Plenty of surprises have occurred for the Tampa Bay Rays this season, more than anyone could have seen coming. This is not one of them. The Rays announced that they have exercised Ben Zobrist‘s option for the 2015 season at an affordable $7.5 million.
As Zobrist’s extension starts its last year, the man who engineered it, Andrew Friedman, is already gone. That is not the way that things were supposed to go, and even Friedman could not have been thinking that as the deal was agreed upon. Friedman’s departure, though, does nothing to change how outstanding of a contract Zobrist’s extension has been for the Rays.
In April of 2010, with Zobrist coming off a breakout 2009 season, the Rays announced that they had agreed with him on an extension worth five years and $23 million. That was quite a commitment to a player with just one good full season under his belt, and Zobrist’s 96 OPS in 2010 made the deal look even more questionable. Since then, however, Zobrist has found a way to consistently rank among baseball’s best players thanks to his hitting, fielding, and versatility. If the end is near for Zobrist as a Ray, what a run it has been.
As we have discussed, Zobrist will be sticking around. Picking up the option was a no-brainer, and keeping him to start 2015 should require just as little thought. Zobrist will be integral to the Rays’ hope to contend next season, and he will be a source of stability in a franchise set to begin life after Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman. Whatever happens over the course of the next few months, the Rays know that they can slot Zobrist at second base, shortstop, or the outfield and be confident about their situation wherever he is.
Everyone in baseball wishes that they had a player like Ben Zobrist on their team. For at least one more season, the Rays will be lucky enough to have him all to themselves.