Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays have agreed to a contract extension with 2B/RF Ben Zobrist that could amount to a five-year deal. Three years — which would be his arbitration years — are guaranteed. The next two years — covering 2014 and 2015, which would be his first two years of free-agency — are team options. The dollars are not yet known but should be announced later today.
This is the second extension of note this spring which contains a significant team option as opposed to one of those tack-on team options at the end of a long, lucrative deal. Adam Lind was the other.
This is smart for the teams, of course, as it hedges against uncertainty and all of that. For the players, it probably makes sense if there’s a legitimate question about whether or not a big free agency payday is in the offing. Lind, for example, is a DH and as we all know, the DH market is horrible. Adding those team options makes a lot of sense for him.
It probably makes sense for Zobrist too, given that he’s already in his age 29 season. He’ll be 33 and 34 in those two years of free agency subject to the option years, and if recent history shows anything, you don’t want to be hitting the free agent market at that age unless you’re a total stud. I like Ben Zobrist a lot, but he’s not quite in that category.
Obviously final judgment rests upon how much money is involved, but at least in terms of structure, this is a good deal for both parties.
The Yankees appear to have moved on from free agent Manny Machado this winter, but could they be turning their attention to Rockies superstar Nolan Arenado? That’s the idea floated by Andy Martino of SNY, who hears that GM Brian Cashman has been involved in recent discussions concerning the third baseman. No official comments have been made to the press yet, though, and it’s not clear whether the Yankees would prefer to pursue Arenado prior to the 2019 season or partway through it.
The 27-year-old infielder earned his fourth consecutive All-Star nomination, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove award in 2018 after slashing .297/.374/.561 with 38 home runs, a .935 OPS, and 5.7 fWAR across 673 plate appearances. There’s no question he’s provided immense value to Colorado’s lineup over the last half-decade, and his consistency and incredible power at the plate helped form the basis of the record $30 million arbitration figure he presented to the team last week. The Rockies countered at $24 million, however, and in doing so may have jeopardized their chances of convincing the infielder to forego free agency in 2020 and take a long-term deal instead.
Assuming he declines to negotiate an extension with the Rockies, Arenado’s decorated résumé and career-best 2018 numbers should attract plenty of interest around the league — a reality that could put considerable pressure on the Yankees (or any other interested party) to finesse a deal sooner rather than later. For now, the club is prepared to enter the 2019 season with hot-hitting third baseman Miguel Andújar, whom Martino speculates would be the “centerpiece” of any trade with Colorado.