Rays exercise Zobrist's 2015 option

Versatile veteran locked in for franchise-record 10th season with Tampa Bay

Rays exercise Zobrist's 2015 option

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ST. PETERSBURG -- As expected, the Rays picked up their $7.5 million club option on super-utility man Ben Zobrist on Friday.

Zobrist, who hit .272/.354/.395 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs in 146 games this past season, led Tampa Bay with 5.7 Wins Above Replacement and was named the team's Don Zimmer Most Valuable Player by the local Baseball Writers' Association of America chapter. Zobrist once again played all over the field, starting at five positions, but spending most of his time at second base.

Given Zobrist's production, versatility and popularity with Rays fans, picking up an affordable option for the final year of his contract was a no-brainer for the front office heading into what could be an offseason full of difficult decisions.

"Ben has been integral to the success that the Rays have enjoyed throughout his career here," vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom said in a statement. "His skill and versatility on the field, combined with his character and selflessness, make him the ultimate team player. We are excited to continue forward with him."

Next season will be Zobrist's 10th with Tampa Bay, making him the first player in club history to reach that mark. The 33-year-old leads the franchise in doubles (229) and walks (542), and he ranks second to Carl Crawford in games played (1,064), hits (1,016), runs scored (565) and triples (32).

"I'm absolutely ecstatic that they picked up the option for 2015. The fact that I have been here as long as I have makes this very special to me," Zobrist said. "When I first signed this contract, I thought then that if we got to the point where they picked up the options, that would be icing on the cake and that both sides would be really happy. And that's how it has played out."

Zobrist is the first Major Leaguer since at least 1914 to play in 200 career games at second base, shortstop and right field, and he's done so with a career .997 fielding percentage in the outfield, the best of any active player who's played in at least 400 games.

Zobrist will travel to Japan with teammates Evan Longoria and Jeff Beliveau this offseason to take part in a five-game exhibition series against Japan's national team. What comes after that will be much more interesting.

The Rays have already lost Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers and Joe Maddon to the Cubs this offseason, and principal owner Stuart Sternberg has said the Rays will reduce their payroll heading into next season. That presents president of baseball operations Matt Silverman with a number of challenges as he looks to put the Rays in the best possible position to rebound from a disappointing year.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of team we'll have next season," Zobrist said. "With Matt and Chaim and Erik [Neander, vice president of baseball operations] and all of the other people in the front office, I am really confident of what the future will bring. I think that group is very capable of a putting a winning ballclub together in 2015. I'm really excited about it."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.