The Rays locked up the game’s best prospect after seeing him shine for several months in 2021, his debut season.
It can be qualified as a win-win deal, because the Rays are getting the game’s premier young talent for the next 11 years at $185 million, with an option for a 12th year that could bring the total to $223 million.
Shortstop Wander Franco and the Tampa Bay Rays are in agreement on a 12-year contract that guarantees him around $185 million, sources tell ESPN. The deal is worth a maximum of $223 million. It is done, pending small details. The 20-year-old is going to be a Ray for a long time.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 23, 2021
Franco, of course, will make $16.81 million on average over the next 11 years, and potentially $18.6 million over the next 12.
The Eternal Debate: Upside Vs. Security
It’s the eternal debate: should he have taken it year by year and potentially entered free agency at 26 or 27, but with the potential of making an absurd amount of money in his last two years of arbitration?
Or did he do well to take the money and ensure his payday in case of long-term injury?
In the end, rejecting more than $16 million per year is tough for a 20-year-old kid, no matter how talented.
In addition, the deal will allow Franco to enter free agency again at a perfect age, 31, and have a chance at another huge payday.
It’s certainly a risk for both sides: whereas Franco’s progression and background suggest he will be a star for years to come, the Rays can’t possibly be sure about that.
There is also risk on Franco’s side: he could be the game’s best player as soon as next year and his salary won’t be even in the top 50.
Tampa did well to buy out Franco’s arbitration years and up to seven free agent seasons.
In exchange, they will pay him much more than the minimum for the next two seasons.
Franco, regardless of the money he makes, is already one of the best players on the Rays’ roster and carries loads of potential.
Good day to be Wander Franco. Imagine locking that money up after half of an MLB season. Obviously could make more on a shorter deal, testing free agency afterwards. The security is nice though
— AJ (@woofite) November 23, 2021
His ceiling is as the best player in MLB, as previously stated.
As a 20-year-old rookie, he hit .288/.347/.463 with seven homers, 53 runs, and 39 RBI in 308 plate appearances.
A True Star In The Making
That production was good for a 127 wRC+.
The wRC+ stat means weighted Runs Created Plus, and allows us to compare players’ offensive performance on context, with 100 being associated with average production.
It means that Franco was 27 percent better than the average in 2021, and it was his debut year.
He is the whole package: he has power, speed, and an excellent hit tool that will probably allow him to bat over .300 for a long time.
He is also solid with the glove, although he could stand to improve there.
However, he is already a comfortably above-average player, and accumulated 2.5 Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, in 2021.
Additionally, he was a star in the playoffs: in the four games the Rays played against the Boston Red Sox, the young infielder slashed .368/.368/.789, with two homers, five runs, and four RBI.
If he improves to the point that his play matches his minor league performance over the years, we are talking about a 21-year-old with a 150 wRC+, plus instincts, good speed, and good defense for the next decade at an affordable price.
That’s a deal Tampa had to make, and it shows that no MLB team is financially weak, and also proves they are serious about contending long-term.