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From MLB Trade Rumors:
The Rays will announce this afternoon that they have signed Ben Zobrist to a contract extension, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. The deal buys out Zobrist’s three arbitration seasons, and includes club options for his first two years of free agency in 2014 and 2015. The club has issued a release calling a 1:00pm press conference to make a “major announcement.”
The 28-year-old switch-hitter enjoyed an MVP-caliber season in 2009, hitting .297/.405/.543 while playing nearly every position on the diamond — and playing them well, according to UZR/150. He was set to earn about $438K this year before hitting arbitration for the first time in 2011.
Members of the media have been discussing this season as the last shot for the Rays, as they have begun to reach the end of the line in terms of their rights to players such as Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. However, I think it is quite clear that the Rays are not going away for a long time. They have the rights to BJ Upton through 2012, Matt Garza through 2013, James Shields through 2014, Zobrist through 2015, and Evan Longoria through 2016. They also have control of young arms such as David Price, Wade Davis, and Jeff Niemann for the forseeable future, as well as a bevy of prospects (Desmond Jennings, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Reed Brignac) to replace those that depart in free agency.
Occasionally, the Rays will toss up a season like 2009, where a number of things will go wrong and they will not have the resources to climb out of that hole. But expecting them to fall out of the mix entirely because a few players are becoming free agents is simply wishful thinking. The Rays are well positioned to contend for the next half-decade. They are not going anywhere, so you might want to get used to them.