Ben Zobrist has little to lose in new long-term contract with Tampa Bay Rays

Everybody was smiling, as they should have been, at Friday's announcement of Ben Zobrist's long-term deal, which could keep him with the Rays through 2015 and make him close to $30 million.

For the Rays, there's cost certainty ($14.5 million to be exact) over the next three seasons, when Zobrist's salary would have been subject to the fluid arbitration process, and options to keep him through his first two years of free agency (for $7 million and $7.5 million) when they otherwise might not be able to afford him.

For Zobrist, there's life-changing financial security — nearly $18 million guaranteed, no matter where (2B? RF? 1B? LF?), how, or how much he plays — for a guy who before last season was a 27-year-old fringe major-league utility player with a .222 career average.

Whenever these types of deals are made, the talk extends beyond the rewards to the risks for both sides.

The team risks the player not producing, through effort, diminished skill or injury/illness (Rocco Baldelli's an example of the latter).

The player risks leaving money on the table if he has big years. (Evan Longoria's deal, which could run nine years/$44.5 million, is often cited, though to this point it has been to his advantage as he's making about double, $950,000, than he would as a pre-arbitration player.)

But really, what risk is there to the player? Zobrist's money should take care of his and wife Julianna's immediate family, their 1-year-old son Zion's future family and probably Zion's kids' families. (And could finance Julianna's burgeoning music career as well.)

Call it the First Fortune Philosophy. As quickly as a player's career could end, or change dramatically, given injuries (or off-field issues), the opportunity to make their first fortune — assuming the team is being fair — has to be given serious consideration. With Longoria, James Shields and now Zobrist locked up, expect the Rays to keep working on others.

Ben Zobrist has little to lose in new long-term contract with Tampa Bay Rays 04/24/10 [Last modified: Sunday, April 25, 2010 1:01am]

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