Rays ink 3-year extension with Yandy Díaz

January 31st, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays continued their recent run on multiyear contract extensions on Tuesday by signing infielder Yandy Díaz to a three-year, $24 million deal with a $12 million club option for the '26 season.

The guaranteed portion of the extension, which was initially discussed with Díaz’s representatives at the GM Meetings in November and first reported Saturday by MLB.com, will cover the 31-year-old Díaz’s final two years of arbitration eligibility and his first year of free agency. He will make $6 million this season, $8 million in 2024 and $10 million in ’25. Having the $12 million option picked up -- it has no buyout -- would push back his free agency by two years.

Díaz said signing his extension was the “second blessing so far” this offseason, as he and his wife also learned they are expecting a baby in July. 

“I just want to give thanks to Tampa Bay for giving this opportunity and letting me be the player that I wanted to be ever since I was a Minor League player with Cleveland,” he said Tuesday through interpreter Manny Navarro. “And I thank them for the opportunity to let me show that off.”

This is the third such extension the Rays have hammered out in the past week. They previously agreed to a four-year, $31 million deal with starter Jeffrey Springs last Wednesday and a three-year, $12 million deal with Pete Fairbanks on Friday, with each deal including a club option and incentives that would further escalate the contract’s total value.

With Díaz now signed, the Rays have trimmed their list of unsigned arbitration-eligible players from seven to four: Harold Ramírez, Colin Poche, Ryan Thompson and Jason Adam. Arbitration hearings were scheduled to begin this week, but Tampa Bay has clearly shown a willingness to negotiate multiyear agreements to avoid a crowded slate of hearings.

Before reaching this agreement, Tampa Bay had been poised to proceed to a hearing with Díaz -- who made $2.8 million last season -- to decide his salary for this season. He filed for $6.3 million, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier this month, while the club filed at $5.5 million.

Díaz is coming off the best season of his career. The musclebound corner infielder hit .296/.401/.423 with nine homers, 33 doubles, 57 RBIs, more walks (78) than strikeouts (60) and career highs in OPS+ (143) and WAR (3.5) while spending most of his time at third base for the Rays. Since the start of the 2020 season, Aaron Judge and Mike Trout are the only American League players with an on-base percentage higher than Díaz’s .383 mark.

Some of Díaz’s statistics may not jump off the page, as he’s not a traditional power hitter, but Tampa Bay has developed a great appreciation for his remarkable discipline at the plate and defensive versatility since acquiring him from Cleveland as part of a three-team trade in December 2018.

“Yandy is a very physically imposing human, but one that I think contributes in a way different than you might assume,” president of baseball operations Erik Neander said. “Yandy's someone that sees the ball exceptionally well, sees it exceptionally early, puts the ball in play, and is as competitive as anybody against good pitching. Those are things that you can never have enough of in a lineup like that. … We’ve tried to always appreciate him for who he is and how he creates his value and embracing that as much as we can, and I think it's served us and served him well.”

Tampa Bay once made a habit of signing its young stars to long-term extensions, and the club has shifted back toward these multiyear deals over the last year or so. Last winter, the Rays signed Wander Franco to an 11-year extension. Manuel Margot agreed last spring to a two-year contract that delayed his free agency, and Tyler Glasnow did the same in August.

Those players joined Brandon Lowe, who signed a six-year deal in March 2019, as Rays players signed to multiyear extensions. Tampa Bay showed a further willingness to offer multiyear contracts in December by signing free-agent starter Zach Eflin for three years and a franchise-record $40 million.

The Rays still could trade some of those players while under contract, but taken all together, it’s been a somewhat surprising push toward continuity for a club that’s become well-known for frequently turning over its roster even while reaching the postseason four years in a row.

“This is a really good team. It's a really good roster. We didn't have our best year last year and won't make excuses for that, but I think the potential of this roster is to play well above where we were last year as is,” Neander said. “We're always looking to keep players we really appreciate around longer, if we can. A few obviously came together here, and we're grateful they did. We think really highly of this group, and we believe in continuity when we can make it happen.”