Rays News

Tampa Bay Rays give richest contract in franchise history to Wander Franco

Jameus Mooney
Wander Franco #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game 4 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 11, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Wander Franco #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game 4 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 11, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /
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The Tampa Bay Rays have reportedly joined the latest trend of locking down superstars well-before they reach arbitration.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that shortstop Wander Franco, a 20-year-old phenom who set the record for most consecutive games on base before turning 21, has reached a pact worth up to $223M over the next 12 years.

Much like the $340M, 14-year deal Fernando Tatis Jr. signed with the Padres, this will buy out Franco’s rookie year deals and then attempt to compensate him with what he’d make on the current market, rather than let the future market dictate how much he’s worth.

There are quite a few moving parts in the contract. One important distinction is that Franco did not receive no-trade protection, which shouldn’t be a surprise given Tampa Bay’s history of having an influx of trades from year-to-year.

Evan Longoria was set to become the only Ray to ever receive a no-trade clause, doing so by accruing 10-5 rights in early 2018. Longoria was dealt to the Giants in December 2017 before he could receive the protection.

Franco is guaranteed to be on this contract through at least 2032, receiving full no-trade protection and a minimum sum of $182M if he does so. Starting in 2028, the contract becomes incentive heavy based on MVP performance. With a player the caliber of Franco, it’s expected that he’s a future AL MVP.

Rays give Wander Franco biggest contract in franchise history

Franco’s contract is the biggest contract in Rays history by a sizable margin. In fact, if Franco maxes out the $223M in the deal, he will be paid just $10M shy of what the Rays payroll the last four seasons has been combined. It does not seem as though there is an opt-out that was negotiated, thus Franco’s entirely locked in on this contract.

Exceeding rookie limitations in 2021, Franco finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting despite only 281 at bats. Franco’s season was capped by a 43-game on-base streak.

Franco posted a 3.5 WAR in just 70 games, anticipated to be an 8-win player over a 162 at his 2021 pace. Franco had an .810 OPS with a stellar 129 OPS+, 29% better than the league average hitter. He hit seven home runs with a .288/.347/.463 slash.

Franco’s peripherals are excellent, highlighted by a 134 rBAT+. rBAT, for those unfamiliar with the statistic, takes Franco’s batting WAR and indexes it to the ballparks he plays in, much like OPS+ does for OPS. Franco has excellent plate discipline for his age, walking at an impressive 7.8% clip in his age-20 season. Franco also hits the ball hard on a regular basis, with his 88.2 exit velocity.

Franco’s XBT is 58%, taking an extra base a majority of the time on the bases. Franco’s defense was a bit rough at first, but once he settled into the majors he played excellent defense. It looks as though the Rays have a potential five-tool superstar on their hands. They’ve decided to keep this one long-term.

Tampa Bay: Get used to seeing the Boy Wander.

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