The Rays officially announced that they have exercised their one-year, $7.5MM club option on All-Star utility-man Ben Zobrist.
Suffice it to say, this move was clearly one of the easiest for any team with an option over a player. Zobrist, again, turned in an excellent campaign and proved to be a tremendously valuable for Tampa Bay. In 654 plate appearances for the Rays, Zobrist slashed .272 BA/.354 OBP/.395 SLG/.749 OPS in the middle infield and outfield, with team leading 4.2 oWAR.
The upcoming season will mark the final year of control over Zobrist, who signed a four-year, $18MM contract extension that contained a pair of club options back in 2010. Zobrist earned $7MM in 2014 — the first of the two option years — and will earn $7.5MM this year, bringing his total earnings on the deal to $30MM over six years. He’s averaged a staggering 5.4 fWAR and 5.8 rWAR per season over the life of that deal.
Zobrist drew considerable interest at the 2014 trade deadline and would figure to do so again this offseason had Matt Silverman made Ben available. It should be noted, they — could at some point — approach him about an extension as well, or look to shop him next July should they again fall out of contention. The Rays could also simply retain Zobrist through season’s end next year and extend him a qualifying offer, guaranteeing themselves at east a compensatory draft pick at the end of the 2015 season.
“The Rays have until Monday night to decide on their $2.5-million option on RHP Joel Peralta, who has no buyout,” writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Topkin went on, “Agent Mark Gilling said he had not yet heard from the Rays but was confident Peralta, 39 in March, could still pitch effectively, better than his 3-4, 4.41 record this past season showed.”
In other news, the path for former Rays manager Joe Maddon to complete his deal with the Cubs was cleared Friday with news that the north-siders fired Rick Renteria to officially create an opening.
In the statement announcing the move, the Cubs publicly acknowledged becoming aware last Thursday that Maddon left the Rays — the day before it was announced publicly. The statement (in its entirety below) stopped short of saying Maddon had been hired, saying the former Rays manager “may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us.”
For Maddon, the Cubs will hold a press conference on Monday to announce the hiring the former face of the Rays as their next manager, finalizing the move we have all expected.
The full statement from Epstein:
Today we made the difficult decision to replace Rick Renteria as manager of the Chicago Cubs. On behalf of Tom Ricketts and Jed Hoyer, I thank Rick for his dedication and commitment, and for making the Cubs a better organization.
Rick’s sterling reputation should only be enhanced by his season as Cubs manager. We challenged Rick to create an environment in which our young players could develop and thrive at the big league level, and he succeeded. Working with the youngest team in the league and an imperfect roster, Rick had the club playing hard and improving throughout the season. His passion, character, optimism and work ethic showed up every single day.
Rick deserved to come back for another season as Cubs manager, and we said as much when we announced that he would be returning in 2015. We met with Rick two weeks ago for a long end-of-season evaluation and discussed plans for next season. We praised Rick to the media and to our season ticket holders. These actions were made in good faith.
Last Thursday, we learned that Joe Maddon – who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us – had become a free agent. We confirmed the news with Major League Baseball, and it became public knowledge the next day. We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.
While there was no clear playbook for how to handle this type of situation, we knew we had to be transparent with Rick before engaging with Joe. Jed flew to San Diego last Friday and told Rick in person of our intention to talk to Joe about the managerial job. Subsequently, Jed and I provided updates to Rick via telephone and today informed him that we will indeed make a change.
We offered Rick a choice of other positions with the Cubs, but he is of course free to leave the organization and pursue opportunities elsewhere. Armed with the experience of a successful season and all the qualities that made him our choice a year ago, Rick will no doubt make an excellent major league manager when given his next chance.
Rick often said he was the beneficiary of the hard work of others who came before him. Now, in the young players he helped, we reap the benefits of his hard work as we move forward. He deserved better and we wish him nothing but the best.
We have clung to two important ideals during our three years in Chicago. The first is to always be loyal to our mission of building the Cubs into a championship organization that can sustain success. The second is to be transparent with our fans. As painful as the last week was at times, we believe we stayed true to these two ideals in handling a sensitive situation. To our fans: we hope you understand, and we appreciate your continued support of the Cubs.
- Daniel Russell of DRaysBay wrote of the imminent hiring of Maddon, saying, “Joe Maddon built this team and this organization, the face of the franchise for nearly a decade, and openly spoke about his commitment to the Rays — then made the business decision to dart out the door Andrew Friedman left open. Now it’s starting to let in a draft.”