Wander Franco Finalizes 11-Year, $182 Million Deal with Tampa Bay Rays

It’s official… Wander Franco is staying with the Rays for more than a decade.

The 20-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop and the Tampa Bay Rays have finalized a $182 million, 11-year contract that includes a club option for the 2033 season.

Wander FrancoFranco’s deal, which could be worth up to $223 million if the club option is exercised and incentives are reached, was announced Saturday.

“This is a great day for Wander and for the Rays, and is evidence of the mutual trust between Wander and our organization,” Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a statement. “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.”

Tampa Bay won the AL East in 2021, but was eliminated by Boston Red Sox in the ALDS.

The contract is the largest financial commitment to a player in the Rays’ 24-year history. It’s also the biggest deal in major league history for a player with less than a year of major league service time.

Franco is the fifth player with less than a year of big league experience to sign a long-term extension with the team. The others are third baseman Evan Longoria (2008), left-hander Matt Moore (2011), right-hander Chris Archer (2014) and second baseman Brandon Lowe (2019).

 

“The pace at which Wander has developed speaks to his potential,” Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander said in a statement. “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.”

Franco made his major league debut June 22 and hit a three-run homer. He batted .288 with 18 doubles, five triples, seven homers and 39 RBI in 70 games. He finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Franco put together a 43-game on-base streak to tie Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest in major league history among players under 21. He went 7 for 19 (.368) with two homers and four RBI in four postseason games.

Franco would have been eligible for free agency after the 2027 season. He gets a $5 million signing bonus, with $2.5 million payments on Dec. 1 and June 1, 2022.

The yearly salary breakdown is: $1 million in 2022, $2 million in 2023 and 2024, $8 million in 2025, $15 million in 2026, $22 million in 2027 and $25 million in each of the last five seasons. The 2033 club option is $25 million, with a $2 million buyout.

Franco’s deal also includes salary escalators if he finishes in the top five in voting for AL MVP. If he is traded before April 2, 2029, Franco receives a $3 million assignment bonus. It drops to $2 million if he is dealt on or after that date.

Wander Franco Reportedly Agrees to 12-Year Contract with Tampa Bay Rays Worth Up To $223 Million

Wander Franco has a dozen reasons to smile…

The Tampa Bay Rays saw enough in the 70 major league games that 20-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop played to secure a massive contract with him.

Wander FrancoFranco has agreed to a 12-year contract that guarantees him around $185 million, according to ESPN sources. The deal is worth a maximum of $223 million.

That dwarfs the previous record contract for a player with less than one full year of service time. At age 21 in 2019, Ronald Acuna Jr. signed an eight-year, $100 million deal with the Atlanta Braves.

Franco hit .288 with seven homers and 39 RBIs last season and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. He stepped up his game in the postseason, batting .368 with two homers and four RBIs in four games.

Franco wasn’t set to become arbitration eligible until 2024 and couldn’t become a free agent until 2027, but that was under the current collective bargaining agreement, which expires on December 1.

Randy Arozarena Named the American League’s Rookie of the Year

Randy Arozarena is celebrating a special honor…

The 26-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder, last year’s breakout postseason star, has been named this year’s American League Rookie of the Year.

Randy ArozarenaThe Tampa Bay Rays outfielder beat out teammate Wander Franco and right-handed starter Luis Garcia of the Houston Astros for the honor.

Arozarena received 124 points in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, including 22 for first place. Garcia had 63 points and Franco had 30 points.

Arozarena led all rookies with a 4.1 WAR while compiling a .815 OPS. He hit 20 home runs while stealing 20 bases becoming the third rookie (Mike TroutAndrew Benintendi) in the last decade to compile a 20-20 season.

Arozarena made only one error in 119 games played in the outfield. He and first baseman Jose Martinez were acquired in January 2020 from the St. Louis Cardinals for lefty Matthew Liberatore and catcher Edgardo Rodriguez.

Arozarena was the ALCS MVP that season while hitting 11 home runs during the playoffs.

“I know I was favored to be the rookie of the year,” Arozarena said through a translator. “But for me, my mind wasn’t set on the award or winning the award. My mind and my goal was to have another good season and continue what I had done the year before.”

Arozarena is Tampa Bay’s first rookie of the year since outfielder Wil Myers in 2013.

Franco, 20, made a late season run for top rookie honors as he reached base in 43 consecutive games, tied with Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest such streak by a player 20 years old or younger. Franco only played in 70 games after getting called up from the minors in June.

Garcia, 24, was an integral part of the division winning Astros. He appeared in 30 games including making 28 starts while compiling a 3.48 ERA. He gave up just 133 hits in 155.1 innings. He led all AL rookies in innings pitched and strikeouts.

Carlos Correa Hits Career-High 25th Home Run to Help Houston Astros Clinch AL West Title

Carlos Correa has blasted his team to another title…

The 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop hit his career-high 25th home run with a three-run shot, as the Houston Astros clinched the AL West title with a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.

