to the golf course.

The hard-throwing left-hander was on the eighth hole Wednesday when he received a call informing him an $11.25 million, six-year contract was in place hours before the midnight deadline for teams to lock up their draft selections.

Price said he was confident all along that an agreement would be reached in time to avoid having to return to Vanderbilt for his senior season.

"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 said by telephone.

"It's definitely a good feeling. Now I can do what I've been doing for the last 15 years, play baseball."

Price gets a $5.6 million signing bonus and is guaranteed $8.5 million as part of the deal.

After earning a $500,000 salary this year, he 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.

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.

Price, who could make his debut in the Instructional League this fall, said he's been working out and throwing every day and is eager to get started. He was the overall No. 1 pick in June after going 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA and a Division I-leading 194 strikeouts in his junior season.

He won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's best amateur baseball player and became the fourth left-handed pitcher to be taken with the top pick, and first since Brien Taylor went to the New York Yankees in 1991.

Under a new baseball rule this year, teams had until Wednesday to reach agreements with their 2007 draft picks. After that, they are not eligible to sign, and many unsigned players could go back into next year's draft pool.

The Seattle Mariners and right-hander Phillippe Aumont, the 11th overall selection, agreed Wednesday to a contract with a $1.9 million signing bonus.

Also, the Detroit Tigers and right-hander Rick Porcello, the 27th pick, agreed to a four-year contract worth $7.28 million.

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, which picked up over the past four or five days.

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."

© 2007 The Associated Press