Tampa Bay Rays Sign Wander Franco To Massive Deal, What Now Pittsburgh Pirates?
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The Tampa Bay Rays shook up the baseball world just a couple of days before Thanksgiving by signing uber prospect Wander Franco to a stunning 12-year $233-million contract.
Yes the same Rays who have repeatedly found themselves in contention with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball now has a player who has a $200+ million contract.
Franco was the top prospect in baseball for back-to-back seasons before making his major league debut in 2021, and quickly showed why. The shortstop broke Mickey Mantle's consecutive on-base streak for a player 20-years old or younger, finishing with 43 games straight.
He also finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, and finished with a 3.5 WaR (according to Baseball-Reference) despite only registering 308 plate appearances.
The future is certainly bright, and despite the $18 million average annual value (AAV), there is a good chance that this is an absolute steal for the Rays, and Franco can enter free agency still at 31-years-old.
So what does that have to do with the Pittsburgh Pirates?
Well, the easy answer would be that it gives them almost no excuse to not payout their star players when the time comes around.
The Franco deal has instantly sparked the conversation to sign center fielder Bryan Reynolds to a long-term deal, locking him in as the team's franchise player.
It would be a great move for both sides, Reynolds finds some stability and the Pirates lock up their best player.
Reynolds not only was an All-Star starter, but also finished the with a .300 average, 25 home runs and was a finalist for a Gold Glove and Sliver Slugger. His value continues to climb, and if he continues his accent in 2022, what it is going to cost to sign him to a long-term deal is really going to climb.
Tampa Bay has really set the bar for small market teams, where has in years prior, you felt that a move like this wasn't possible. I believe there was even a point on twitter where I mentioned that Franco was eventually likely to get traded at some point based on how the Rays operate.
You can toss that out the window now.
The thought with small market teams was always based on drafting and developing your own players, getting the most out of the star players while they are on the cheaper side and then trade them before they hit free agency to retool your system.
Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
Two trips to the World Series for the Rays makes it hard to argue its effectiveness.
But now that the team that has found a patent on finding new innovative ways to win has reached deeper into their pockets than though was possible, other team's fanbases will be looking for their respective organizations to do the same.
The main issue I have with automatically calling for Ben Cherington to start locking up some of their prospects to long term, team friendly deals is that it seems sometimes people try and make it sound easier than it actually is.
Outside of Cherington pulling a Don Corleone/Luca Brasi type of "offer he can't refuse", Reynolds or any player still has to put his own signature on the contract.
If you are a young player coming up in the Pirates system, are you signing a long-term contract with them, especially a team-friendly one?
The Rays have a long proven track record of being a competitor, so for at least the next 11 years (last year is an option) Franco knows there is a good chance that he's going to be on a contender the entire time.
Pittsburgh has had a three year window since 1993 where they have been playoff contenders.
There's a difference.
So while many have been asking why shouldn't the Pirates go the same route that the Rays did with Franco, the real question should be, why should the players?
At least not right now. While I would love the security that would come with that, if I'm confident enough in myself, why would I take less from a team that hasn't been able to put a winning team on the field for any consistent stretch of time?
I'd be getting paid less than what I'm worth AND stuck on a losing team.
Even if I'm Reynolds, at my current trajectory aren't I better off testing the open market at this point? Aren't I better off taking the year-by-year approach and if it doesn't unfold the way I want go a get paid in free agency?
If the Pirates are further along and showing signs of winning, maybe my answer is different.
So, while the Rays signing Franco is great for both sides, until the Pirates' rebuild starts to come together they are two completely different situations and can't really be compared to each other.
Maybe someday they will be in the same boat, and the player's in the lower levels of the minors can reap that benefit but until then, the Pirates still have work to do to be able to eat at the same table as the Rays.
Follow me on Twitter @__Murphy88.