Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ben Zobrist basks in long-sought security after signing extension with Tampa Bay Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — To both Ben Zobrist and the Rays, agreeing on a five-year contract extension was a "no-brainer."

Tampa Bay got to lock up one of its most valuable (and versatile) young players potentially through 2015. And Zobrist, 28, who spent several years trying to stick in the big leagues, parlayed his 2009 breakout, All-Star season into long-term security for his family, a deal, officially announced Friday, that could bring him close to $30 million.

"I'm just extremely grateful," he said. "I got my first shot in the big leagues with the Rays, and the Rays gave that to me. I think back to that time, how far we've come."

Zobrist is guaranteed nearly $18 million in the deal, which kicks in next season, and he could earn close to $30 million if the Rays pick up his 2014 and 2015 options. He gets $14.5 million in salary for 2011-13, a signing bonus of $561,900 (which makes for an even $1 million with his $438,100 salary this year) and either a $2.5 million buyout or a $7 million salary for 2014. There's another $7.5 million option for 2015, or a $500,000 buyout.

"This is a dream that a lot of players would love to do in their career," Zobrist said. "It was definitely a career goal of mine to be able to stay somewhere for an extended period of time. For Tampa Bay to be that place for us, it was a no-brainer. We wanted to be here, we love it here."

Zobrist earned the Rays' 2009 MVP honors from the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America after hitting .297 with 27 homers, 91 RBIs and an All-Star berth.

In the final days of the season, executive vice president Andrew Friedman said he broached the subject of a long-term deal with Zobrist; talks continued through the winter, and heated up in spring training before getting recently finalized.

"The talent is something that we believe strongly in," Friedman said. "And once you add on top of that the positional versatility, it makes him extremely valuable, and then the work ethic and determination and the selfless nature. I can go on and on and on about the attributes that made it something that for us was a no-brainer."

What made the moment more special for Zobrist was his journey. Drafted by the Astros in the sixth round in 2004 out of Dallas Baptist University, Zobrist was shuffled between the minors and big leagues several times with the Rays before he stuck for good in August 2008. Now he and his wife, Julianna, and 1-year-old son, Zion, feel like they've found a home.

"You think back to Triple-A when you get demoted, and you're wondering, is this really the path I'm supposed to be on?" Zobrist said. "You get injured, and things don't happen the way you want them to happen, and you keep pressing and persevering.

"And a couple of years later, a blessing like this happens. I can't thank the Rays enough for this opportunity."

MEDICAL MATTERS: OF Matt Joyce (elbow strain) said a meeting with Dr. James Andrews this week in Alabama brought both good and bad news. The good was that there were no tears, and surgery isn't required, but after abnormalities were found in the ligament of his elbow, he has to rest for 3-4 weeks (no hitting or throwing). "I'm just trying to stay positive with it," Joyce said. "Honestly it's frustrating to watch the guys on TV. You want to be out there with them."

LHP J.P. Howell (shoulder weakness) continues to be encouraged by his progress, saying he felt good after throwing from 120 feet Friday; he plans to throw a bullpen session either Monday or Wednesday, with mid-to-late May still the target return date.

Ben Zobrist basks in long-sought security after signing extension with Tampa Bay Rays 04/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 24, 2010 12:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Anthem protest, the latest: Jerry Jones joins Cowboys on field in show of solidarity


    As President Donald Trump continued tweeting Monday about his displeasure with NFL players for staging demonstrations during the national anthem, the Cowboys took a knee on the field just before the anthem was performed on Monday Night Football. Dallas players were joined by owner Jerry Jones, and they quickly …

    Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, center, joins the team in taking a knee before the national anthem Monday night. They stood and linked arms for the anthem.
  2. Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says players who kneel have team's support


    TAMPA — Receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson were the only Bucs players kneeling during the national anthem before Sunday's game against the Vikings, but DT Gerald McCoy said the team supports their protest "100 percent."

    Bucs tight end Cameron Brate pulls in a touchdown catch as Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo (34) hits him in the back of the head.
  3. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Luke Del Rio regains UF starting job, for now


    GAINESVILLE — Luke Del Rio is once again the starting quarterback for No. 21 Florida.

    Luke Del Rio provided a needed spark when he replaced starter Feleipe Franks and rallied Florida past Kentucky.
  5. Four questions the Lightning still has to answer

    Lightning Strikes

    FORT LAUDERDALE — The Lightning made its biggest round of cuts Monday, with some of the big-name prospects heading out.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) looks on from the bench during a shift change at Lightning hockey training camp in Brandon on Monday (09/18/17). In background on right is Nikita Kucherov (86). DIRK SHADD   |   Times