Rays extend Yunel Escobar on three year deal

Mike Ehrmann

The Rays announced this weekend that they have extended gold-glove candidate short stop Yunel Escobar through 2016 with an option for 2017.

Activating the $5M option remaining on his current contract for 2015, the deal then guarantees $8M for 2016, with an option at $7M for 2017 or a $1M buyout.

The extension appears to have been originate by Escobar, who personally tracked down Andrew Friedman and expressed interest in the deal. Escobar recently changed agents last week.

Escobar's offense came in a 100 wRC+ last season, amid a two-year suppression of his in-play batting average. He has been steadily increasing his line drive percentages and power but recently stopped pulling the ball. The theory goes that should Escobar get back to hooking pitches, a few more balls will find corners and blue seats instead of gloves.

Over the past three seasons (2011-13), Escobar's .982 fielding percentage ranks third in the majors (min. 400 starts) behind Baltimore's J.J. Hardy (.988) and Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins (.983). According to Stats LLC, Escobar's .853 zone rating over the past two seasons (2012-13) leads all major league shortstops (min. 200 starts). His 3.9 WAR led American League shortstops last season.

Escobar particularly thrived last season after he was moved to the nine-hole in the lineup, batting a .777 OPS over 82 games. Heading into the season, Maddon named him a lock for the same position in the order.

Barring injury, this new deal will likely make Escobar the Rays leader in games played at short stop, currently led by Julio Lugo at 489 games played, followed by Jason Bartlett with 390 games played. The deal will also take pressure off Top-5 prospect Hak-Ju Lee, who recently had multiple ligament knee surgery.

2017 will be Escobar's age-34 season.

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