During the Rays 2020 postseason run in which their season was capped off by a six-game World Series loss, Manuel Margot was regularly at the center of the action.
During the ALCS, Margot made an awe inspiring catch as he dashed towards foul territory holding his glove out over his eyes to shade them from the sun, then stuck his glove out in full extension, leaped and crashed over the at least 5 foot wall and took an even further fall to the cement ground below.
This catch is forever etched in the minds of Rays fans; however, Margot is much more than a defensive extraordinaire. Over the course of his two seasons with the Rays, Margot has hit .258/.317/.375 — with 2021 being a breakout campaign of sorts, as it was the best offensive season of his five full seasons in the big leagues, including a 112 wRC+ against left handed pitchers.
All the while, off the field, Margot has been developing into a leader in the clubhouse.
In a recent article for the Tampa Bay Times, Marc Topkin wrote about how Margot has served as a mentor for his fellow Spanish-speaking teammates, with Luis Patiño saying he is like, “the papa of the group.” Although he is just 27 years old, that still places him as among the oldest players in the Rays locker room as well as one of the most experienced with parts of 6 big league seasons under his belt.
Margot’s teammates approach him for assistance in many facets of the life of being a big leaguer, and Margot is happy to offer his guidance.
“I’m pretty proud of having that role. With the experience that I’ve had and some of the more time I’ve had compared to some of the other Latin guys, that’s the position I’ve fallen into.”
It’d be hard to find a better player suited to be a mentor to the Rays younger players as Margot has experienced many things over his decade in professional baseball.
During the 2011 international signing period, Baseball America tabbed him as one of the best athletes of the entire class and was dubbed as a potential five-tool player. The Boston Red Sox signed him, and put him on the fast track within their system. By the end of the 2014 season, Margot would be ranked as the 7th best prospect in Boston’s system.
On the cusp of the 2015 season, Margot was the centerpiece of a deal that brought Craig Kimbrel to Boston. Margot was immediately thought of as the center fielder of the future for the San Diego Padres, while he was still just 20 years old.
Margot made his big league debut just one season later at 21 years of age, playing in just 10 games. Then, in 2017, Margot was given his first full time opportunity in the big leagues and he performed solidly for the Padres, hitting .263/.313/.409 with 13 HR and 17 stolen bases, accruing 1.9 fWAR over 126 games played.
However, instead of his offensive production improving on his rookie campaign, his contributions at the plate declined in 2018 and 2019 (82 wRC+), however his defense was still exceptional (13 DRS).
During the 2019-2020 offseason, the Rays came a calling for a duo of Padres outfielders with Margot being packaged along with Hunter Renfroe and sent to Tampa Bay.
Since joining the Rays, Margot has found a niche within the organization, serving in any capacity the team asks of him. Initially, that was to serve as part of a platoon in the outfield splitting time with Yoshi Tsutsugo and Austin Meadows. However, over the course of the season, Margot showcased he was able to handle right-handed pitching while Tsutsugo and Meadows both struggled, thus opening the door to more playing time.
Now, the Rays have shown they’ve been paying attention to Margot’s seemingly under-the-radar contributions to the team. In his final year of arbitration, the Rays and Margot agreed to a one year deal, paying the outfielder $5.6M for the 2022 season. However, since that agreement, Margot and the Rays have reached an agreement on a contract extension.
The contract extension is a three year deal that would pay Margot $7M in 2023, $10M in 2024, and then a mutual option for $12M in 2025, with a $2M buyout, giving Margot a $19M guarantee. The contract makes Margot one of only three players under contract for 2025, beside Wander Franco (who is under contract through 2032) and Brandon Lowe (who has two club options in 2025 and 2026).
The most remarkable aspect of the contract might be Margot receiving the rare mutual option, something that is unheard of in the Rays era of contract dealings, which shows how much the Rays respect Margot and what he brings to the team.
In a statement following reports of the extension, Rays GM Peter Bendix summarized everything Margot brings to the team as follows:
“The quality of his at-bats, his outfield defense, and aggression and instincts on the bases make him a well-rounded player. In addition to how he helps us on the field, he’s a great teammate and clubhouse presence, and has grown into a leadership role on our club”
By rewarding Margot with the contract extension, the Rays are showing that they believe Margot can be a full time outfielder, and should remain an influential part of the team and a clubhouse leader.