Price, six other Rays file for arbitration

Team traditionally cuts off negotiations by Friday's deadline to exchange figures

Price, six other Rays file for arbitration

ST. PETERSBURG -- Seven Rays filed for arbitration Tuesday, as expected, prior to Friday's deadline for clubs to exchange salary figures with players.

Those seven players are left-hander David Price, outfielder Matt Joyce, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, utility man Sean Rodriguez, left-hander Jake McGee, catcher Jose Lobaton and lefty Cesar Ramos. Friday is the more important date, as the Rays' policy is to cease negotiations once the two sides have exchanged figures and head to a hearing.

Salary arbitration hearings will take place from Feb. 1-21. Tampa Bay has not lost any of its six arbitration cases, including five under executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.

The Rays reached deals early last offseason with Price and Rodriguez, and they ultimately settled before the deadline with Joyce, Jeff Niemann, Sam Fuld and Ryan Roberts, avoiding the arbitration process entirely.

The most interesting case this year belongs to Price. He is projected to earn a significant raise, a year after signing a one-year, $10.1125 million contract, at the time a record-high salary for a pitcher in his second year of arbitration eligibility. It's worth noting that Tampa Bay is still on the hook for $4 million of that contract this year, as it was deferred until 2014.

The 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner struggled out of the gate last season, returned from a left triceps injury in July and went 9-4 with a 2.53 ERA, four complete games, 102 strikeouts and only 13 walks over his last 18 starts.

Considering Price's increasingly expensive salary, relative to the Rays' traditionally low budget, and his impending free agency after the 2015 season, he said in October that he expected to be traded this offseason. However, Tampa Bay has made it clear that the club doesn't have to trade Price this winter, and the once-rampant speculation about the ace's future has calmed down lately.

With catchers Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina already on board, it would seem likely that Lobaton will be traded before the end of the week.

The 29-year-old backstop had a solid season for the Rays in 2013, batting .249/.320/.394 with seven homers in 100 games while also contributing several big late-game hits down the stretch. His 100 OPS-plus indicated that he was a league-average hitter, the first Tampa Bay catcher since John Jaso in 2010 to earn that distinction.

Joyce is in his second year of arbitration eligibility. Hellickson, arbitration-eligible for the first time, could also earn a significant pay raise. The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner went 27-21 with a 3.06 ERA from 2010-12 before finishing 2013 with a disappointing 5.17 ERA.

Rodriguez is in his second year of arbitration eligibility after making $1 million last season. McGee, a Super Two player, and Ramos are eligible for the first time, rounding out the Rays' list.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.