Tampa Bay Rays: Grading the Franchise's Best Contracts
The Tampa Bay Rays have always been a team that is careful with its money. In fact, only once have the Rays had a payroll higher than the league average.
Somehow, the Rays have remained one of the American League's premier teams since they first made the playoffs in 2008. They have assembled great pitching staffs and retain some pretty good hitters as well.
The contracts handed out to these players have been some of the most team friendly in the MLB.
Here are three players whose contracts are the best in the team's history.
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Contract: Two years, $1.9 million (1998-1999)
Stats: 210 hits, 91 runs, nine home runs
Wade Boggs might have only finished his career in Tampa Bay, but he brought valuable star power to an expansion lineup. He also had previous experience playing in the AL East before, spending 16 combined seasons with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Boggs hit the first home run in the former Devil Rays history as well hitting his 3000th hit as a member of the Rays.
He remains the only player to have his number retired by Tampa Bay.
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Contract: Four years, $3.5 million (2008-11)
Stats: 573 hits, 341 runs, 113 home runs
Evan Longoria is pretty much synonymous with the Rays run to success in the AL East. Before he got there, the Rays struggled mightily, finishing fifth for all but one year. After his arrival, the Rays have become a contender and even made it to the World Series.
Winning the AL's Rookie of the Year award in 2008, Longoria was the driving force in the run to the World Series and has been a huge part ever since.
His first contract was good, and if he can continue to play as well as he has, his new contract won't be too shabby either.
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Contract: Five years, $6,320,500 (2007-2011)
Stats: 501 hits, 307 runs, 70 home runs
Along with Evan Longoria, Zobrist has been integral to the Rays' success. One of the more versatile players on Tampa Bay's roster, Longoria can play shortstop, outfield and second base.
His breakout year came in 2009, hitting three grand slams, being among the league leaders in slugging percentage and leading the majors in wins above replacement, edging out Albert Pujols just slightly.
While he isn't a superstar, Zobrist is a player anyone would want on their team. If there's any doubt about his worth to the club, here is what Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said about Longoria when he signed his new contract in 2010, (via tampabay.rays.mlb.com):
When considering a deal of this magnitude, we feel that three of the most important qualities are ability, work ethic and character, which is exactly why we're sitting here today and [that] speaks volumes to what we think of Ben... If the young players in our Minor League system are curious about what it takes to receive a long-term contract, Ben is a great example.