ST. PETERSBURG, FL—The Tampa Bay Rays have exercised their 2014 club options on shortstop Yunel Escobar and infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist.
Escobar, who turns 31 years old today, played in a career-high 153 games and led all major league shortstops with a club-record and career-best .989 fielding percentage. He committed only seven errors in 610 chances, including only three in his final 108 games, and was named a finalist for the American League Rawlings Gold Glove Award at shortstop. At the plate, Escobar hit .256 (130-for-508) with nine home runs, 56 RBI and a career-high 27 doubles, and his .362 on-base percentage after the All-Star break ranked fifth among major league shortstops (minimum 100 at-bats). The seven-year major league veteran appeared in his first postseason and batted .467 (7-for-15) in the American League Division Series facing the Boston Red Sox.
Zobrist, 32, was named to his second AL All-Star Team in 2013, his eighth major league season. He remains the longest-tenured member of the Rays roster. He won the AL fielding crown at second base with a club-record .993 fielding percentage despite starting at four different positions (117-2B, 39-RF, 21-SS, 4-LF). Zobrist is one of six players in the majors to appear in 150-plus games in each of the past five seasons—along with Hunter Pence, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano and Billy Butler—and is the first in Rays history to achieve this. At the end of the season, he was named by the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as the winner of the Paul C. Smith Champion Award, given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.
In 2013, Zobrist batted .275 (168-for-612) with 12 home runs, 71 RBI, 36 doubles and 11 stolen bases. His 168 hits established a career high. He also drew 72 walks and took over as the Rays career walks leader with 467. Over the last five seasons (since 2009), his 429 walks rank fourth overall in the majors and among major league switch-hitters he ranks first in walks and doubles (177) and second in hits (755) and extra-base hits (291).
Escobar and Zobrist started 117 games as double play partners and their combined 11 errors matched the fewest ever by an AL double play combination (with both players qualifying for the fielding crown). Cal Ripken Jr. and Billy Ripken committed 11 for the 1990 Baltimore Orioles and Mark Loretta and Alex Gonzalez had 11 for the 2006 Red Sox.
The Rays also hold club options on outfielder David DeJesus and right-handed relief pitcher Juan Carlos Oviedo. The club must decide on DeJesus’ option by midnight tomorrow, November 3, and must decide on Oviedo’s by midnight on Monday, November 4.
104 Days Until Pitchers & Catchers Report to Spring Training