Dec 1, 2021 - Sports

What the Wander Franco deal really means

Rays fans celebrate at Fenway Park in Boston during Game 3 of the ALDS as Wander Franco celebrates a home run.
Check out the Rays fans at Fenway Park in Boston during Game 3 of the ALDS as Wander Franco celebrates a home run. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

When the Rays give an enormous contract to a 20-year-old rookie who has played just 70 major league games, what they are really doing is investing in fans in a place where team loyalty is fragile as a snowflake.

What's happening: "I wish to stay here for my whole career," Wander Franco said through an interpreter at a Monday presser for his new 12-year, $185 million extension, a deal that could total $223 million.

  • It doesn’t always work like that, of course. Plenty of young players who get long contracts wind up in New York with years left.

And yet: As the NYT points out, this contract sets a new record for the most money guaranteed to a player with less than a year of major league service.

Why it matters: The Rays clubhouse has always had a revolving door — the notable exception was a big deal to keep Evan Longoria for a few years.

  • But talented players like David Price, B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford came and went before turning 30.
  • So going to a Rays game — seeing jerseys that say Snell, Pham, Adames, or Kazmir — is like bearing witness to the promiscuity of a partner simultaneously trying to get you to commit to monogamy.

The big picture: The Franco deal is as long term as it gets, John Romano points out.

  • Franco will now be the face of the franchise through the end of the Tropicana Field lease and whatever is beyond.
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