At the quarter-mark of the season, the Rays sit in a position, never experienced by the Tampa Bay Rays franchise, with or without the Devil. At 23-17, the Rays are in first place in the AL East for the first time ever this late in the season. Not bad for a team that has never won more than 70 games in a season.

But make no mistake. Despite the opportunity to enjoy a playoff-chase for the first time, the focus of the front office is still on the future. The goal of the franchise remains the same: Build a solid foundation that will allow sustained success over the long-haul.

Yesterday, Andrew Friedman and Co. took another giant step towards achieving that goal, by signing Scott Kazmir to a 3-year extension through 2011 with a team option for 2012. If the option is picked up, the deal will be worth $39.5 million.

Kazmir’s 2009 salary of $6 million pushes the Rays’ estimated 2009 opening day payroll north of $55 million and that is before any further contract extensions or free agency signings (right field, replacement for Al Reyes)

The biggest effect of the Kazmir signing is looking at the Rays projected roster for 2009 and beyond…

As we can see, 18 of the 25 projected members of the 2009 roster are now under the Rays’ control through at least 2011. That number includes all 5 members of the starting rotation. And with the next wave of prospects expected by the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010, there is room to trade players. But more importantly, there is depth of pitching in the organization to protect against injuries.

The Rays are winning in 2008. But winning now is not the goal. Winning in 2009 and 2010 and 2011 and 2012. That is the goal. And with the talent in the organization and the ability of Friedman to secure that talent with long-term deals, that goal is well within reach.

Kazmir Agrees To Extension [Rays Report]



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