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Rays reportedly make big contract offer to Wander Franco

A report from the Dominican Republic says the deal could be worth $150 million-$200 million over 10 years.
The Rays reportedly have started conversations about a long-term contract with Wander Franco, the 20-year-old shortstop who made a dazzling debut this season.
The Rays reportedly have started conversations about a long-term contract with Wander Franco, the 20-year-old shortstop who made a dazzling debut this season. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Nov. 18
Updated Nov. 19

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays’ offseason to-do list typically includes exploring long-term contracts with several of their top young players.

They have started those conversations with their best, 20-year-old shortstop Wander Franco, who made a dazzling debut this season.

The Rays, according to a report from Franco’s native Dominican Republic, have proposed a “10-year-plus commitment worth between $150-200 (million).”

Rays officials, citing a long-standing policy regarding player matters such as trades or contract negotiations, declined to comment on the report or confirm that talks have been held. Franco’s agent, Manny Paula, did not reply to a message.

Franco posted a message on his Instagram account that, translated from Spanish, said, “Humility, because life takes many turns.”

The negotiations appear to remain ongoing, with the potential for several iterations of the deal depending on the number of guaranteed and option years. No agreement is imminent.

As reports of the contract offer spread, Wander Franco posted an Instagram story. Translated, it means, "Humility, because life takes many turns."
As reports of the contract offer spread, Wander Franco posted an Instagram story. Translated, it means, "Humility, because life takes many turns." [ Instagram ]

According to the report by Yancen Pujols for the Spanish-language El Caribe newspaper, “Franco’s camp is studying the offer and are expected to counteroffer.”

If the deal is consummated near the reported terms, it would be the largest made by the Rays, surpassing Evan Longoria’s six-year, $100 million second extension after the 2012 season. That deal pushed Longoria’s remaining guarantee to $136.6 million over 10 years, plus a 2023 option. He was traded to the Giants in December 2017.

It also would be the richest for any major-leaguer with less than one year of service time; Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. signed an eight-year, $100 million contract, with two additional option years, in April 2019.

The Rays have been willing to invest in young players at the start of their careers. That includes big deals in 2008 with Longoria (six years, $17.5 million guaranteed; up to $44.5 million with three options); in 2011 with Matt Moore (five years, $14 million guaranteed; up to $37.5 million with three options); in 2014 with Chris Archer (six years, $25.5 million; up to $45.5 million with two options); and in 2019 with Brandon Lowe (six years, $24 million; up to $49 million with two options).

Under the current system, Franco would be under the Rays’ control for six more seasons, through 2027. A 10-year deal would buy out four additional years of free agency while allowing him to hit the open market at age 31.

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But those rules could be different starting next year, as a new collective bargaining agreement is being negotiated and could include changes in the eligibility requirements for arbitration and free agency, which likely complicates the negotiations. Depending on the terms of the new agreement, signing now could be better for Franco or the Rays.

Franco was called up from Triple-A on June 22 and made a smashing debut. After a couple of weeks getting adjusted, he showed the hype was real, leading all AL rookies after the All-Star break with a .314 average, 69 hits and 45 runs while striking out only three times in his last 97 plate appearances. He finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting despite playing in only 70 games.

“I think you could make the argument that he’s the most impactful player on any team in baseball,” manager Kevin Cash said after the Rays’ playoff loss to Boston. “Certainly for us. Our team was really good, we got better when he came.

“He lengthened our lineup. He made our defense better. He worked really hard on his defense to make his defense better, and it made our overall defense better. He is a game-changing player. It’s going to be fun to watch for a long time.”

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