Shortstop Wander Franco has quickly become one of MLB’s best players this season and the Tampa Bay Rays are wasting no time locking him up. The club are closing in on signing Franco for a record-breaking contact extension and Jim Bowden of CBS Sports HQ reports the deal is expected to be in the range of $ 225 million over 12 years. The team has yet to confirm the news.
The current record-breaking contract for a player with less than a full year of service is Ronald Acuña Jr.’s eight-year, $ 100 million contract with defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves, a record Franco is on the point of beating. Here are the biggest contracts ever given to players with less than a full year of service (not counting signed players from Japan or Korea):
- Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves: 8 years and $ 100 million
- Luis Robert, White Sox: 6 years and $ 50 million (signed before MLB debut)
- Eloy Jiménez, White Sox: 6 years and $ 43 million (signed before MLB debut)
- Paul DeJong, Cardinals: 6 years and $ 26 million
- Chris Archer, Rays: 6 years and $ 25.5 million
The contract guarantees Franco $ 182 million over 11 years with a club option of $ 25 million for a 12th season, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. There are also pay increases related to the MVP voting finishes from 2028. The contract does not include a no-trade clause (the Rays have never granted a no-trade clause), although Franco does receive a no-trade clause. $ 3 million bonus if traded.
The 11-year term would cover the remaining six years of Franco’s squad control (three pre-officiating and three officiating) plus five years as a free agent, with a club option for a sixth year as a free agent. It would also cover his 21- to 31-year-old seasons, meaning Franco would still be vying for a big free agent contract once that deal expires. If the club option is chosen, Franco would become a free agent at the same age as Starling Marte, for reference.
Franco, 21 in March, was the No.1 consensus prospect in baseball in each of the past two seasons. He was called up to make his MLB debut in June and became an impact player almost immediately, hitting 0.288 / 0.347 / 0.463 with seven homers in 70 games. Franco has only struck five at bat in his last 31 games and has scored 7 for 19 (0.368) in four playoff games. He also tied Hall of Fame record Frank Robinson by reaching base in 43 straight games at the age of 20.
As much as a single player can be a centerpiece for the Rays, Franco is already the face of the franchise, and locking him up was the only way to keep him long term, realistically. Tampa will never win a free agent bidding war for an elite player, and they have a long history of swapping players when they start to get expensive through arbitration. Franco could have ended up on the trading block in 3-4 years without this contract.
The Rays have of course a long history of locking up their best players early in their careers. They signed Evan Longoria to a six-year contract worth $ 17.5 million six days after starting his big-league career, then the record for a player with less than a year of service. Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Lowe, Matt Moore and Blake Snell are among the others to sign long-term with Tampa.
Franco’s contract is by far the largest in Rays history in terms of total guarantee, surpassing Longoria’s $ 100 million six-year extension in 2012. The average annual value of $ 16.55 million of Franco is, however, slightly lower than Longoria’s $ 16.67 million. Kiermaier ($ 53.5 million) and Snell ($ 50 million) are the only other players to have signed deals worth at least $ 50 million with Tampa.
Over the past three seasons, the Rays have won more games than any other team in the American League, and last season they won AL East with a 100-62 record. The franchise is still on the hunt for its very first World Series championship, but it has a very impressive young core even outside of Franco, as well as a top notch farm system. They are able to fight for several more years.
It should be noted that Franco’s extension extends beyond 2027, when the Tropicana Field team’s lease expires. The Rays continue to explore a two-city solution with Tampa and Montreal, which doesn’t sound all that realistic. Wherever they play in 2028, the Rays know they can open their new stadium with Franco as a key player.
The Padres signed Fernando Tatis Jr. Jr. on a 14-year, $ 341 million contract in February. He signed when he was four years off free agency, not six like Franco, which gives him more influence and earning potential. National prodigy Juan Soto (three years in free agency) and Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Jr. (four years later) could be next in line to sign a huge extension.