Carlos Correa

It’s the fourth division title in five seasons and 10th overall for the Astros. They’re in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, extending a franchise record.

“That sounds pretty special,” Correa said.

The Astros will open the AL Division Series on October 7 against the Chicago White Sox — home field for that best-of-five matchup is still to be determined. Houston went 5-2 against the White Sox this year.

Houston was a wild-card team last year in manager Dusty Baker‘s first season with the club. So where did this division-clinching victory rate on his list?

“Every time you win, it ranks higher than the last time. And you never get tired of winning,” he said.

Correa’s huge hit in the fourth inning allowed the Astros to put a recent stretch where they dropped five of six games behind them and let the celebration begin at Minute Maid Park.

“We are where we are because of him,” Astros star second baseman Jose Altuve said.

Astros mascot Orbit dashed onto the field waving a huge orange flag that touted the team’s division title as the players cheered and embraced after the final out.

“I’m proud of my team,” Altuve said. “They went out there every single day this season to make this happen.”

Tampa Bay, which has already clinched the top seed in the American League playoffs, put runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth but didn’t score.

Rays rookie Wander Franco went 0-for-4 to snap a 43-game on-base streak, which tied him with Frank Robinson in 1956 for the longest such string in MLB history among players 20 or younger.

 

Yuli Gurriel singled to start Houston’s fourth and Kyle Tucker walked. Correa followed with his towering shot that smashed off the wall in left field to put the Astros up 3-0 against Ryan Yarbrough (9-7).

The charismatic shortstop put a hand to his ear to encourage the crowd as the rounded third base on the home run trot.

Lance McCullers Jr. (13-5) didn’t allow a hit until Ji-Man Choi singled to start the sixth. There were two outs in the inning when Brandon Lowe homered on a ball to right field that sailed just inside the foul pole to cut the lead to 3-2.

Tampa Bay Rays Rookie Wander Franco Makes “Electric” MLB Debut

It appears the sky’s the limit for Wander Franco

In his Major League Baseball debut, the 20-year-old Dominican professional baseball player started at third base, doubled, homered, drove in three runs and showed a flair for the dramatic with a curtain call in the Tampa Bay Rays‘ 9-5, 11-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday.

Wander Franco

Franco, who walked in his first MLB plate appearance in the first inning, tied the game at 5 in the fifth with a 362-foot homer that drove in Kevin Kiermaier and Yandy Diaz.

 

He showed confidence — and some swagger — on the base paths and electrified the crowd at Tropicana Field.

 

Called up from Triple-A earlier in the day, Franco raised his right arm as he neared the plate and lifted both arms while crossing the plate to a roaring crowd when he connected in the fifth off Eduardo Rodriguez and drew his first curtain call in the majors.

 

“In that at-bat I actually knew I was going to hit a home run because that was the pitch I was looking for,” Franco said through an interpreter. “I ended up getting the pitch that I was looking for and I was able to help the team out.”

Franco pointed toward his father, who was at the game, while crossing the plate. His father, meanwhile, reacted with pure joy when the home run was hit.

Franco got the ball back and plans to display it at his home in the Dominican Republic.

“I felt super good,” he said through an interpreter. ”God sent me a surprise with all this.”

Franco even drew a nice ovation when he went on the field to run pregame, and got a partial standing ovation when the Rays’ lineup was announced over the public address system.

“Pretty electric player,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Win or loss, we’re trying to win them all obviously, but it had to be a great day for Wander and his family. A talented player that’s going to be fun to watch in the coming months.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora agreed.

“What a good player he is,” he said. “The way he controls the at-bat for how young he is. They have a special one.”

Franco hit .315 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 39 games this season at Triple-A Durham.

Wander Franco to Make Major League Baseball Debut with the Tampa Bay Rays

It’s a Rays of sunshine for Wander Franco

The 20-year-old Dominican professional baseball player and top MLB prospect is officially headed to the big leagues and will be called up from the minors by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Wander Franco

Franco is a switch-hitting infielder who entered the season ranked as the No. 1 prospect in Major League Baseball, according to ESPN‘s Kiley McDaniel.

In 39 games for Triple-A Durham, Franco hit .315/.367/.586 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs.

He’ll join the Rays for their series against the Boston Red Sox beginning Tuesday in Tampa, Florida.

The Rays are the midst of a six-game losing streak, their longest since an eight-game skid in May 2018, including four walk-off losses in their past five games, the last two of those 10-inning defeats to the Seattle Mariners.

The Rays have hit only .222/.300/.361 in June, ranking 25th in the majors in OPS, so they will turn to Franco to provide some offensive spark. Regarded as one of the best pure hitting prospects in recent decades, Franco has a career minor league average of .332 with more walks than strikeouts. He has thrived in Triple-A East, ranking 10th in OPS despite skipping Double-A while being the youngest player in the league.

