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Rays exercise options for Zobrist, Escobar

Tampa Bay's double-play combination returning for 2014 season

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays picked up the options for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar on Saturday, which means they will have their starting second baseman and shortstop returning for 2014.

Zobrist and Escobar will make $7.25 million and $5 million, respectively.

Tampa Bay also faces option decisions on outfielder David DeJesus ($6.5 million) and right-hander Juan Carlos Oviedo ($2 million).

The decisions to pick up the options for Zobrist and Escobar were clear cut.

Zobrist played in 157 games -- mostly at second base -- and hit .275 with 12 home runs and 71 RBIs, including 36 doubles. Escobar played in 153 games, all at shortstop, and he hit .256 with nine home runs and 56 RBIs. Both fielded their positions flawlessly, earning Gold Glove Award consideration.

Deciding what to do with DeJesus is not so clear cut.

The Rays have always coveted DeJesus and they finally acquired him on July 23 for a player to be named (left-hander Matthew Spann). Having him on their roster did nothing to diminish how the team felt about him. In 35 games with Tampa Bay, he hit .260 with two home runs and 11 RBIs. Despite the positive vibes, retaining DeJesus by renewing his option comes with a steep price tag. So there's a chance the Rays could decline to pick up his option, pay the $1.5 million buyout, then try to sign him to a more affordable price.

Obviously, if Tampa Bay takes that route, there would be risk in the fact he would become a free agent after the buyout, affording other teams an opportunity to sign him.

As for Oviedo, if the Rays do not re-sign free-agent closer Fernando Rodney, there's a chance the veteran right-hander could close for next year's team.

Oviedo, previously known as Leo Nunez when he saved 92 games for the Marlins from 2009-11, signed a Minor League deal with Tampa Bay in 2013 and spent the entire season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery to his right elbow.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
Read More: Tampa Bay Rays, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar