Monday, December 11, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays sign Yunel Escobar to two-year extension

ST. PETERSBURG — Though Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said a driving force of the offseason plans was keeping the infield intact, extending SS Yunel Escobar wasn't on his radar.

As much as the Rays love Escobar, he was under contract through 2015 (a favorable $5 million club option). But Escobar, 31, approached Friedman a few weeks into spring training and made clear his "strong desire" to stay longer.

"He commandeered me," Friedman said.

Escobar got his wish Saturday, agreeing on a two-year extension that guarantees him $13 million. He will make $5 million next season and $7 million in 2016. He will make $7 million or get a $1 million buyout in 2017. He celebrated by hitting a solo homer in his first at-bat in a 5-4 win over the Rangers.

"I think it's one of the best things to ever happen in my career," he said through an interpreter.

Escobar, acquired in December 2012 from the Marlins for minor-league INF Derek Dietrich, said the Rays have treated him better than any other team and he believes he can be himself in the clubhouse with his "family."

Friedman said the team took a "calculated risk" on Escobar, who was suspended for three games in 2012 for wearing eye-black stickers with a gay slur written on them.

But Friedman said it has worked out "as good as we could have asked for," with Escobar a Gold Glove finalist last year, contributing offensively and bringing an infectious enthusiasm.

"We plug into this guy," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's our energy source."

Friedman said the club's four infielders, all Gold Glove finalists last season, were critical to the team's success, and now he has ensured they will stay together. Tampa Bay locked up 1B James Loney with a three-year, $21 million deal in the offseason. 3B Evan Longoria is under team control through 2023, and 2B Ben Zobrist has a $7.5 million club option for 2015.

Friedman had eyed Escobar since the 2005 draft, following him through stops in Atlanta and Toronto.

"He's a really, really good player at a position that's extremely scarce around the game," Friedman said.

Friedman said it is rare for a veteran such as Escobar to approach him so aggressively about an extension while still under control for two seasons.

"Obviously," Escobar said, "I'm really happy."

HIGH ON LEE: Friedman said the Escobar signing doesn't change the team's belief that SS Hak Ju-Lee could be its shortstop of the future. Lee, 23, who missed most of last season due to torn ligaments in his left knee, opened this season at Triple-A Durham.

"They're mutually exclusive in that we really like Hak Ju Lee a lot and feel like he's going to be a really good major-league player," Friedman said. "And on the other hand, we have a current shortstop who is really good at what he does and helps us win games right now. It's a good problem to have."

Maddon said this could be a good "apprenticeship" for Lee, giving him time to "break in appropriately and not just give him the keys too quickly."

TWO-FOR-TWO: For the second straight game, Maddon successfully used an instant replay challenge. In the second inning, Escobar made a play in the hole, but former Rays C Robinson Chirinos was called safe at first. After a delay of 1 minute, 35 seconds for a review, Chirinos was called out.

Crowd control: The Rays praised the loud crowd of 30,364 on Wil Myers bobblehead night. Only six crowds last season were larger. Since 2008 the Rays are 51-17 at Tropicana Field when playing in front of at least 30,000.

"There weren't too many empty seats," RHP Grant Balfour said. "It was jam-packed and awesome. It really helped the boys pull through."

BOUNCE BACK: RHP Alex Cobb is eager for today's start after a "pretty terrible" Tuesday, allowing four runs and four walks in five innings of a loss to the Blue Jays. "I thought it was awful," he said. "There was nothing good that came out of that start for me."

EASING IN: OF David DeJesus started at designated hitter for the second time since bruising his right foot in Monday's opener. DeJesus said he's feeling better. The DH stint gave him one more day off the Trop turf.

Comments

Tampa Bay Rays make a small deal, acquire INF Joey Wendle

While continuing discussions on bigger topics, the Rays made a small deal Monday, acquiring INF Joey Wendle from the A's for a player to be named later or cash.Wendle, 27, spent part of the last two seasons in the majors, hitting .266 over 36 games. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

UPDATE, 6:14: The Rays continued talks with no major moves seemingly close, but did make a small deal, acquiring INF Joey Wendle from the A's. Wendle, 27, has spent parts of the last two seasons in the majors, hitting .266 in 36 games. He is a lefty ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays made a small deal Monday in acquiring INF Joey Wendle from Oakland while continuing to discuss bigger ones that seem likely to eventually lead to the trade of closer Alex Colome and then others.The Rockies and Mets joined ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The latest obstacle keeping the Rays from contending in the American League East loomed even larger Monday afternoon in pinstripes.The Yankees’ formal introduction of Giancarlo Stanton also could be an accelerant to the departure o...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays manager Kevin Cash on trade speculation, bullpen staffing, Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton

Rays manager Kevin Cash on trade speculation, bullpen staffing, Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton

Rays manager Kevin Cash was first up in the media room at the winter meetings today and here are a few up the more interesting things he said:* On trade speculation regarding their veterans such as Chris Archer and Evan Longoria: "I know there is a l...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Tampa Bay Rays cornerstone Evan Longoria “somewhere in limbo” due to trade speculation

Tampa Bay Rays cornerstone Evan Longoria “somewhere in limbo” due to trade speculation

Franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria considers his future with the Rays "somewhere in limbo" based on speculation he could be traded as part of a cost-cutting and rebuilding movement."I don't know what to think, really,'' Longoria told the Tampa Ba...
Published: 12/11/17
Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Uncertain with all the talk about potentially rebuilding if the Rays would go as far as trading franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria?So is he."I don’t know what to think, really,’’ Longoria said via text message Sunday night as t...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
AL East life gets even tougher for Rays with Yankees acquiring slugger Giancarlo Stanton from Marlins

AL East life gets even tougher for Rays with Yankees acquiring slugger Giancarlo Stanton from Marlins

The Marlins apparently found a trade to Giancarlo Stanton's liking, reportedly striking a deal early Saturday to send the slugging outfielder to the Yankees.That's bad news for the Rays and the other AL East teams, who will now have to face Stanton &...
Published: 12/09/17
Rays radio broadcaster Andy Freed takes part in event supporting fight against ALS

Rays radio broadcaster Andy Freed takes part in event supporting fight against ALS

Tampa Bay Rays radio broadcaster Andy Freed was up early Saturday to meet up with the Bladerunners team in Clearwater at the ALS Association Florida Chapter's annual Ride, Run, Roll to Defeat ALS, supporting Mike Leist, a former history teacher at St...
Published: 12/09/17
Winter Meetings Preview: Ranking the Rays most likely to be dealt

Winter Meetings Preview: Ranking the Rays most likely to be dealt

Rays officials head to Disney for this week’s winter meetings admitting they don’t know what they’re doing. Wait — that’s not exactly right. It’s more that they don’t know what they’re going to do.Having spent months collecting info and discussing op...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/09/17