Ben Zobrist, Joel Peralta hope to return to Rays

Ben Zobrist, who hit .270 with 10 homers, 52 RBIs and a team-leading .354 on-base percentage while starting at five positions plus DH, is due $7.5 million (or a $500,000 buyout) for next season, when he will turn 34. [AP photo]
Ben Zobrist, who hit .270 with 10 homers, 52 RBIs and a team-leading .354 on-base percentage while starting at five positions plus DH, is due $7.5 million (or a $500,000 buyout) for next season, when he will turn 34. [AP photo]
Published September 28 2014
Updated September 29 2014

CLEVELAND — With no pending free agents, the Rays technically have only two contract decisions to make in the offseason, holding options on INF/OF Ben Zobrist and RHP Joel Peralta.

And if it were up to the players, both would be easy decisions.

"Of course," Zobrist said. "This is all I've known in the big leagues, and this is my team. This is the team I've played for my whole career, so I'm really hoping I get to play again, at least another year in Tampa (Bay)."

Zobrist, 33, who hit .270 with 10 homers, 52 RBIs and a team-leading .354 on-base percentage while starting at five positions plus DH, is due $7.5 million (or a $500,000 buyout) for next season, when he will turn 34.

"Regardless of his birth certificate, this guy is still playing at a high level," manager Joe Maddon said. "Zobrist is still one of the best players in the American League."

Peralta is a tougher call, with a $2.5 million option (and no buyout) after going 3-4, 4.41, the worst of his four seasons with the Rays. Maddon said he thinks Peralta, who will be 39 in March, can rebound if used properly.

Peralta definitely wants the chance.

"I hope I can be back here and have a better year and help the team more than I did this year," he said. "I'm really hoping and praying that I'll be back here. This is where I want to be."

While the team is expected to make a few trades and part ways with some of the nine players eligible for arbitration, Maddon said overall he does not expect many changes to the roster. "Little tweaks but nothing huge," he said.

IRON EVAN: 3B Evan Longoria was quite pleased and proud to play in all 162 games this season, joining Aubrey Huff (2003) and Delmon Young (2007) as the only Rays to do so. He was one of three big-leaguers to do so this season, and he has the second-longest active-games-played streak at 242 (behind Giants OF Hunter Pence's 383) and has made the most consecutive starts with 170.

"It's a pretty cool thing to accomplish," Longoria said, even more so "since early on in my career there were some questions about durability and (hamstring injury) stuff I had to deal with."

ALEX THE GREAT: RHP Alex Cobb wasn't particularly happy about how he got there, allowing a pair of homers and four runs total in Sunday's 7-2 loss to the Indians, but he finished the season with a 2.74 ERA that ranked sixth in the American League and fourth best in Rays history.

"It's frustrating to end on a note like that," Cobb said. "Once I get on the plane I'll probably start looking back and be a little more happy about it."

Part of Cobb's frustration was that several of the 10 hits he allowed rolled through the infield.

"It wasn't my A-plus stuff, but it was better than (his lasting outing in) Boston stuff," he said. "It was just one of those days where guys were locked in and put some good swings on balls, and a couple with some balls that found some holes, some ground balls finding holes that snuck through."

WOE, MOLINA: There were several Rays who had down years offensively, from Longoria to OF Wil Myers.

And then there was C Jose Molina, who had arguably the least productive season of any player in at least the past 100 years.

Seriously. As if the .178 average weren't low enough, no player who went to the plate that often — 225 at-bats — did so little.

His two — TWO — extra-base hits matched the fewest by any player in history. (Molina even had more steals, three.) His four — FOUR — runs scored were the fewest. And his .187 slugging percentage was the lowest in more than 100 years.

SIR MADDON: Maddon not only reiterated that he hopes to stay with the Rays beyond his current contract that expires after next season, but he said he hopes to manage 10 more years, which will take him into his 70s. He turns 61 in February.

MISCELLANY: RHP Cory Burns was claimed off waivers by Toronto. Burns, whom the Rays claimed from Texas on June 30, pitched for Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham. … INF Sean Rodriguez finished second on the team to Longoria with 12 home runs.

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