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Tampa Bay Rays Wiretap

Navarro Suspended For Bumping Ump

Rays catcher Dioner Navarro has been suspended for two games by Major League Baseball for what it said was "inappropriate conduct" that included bumping an umpire.

Navarro was ejected by plate umpire Dan Bellino during the sixth inning of Friday's game against Toronto for arguing a pitch to Adam Lind that was called a ball.

"I kind of lost my composure," Navarro said after the game. "I can't be doing that, arguing balls and strikes. They're good [the umpires], they're doing a great job. But it was just that moment I lost it."


Rays Give Zobrist $561K Signing Bonus

Rays utilityman Ben Zobrist earned a $561,000 signing bonus as part of the contract extension he signed last week.

Zobrist got a three-year extension that guarantees him $18 million through the 2013 season.

He is making $438,100 this season under a one-year contract agreed to in March, but the extension will increase his salaries to $4.5 million in both 2011 and 2012 and $5.5 million in 2013.


Rays Broadcaster Helps Subdue Man On Flight

Rays broadcaster and former major league manager Kevin Kennedy was among a group of men that subdued a man who threatened to blow up an airplane.

A Delta Air Lines flight from Los Angeles to Florida was diverted to Albuquerque early Friday after a passenger sprayed the first-class cabin with a water bottle, tried to open a cabin door and threatened to blow up the aircraft.

"When he started threatening bombs, it was for real. I knew it was anyway," Kennedy said. "We all kind of looked at him. The guy next to me, he was saying, 'Hey buddy, let's calm down here.' We tried to talk him down, but it wasn't happening. It was actually getting worse."


Grading The Deal: Rays Sign Zobrist To Extension

By Christopher Reina

An unquestioned late bloomer, Ben Zobrist finally became an everyday major leaguer in 2009 when he hit for an OPS of .948 (.405 OBP, .543 SLG) in 599 plate appearances with the Rays. His full-fledged breakout followed an auspicious 2008 in which he hit for an OPS of .844 in 227 plate appearances in 2008.

Zobrist's OBP predictably improved so significantly from 2008 to 2009 because of his jump in BAbip from .252 to .326. His walk rate also increased from 11% of his at bats to a little more than 15%.

After stints at Dallas Baptist and Olivet Nazarene, Zobrist was a 6th round selection by the Astros in 2004, but was eventually dealt to Tampa Bay in the Aubrey Huff trade in 2006.

The Rays have seen enough of Zobrist to lock him up with a five-year contract extension worth approximately $30 million that will eliminate his arbitration years and also extends into his first two seasons of free agency eligibility.

Because Zobrist is a switch-hitter capable of playing more than adequate defense all over the diamond like a slightly younger Mark DeRosa, the Rays don't need to worry about his potentially congesting a specific position to blockd a youngster positionally.

Zobrist has started slowly in 2010, hitting for an OPS of .717 (.313 OBP, .403 SLG) through his first 68 plate appearances. He hasn't hit for the same kind of power he did in 2009, still without a homer, but the bigger issue is his walk rate has been cut in half and his strikeouts are up.

Hitters are more than capable of having a fluke season, but the fluke usually rests in the .800 OPS range, not all the way up at .948 where the legitimate superstars reside annually. Since the Rays know him better than anyone, I have no legitimate concerns about the beginning of his 2010 season. Even in Zobrist's less productive months in 2009, his OPS was still at .878 (July) and .822 (August).

Zobrist ranked second in WAR during the 2009 season amongst hitters, sandwiched between the very deep pockets and immensely talented Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer. Unquestionably, Zobrist is not sustainably at that level of player, but he can drop by half and still be in very good company and deserve every dime of his new deal.

This is a continuation of deals Tampa Bay has done with Evan Longoria, James Shields, David Price and also Scott Kazmir before they traded him to the Angels last August. Unlike Longoria and Price, the Rays will absolutely own the entirety of Zobrist's prime since he is an older player that won't become a free agent until he's 33.

Grade for Rays: A-

This grade assumes the dollar amounts are favorable, as expected with a cost-conscious franchise like Tampa Bay. Most importantly for the franchise, it helps them set a budget over several years by writing down Zobrist's dollar amounts in ink instead of allowing so much to ride on unpredictable arbitration cases.

Grade for Ben Zobrist: B+

Zobrist absolutely cannot be faulted for cashing out on his 2009 with the security a multi-year deal brings both in terms of potential injury and also potential declination of his numbers. He could have retained the capacity to make more annually by going to arbitration with his 2009 resume and whatever he might do in terms of production in 2010 and beyond, but that of course would not have been financially prudent.

Chris Reina is the executive editor of RealGM. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cr_reina.

Via Christopher Reina/RealGM

Zobrist, Rays Reach Long-Term Deal

The Rays have signed utility-man Ben Zobrist to a five-year contract extension.

The first three years of the extension are guaranteed with the team holding options for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, which will cover Zobrist's first two years of free agency.

He hit .297 with 27 home runs and 91 RBIs in 2009.

Via MLB.com

Rays Apr 2010 Archive