Rays sign Wander Franco to long-term contract

November 27th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—The Tampa Bay Rays have signed shortstop Wander Franco (WAHN-der FRAHN-co) to an 11-year, $182 million contract through the 2032 season, including a club option for the 2033 season. The pact is worth up to $223 million if the club option is exercised and incentives are reached.

“This is a great day for Wander and for the Rays and is evidence of the mutual trust between Wander and our organization. So many of our areas had a hand in this—our scouting, development, health and wellness and coaching personnel plus many others,” said Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg. “We are committed to fielding competitive teams year in and year out, and we all expect that Wander’s presence and contributions will play a large part in maintaining our standard of excellence.”

“The pace at which Wander has developed speaks to his potential,” said President of Baseball Operations Erik Neander. “We have seen him do special things on the field, particularly for a player that is only 20 years old. He’s an exceptionally driven, budding superstar who can contribute to our success for a long time.”

With 104 days of major league service time, Franco is the fifth player with less than a year the Rays have signed to a long-term extension, following third baseman Evan Longoria (24 days, 2008), left-handed pitcher Matt Moore (17 days, 2011), right-handed pitcher Chris Archer (156 days, 2014) and second baseman Brandon Lowe (58 days, 2019).

The contract represents the largest commitment to a player in the 24-year history of the franchise and the largest in major league history for a player with less than a year of major league service time. In Rays history, it surpasses the six-year, $100 million extension signed by Longoria following the 2012 season. In major league history among players with less than a year of service time, it surpasses the eight-year, $100 million guarantee between outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. and the Atlanta Braves in April 2019. Longoria’s extension incorporated the salaries for 2013-16 from his original contract and extended six more years, resulting in a total guarantee of 10 years, $136.6 million and a club option for 2023. Acuña’s contract included two option years that could increase the total value to $124 million.

Franco, 20, was selected from Triple-A Durham on June 22 and made his major league debut that night, hitting a game-tying, three-run homer in the 5th inning. He hit .288/.347/.463 (81-for-281) with 18 doubles, five triples, seven homers and 39 RBI in 70 games in the regular season and finished third in the BBWAA American League Rookie of the Year balloting behind teammate Randy Arozarena and right-handed pitcher Luis Garcia of the Houston Astros. Franco hit .314/.372/.500 (69-for-220) with 16 doubles, three triples, five homers and 32 RBI in 55 games after the All-Star break and led American League rookies in the second half in batting avg., runs scored (45), hits and triples. According to Baseball Reference, his 3.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) ranked third in AL history among position players with 70 games (or fewer).

From July 25 through September 29, Franco’s 43-game on-base streak tied Frank Robinson of the Cincinnati Reds in 1956 for the longest in major league history among players age 20 (or younger), and passed Mickey Mantle (36) of the New York Yankees in 1951-52 for the longest in AL history. Regardless of age, his streak was the third-longest among rookies in AL history behind Alvin Davis (47) of the Seattle Mariners in 1984 and New York’s Charlie Keller (44) in 1939.

Franco hit .368 (7-for-19) with two doubles, two homers and 4 RBI in four postseason games and became the fifth player in postseason history to homer in back-to-back games at age 20 (or younger).