Franco has played primarily shortstop at Durham, starting 28 games there, while also playing some third base and second base. Rookie Taylor Walls has been the primary shortstop for the Rays since they traded Willy Adames to the Milwaukee Brewers, but Walls has hit .237 with one home run in 26 games. Joey Wendle started at shortstop Sunday, but his best position is third base, which should clear shortstop for Franco if Walls is the player sent down to open a roster spot for Franco.

“Franco has been the best prospect in baseball for almost two years because of his unique combination of pedigree, tools and performance. He was the best international prospect in his signing class at least two years before he signed and is the best prospect baseball has seen in at least five years,” McDaniel wrote in his preseason top 100 rankings.

Franco will debut at 20 years and 113 days old, which will make him the second-youngest player in Rays history behind B.J. Upton, who debuted in 2004 at 19 years and 347 days.

Wander Franco, the MLB’s Top Prospect, Added to Tampa Bay Ray’s 60-Man Player Pool

There’s a ray(s) of sunshine for Wander Franco

The 19-year-old Dominican professional baseball player’s named has been added tothe Tampa Bay Rays ‘60-man player pool.

wander-franco

Sunday was the deadline for teams to submit player pools, although additions can be made later. Many teams announced pools well below the 60-player limit.

Franco, who plays shortstop, is ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. He spent last season at Class A, so it would be quite a jump for him to contribute in the majors in the immediate future, but putting him in the player pool makes him an option for the Rays — and could help his development in a year when the coronavirus shut down the minor leagues.

Pitcher Brendan McKay and infielder Vidal Brujan, two other top Tampa Bay prospects, also made the pool.

“They are some of our more advanced prospects,” says Rays general manager Erik Neander. “Certainly on the position player side that’s where things went and why Wander was a leading candidate for a spot.”

Franco signed with the Rays in July 2017. He made his professional debut in 2018 with the Princeton Rays. In 2018, at only 17 years old, Franco was named the 2018 Appalachian League Player of the Year after hitting .374/.445/.636 with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs over 245 plate appearances for Princeton .

Prior to the 2019 season, Franco was ranked as the fourth best prospect in baseball by Baseball America. He began the season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. He was promoted to the Charlotte Stone Crabs on June 25. He was named to the 2019 All-Star Futures Game.

Wander Franco to Play for Dominican Republic Team for Olympic Qualifing Tournament

Wander Franco is hoping to hit the field at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The 19-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop in the Tampa Bay Raysorganization, the top prospect in Major League Baseball, and longtime star Jose Bautista plan to play for the Dominican Republic as the country tries to qualify for the Olympics later this month, according to ESPN.

Wander Franco

Franco, who turned 19 on Sunday, would strengthen a Dominican team jockeying for one of the remaining two qualifying spots in baseball’s return to the Olympics after a 12-year hiatus. He and Bautista, 39, would round out a roster that faces strong competition at the Americas Qualifying Eventon March 22-26 in Tempe and Surprise, Arizona.

Among the teams vying to win the tournament and its single qualifying spot: The Dominican Republic, the United States, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. 

The winner will join host nation Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea, who already have qualified, while the second- and third-place teams at the event will have an opportunity to lock up the sixth spot at the final qualifying tournament. 

Originally scheduled to be held in Taiwan from April 1-5, the tournament was postponed Sunday because of coronavirus fears until June 17-21 — barely a month before the Tokyo Games’ opening ceremony.

The additions of Franco and Arizona Diamondbacksinfielder Geraldo Perdomo, 20, to the Dominican roster will give the team perhaps the most dynamic middle infield in the tournament. Franco is a transcendent talent who evaluators believe could play in the major leagues today — a powerful, speedy, contact-oriented switch hitter whose slick glove and strong arm allow him to patrol shortstop with aplomb.

While not as highly touted, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Perdomo is an elite athlete whose eye and bat-to-ball talents were rare for someone who played all of last season at 19. A natural shortstop, he played about half his games during the Arizona Fall League at second base and will return there for the Dominican team.

Bautista is expected to play first base, a position he manned 30 times in more than 1,650 major league games during which he hit 344 home runs and drove in nearly 1,000 runs. He last played in the major leagues in 2018, though he spent this winter working out as a pitcher in hopes of returning as a two-way player, sources said. Bautista, who represented the D.R. in the 2009 and 2017 World Baseball Classic, may not pitch in the qualifier but is expected to play a significant role as the D.R. faces Puerto Rico, the United States and Nicaragua during the tournament’s round-robin first round. The two best teams from each four-team pool will face off in a final round that awards the winner and keeps the second- and third-place teams alive.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed last week to allow players who are on teams’ 40-man rosters but not active in the major leagues to join their countries’ qualifying-event teams. The potential infusion of talent could theoretically help a team like the United States, which suffered an embarrassing loss to Mexico at the Premier12tournament in November that prevented Team USAfrom qualifying.