Rays ink Margot to two-year extension

April 6th, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have spoken highly during Spring Training of everything does for them. His professional work at the plate, especially against left-handed pitching. His excellent defense in the outfield at all three positions. His key leadership role with the club’s younger Latin American players.

Now, they can keep him around to do it all for a few more years.

The Rays on Tuesday announced a contract extension with Margot, the 27-year-old outfielder who would otherwise have become a free agent at the end of the season. The deal will add two more guaranteed years and $19 million to his current one-year, $5.6 million contract. Margot will earn $7 million in 2023 and $10 million in ’24, and the agreement includes a $12 million mutual option for ’25 that can be bought out for $2 million.

“It's a tremendous feeling to know that I'm going to be here for a while, because I'm very comfortable here,” Margot said Wednesday through interpreter Manny Navarro. “It's good to know that I'm going to be here for potentially three more years.”

In two seasons (172 games) with the Rays, Margot has hit .258/.317/.375 with 11 homers, 68 RBIs, 25 steals and 3.8 WAR, per Baseball Reference. He is expected to play a big part in their outfield mix this season along with Kevin Kiermaier, Randy Arozarena, Brett Phillips and just-recalled prospect Josh Lowe.

“I definitely know my role I have on this team and the tactics, the way they go about their team here, and I feel confident and very comfortable with the team here,” Margot said.

The Rays acquired Margot from the Padres prior to Spring Training in 2020, part of their return for reliever Emilio Pagán. It was the outfielder’s second time being traded, as he was dealt from Boston to San Diego for closer Craig Kimbrel in November 2015. But Margot has found a comfortable spot with Tampa Bay, establishing himself not only as a valuable player but as a central figure in the clubhouse.

If you want a sense of how critical Margot is to their clubhouse culture, just look and see who has the locker right next to his in the home clubhouse at Tropicana Field this season. It’s 21-year-old shortstop Wander Franco, one of the many young players constantly in Margot’s orbit.

“We were really excited. Manny's a wonderful player. He's a wonderful person,” Rays general manager Peter Bendix said. “I think we've all seen what he can do over the last few years. He's very well-rounded -- an excellent defender, gives really quality at-bats, great baserunner, and he's become a leader on the team. So the fact that he was open to extending his time here, it was a no-brainer for us.”

Margot said the Rays’ front office approached him and his representatives earlier this month about pursuing an extension. This is normally the time of year that Tampa Bay considers long-term deals, often for young players, but there was some urgency to lock up Margot since he was a year away from free agency.

“He's really been a leader, and I think he's a leader with his style of play and the fact that he's a hard worker and just the fact that he's a great guy who cares,” Bendix said. “He cares about other people in the clubhouse. He cares about what's best for them and what's best for the team, and I think that's what kind of earns him that respect.”

Keeping Margot in the fold for two additional years provides the Rays with some medium-term insurance in the outfield. Phillips, Arozarena and Lowe all have multiple years of club control remaining, but Kiermaier is entering the final guaranteed season of his contract.

Margot’s top moment with the Rays still might be the crazy catch he made in Petco Park’s right field as part of his clutch performance in Game 2 of the 2020 American League Championship Series, but last season was his most productive campaign. Margot posted a personal-best 98 OPS+ while batting .273/.346/.406 against left-handers, clubbed 10 homers, stole 13 bases, led all Major League outfielders with 16 outs above average and totaled 2.8 WAR in 125 games.

“We got the player; he's been that player. The biggest way he's grown is he's gained more comfort,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He's very comfortable playing here. He's very comfortable with his teammates, his staff, just the overall environment. And I like to think, as well as Manny has done, he's still very young and is only going to get better. So we're excited to have him for three years.”