The shortstop, currently 20 years old, will sign an 11-year, $182 million contract extension, with an option for a 12th year that could take the deal to $223 million.
Lots of different iterations of Wander Franco’s deal have been exchanged in recent days. Final numbers on the contract, per sources: 11 years, $182M guaranteed, $25M club option for 12th year. Deal can max at $223M. There are $3M escalators for 1-5 MVP finishes starting in 2028.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 23, 2021
It goes without saying that would be the biggest contract in the history of the franchise.
To this point, the Rays have been a small-market team that runs one of the lowest payrolls in baseball year in and year out.
In 2021, the Rays were 26th in MLB in total payroll, with $70,836,327.
They only surpassed four teams in total amount of money paid to players this season.
That has been the situation for virtually their entire MLB tenure: they were 28th in payroll in 2020, and last in 2019.
The Rays, And All MLB Clubs, Can Splash The Cash If They Want
But they have the ability to spend money on roster improvements if they want, and the Franco deal is perfect proof of that.
MLB teams have several avenues to make money, and while the pandemic year did affect one of them (fan attendance), all clubs have the ability to pay players, either in free agency or with contract extensions.
In the specific case of the Rays, they have a particular way of operating.
They rarely invest more than $10 million in a single player: instead, they have worked over the years to fortify coaching, player development, and talent identification.
That approach has led to several playoff appearances and an era of dominance in the American League East division, including a World Series appearance in 2020.
In other words, it has been successful: they haven’t won a World Series yet, but they are on the verge.
That’s why it’s so surprising to see them splashing the cash with Franco.
However, it was a somewhat expected outcome.
The Rays have been brilliant in the front office and have a unique style of doing things in MLB, but that approach is precisely to find and develop players like Franco.
Franco is a generational talent in the true sense of the phrase, so locking him up for 11 years was a no-brainer for Tampa.
Wander Franco is so good he got the Rays to spend money. https://t.co/Juf1jNhxpC
— Brandon Smith (@RolandSDW) November 23, 2021
The Deal Made A Lot Of Sense
The mega-deal is truly a win-win for both sides.
Tampa will get Franco’s production and star potential by paying him a salary (around $16 million per year) way lower than he will probably deserve if he keeps developing as expected.
In short, Franco traded some earning potential in the second half of his contract for some financial security in the first half.
Yes, it was surprising to see the Rays splash the cash, but financially, the deal makes an awful lot of sense for both sides.
It is, however, yet another reminder that MLB teams, even the ones who appear to be weak financially, have the potential to spend a lot of money on players.
Whether they want to do it or now is another story, but there is no denying they can, and will if the situation requires it.