Rays, Yunel Escobar agree to 2-year, $13 million extension
Yunel Escobar has found a home through at least 2016.
On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Rays announced a two-year contract extension for the shortstop covering 2015 and 2016 with a one-year club option for 2017. The extension is worth a guaranteed $13 million and replaces the 2015 club option.
"Having this infield together is a big reason we did it," Escobar told reporters through an interpreter. "I hope to play with this same group the next 3-4 years or more."
Escobar, a native of Havana, Cuba, is the eighth Cuban-born player in Rays history. He appeared in a career-high 153 games last season with 149 starts. The start total was the second-most by a shortstop in club history, behind Julio Lugo’s 155 in 2005.
A finalist for the American League Gold Glove Award last year, Escobar set a franchise record with a .989 fielding percentage with seven errors in 610 chances. His season included 53 consecutive errorless games.
In addition to Escobar, third baseman Evan Longoria, second baseman Ben Zobrist and first baseman James Loney were finalists for the AL Gold Glove Award.
"Yunel has been a tremendous addition to our infield and was a critical part of our success last year," Andrew Friedman, the Rays’ executive vice president of baseball operations, said in a statement. "He brings enthusiasm and energy to our group on a daily basis to go along with his abilities on the field. We are excited to have the opportunity to extend his time in our uniform."
Escobar, 31, owns a .982 fielding percentage throughout the past three seasons, placing him third in the majors among those with 400 starts. Only Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy (.988) and Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (.983) were better in the span.
Quickly, Escobar gained a reputation as one of the most exuberant members of the Rays clubhouse, after he was acquired from the Miami Marlins on Dec. 4, 2012, in exchange for infielder Derek Dietrich. His relaxed and fun-loving approach fit well with Tampa Bay’s culture. He became known for his "fadeaway jumpshot" celebration after impressive defensive plays, which commonly graced national highlight reels.
Escobar is a career .278 hitter with a .350 on-base percentage. Last season, he batted .256 with nine home runs, 56 RBI and a career-high 27 doubles.