If you had any doubts about how the Rays organization views Ben Zobrist, the news of a potential five-year extension should clear those up. It is true, Zobrist most likely will never duplicate his 8.3 wins above replacement level (WAR) season, but few people not named Albert Pujols have that capability. Going forward, if Zobrist is half the player he was in 2009, he will be a valuable commodity for the Rays.
Without terms, it's tough to say what kind of deal the Rays and Zobrist are getting. However, looking at past extensions handed out by the Andrew Friedman regime the deal is likely to be mutually beneficial. In essence, the team is avoiding the hassle of negotiating three arbitration seasons (2011-2013) with Zobrist and hold club options for his first two years of free agency (2014, 2015). It's hard to say how much Zobrist would've commanded in arbitration because we don't know what type of season he'll have, but $4 million dollars would seem to be a good neighborhood number.
Once again, anyone expecting another 8 WAR season is being unrealistic. More likely, Zobrist will settle in between the 4.0-5.0 level. For discussion purposes only, let's say Zobrist is a 5 WAR player in 2010 and regresses 0.5 each season going forward. This would put Zobrist at a cumulative 17.5 WAR for the five seasons. That sounds reasonable enough.
This is a rough and dirty estimate using a conservative $4 million dollars per one WAR, and the 40%, 60%, 80% scale for arbitration. For those unfamiliar with the scale, here's a brief explanation. Say Zobrist puts up a 5 WAR season in 2010, at $4 million per win that's a $20 million dollar value on the open market. The arb scale says Zobrist value to the Rays is 40% of that in his first season of arbitration, so $8 million dollars.
After doing some napkin math, Zobrist is "worth" somewhere between $60 and $70 million dollars for those five seasons. Of course his contract won't be that high which means the Rays will likely be the benefactors of another bargain contract. And again, this is just a rough estimate.
Par for the course with the organization, nobody had any indication of any long-term talks with Zobrist. Since we haven't heard anything about Matt Garza and B.J. Upton either, hopefully this is the first of a few extensions to come.
Congrats to Ben Zobrist and his family.