Rays sign Aybar to two-year contract
Versatile veteran's deal includes option for 2011 season
ST. PETERSBURG -- As expected, the Rays finalized a deal with Willy Aybar on Wednesday that could keep the utilityman in a Tampa Bay uniform through 2011.
Aybar, 25, will make $975,000 in 2009, $1.35 million in '10, and the Rays hold a $2.2 million option for his services for '11 with a $275,000 buyout. The contract also includes escalator clauses if he gets significant at-bats.
"We had the chance over the past year to really get to know Willy," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "We feel like he brings a lot to our club. He's got positional flexibility, good at-bats from both sides of the plate, and we feel like he's going to fit in here for a number of years."
Aybar will also make a significant donation to the Rays Baseball Foundation.
"It's hard for us to look out a couple of years and not feel like he fits in to our club," Friedman said. "There's always a scenario where he could earn more at-bats at some point down the road. We feel like he possesses that ability at some point to do that. And we don't think it's that great of a risk, being that we feel like he will fit in as we look ahead. So I think it was a deal that worked out very well for both sides."
After the Rays won their arbitration case with catcher Dioner Navarro, Aybar stood as the lone remaining arbitration case. Tampa Bay offered $900,000, Aybar filed for $1,050,000.
Aybar, 25, hit .253 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs in 95 games after coming to the Rays in a trade with the Braves before the 2008 season; he made $401,200 in '08.
"[He's a] tremendous teammate, great work ethic, it's something you don't really know until you get somebody into the organization," Friedman said. "He embodies a lot of what we're looking for in a player in that respect."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.