The Rays have on many occasions been willing to sign promising early year players longer term, paying them more in team controlled years in exchange for some cost control in at least a few free agent years. Contracts with Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, James Shields, Chris Archer, Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Lowe all followed this pattern.
But the player in question was never twenty years old, the number of years was never double digits, and the total dollar amount has never hit $200 million.
So when press reports about Wander’s contract, which could be for as long as 12 years and worth up to $233 million, baseball pundits reacted. And reacted, mostly, with enthusiasm.
Our beat writers Adam Berry and Mark Topkin are, as of this writing, still describing the deal as tentative (apparently Wander must pass a physical). But Topkin did note its historic nature:
If completed, deal is largest in #Rays history and for any MLB player with less than 1 year service time.— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) November 23, 2021
Also a significant accomplishment for #Rays to have Franco under control for more than a decade. https://t.co/SWglGd9AZZ
Most commentators recognized the mutual benefit of this contract. Andy McCullough and the Athletic have the best news of all as they give thumbs up to this deal: Rays fans can comfortably buy a Franco jersey!
At ESPN, David Schoenfield also thinks Franco is well worth it, and notes that a long term contract doesn’t necessarily mean a long tenure with the Rays, since the Rays have indeed signed and later traded players (he mentions David Price, but Price of course never signed an extension).
The rare win-win-win for the player, team, and league. https://t.co/9VmCuDQxrI— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) November 23, 2021
There were also some who focused on Wander’s great slice of 2021 and his high ceiling:
this started as a Wander stat...but it's also very much a Buxton, Robert & Mookie stat!!— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) November 23, 2021
Here's the list of seasons since 1920, min 300 PA, where a 20-or-younger player had an OPS+ as high as Franco just did.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) November 23, 2021
Unless you get beaned like Tony C, the floor here is "All-Star caliber," and the ceiling is ... well, there is no ceiling.https://t.co/7LYYtgxWJC pic.twitter.com/pxpEw1x6yx
And of course we can remember highlights of his career thus far.
Big moments in Durham:
November 23, 2021
And in St. Petersburg
WANDER FRANCO WELCOME TO THE MAJOR LEAGUES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/SnKSlMjEU7— Dominik (@domhunt18) June 23, 2021
And of course his teammates are looking forward to hanging out with him in whatever new luxury car he buys!
Looks like im off the hook for team dinners LOL …congrats to wander franco and his new deal! Setting the market for my son Karter 20 yrs down the road!! Shout out to you nino!— Kevin Kiermaier (@KKiermaier39) November 23, 2021
We’ll add new links to this as we see them.