It has obviously been in a hurry in the aftermath of the Tampa Bay Rays signing Wander Franco into a deal that could be worth as much as $ 223 million and keep him in Tampa for 12 years, according to reports. The 20-year-old star will receive a major upgrade of what he would have done in the next three years when he would not even have been entitled to arbitration. He will probably make more money than he would have done in the first year, maybe even in the second of the arbitration, but who knows if that’s what the system will be during the new CBA. On the surface, and if you are inclined to always huff what Rays sells as the MOST THOUGHTFUL FRANCHISE in MLB, then it can seem like a win-win for everyone.
Pump the brakes, just a little.
First, the Rays happen to be the team that kept Franco in the mines long enough to get his tenure back one year. It was not as naked as other teams have done before, and they always had the protection that Franco could not play in the minors in 2020 due to the pandemic. But given how Franco tied Triple-A pitchers during his short time there, it was pretty clear he was ready for the majors earlier this year. Sure, 40 games does not sound like a ton on Triple-A, and it will be impossible to argue that Franco should have been on the roses after only 52 games on high-A 2019. But you know exactly what would have happened if things had run according to a normal schedule.
Secondly, these are still the rays. Rays have cried poor thing and blamed their presence for how they have had to do things. And there are complications with The Trop, no doubt. But how hard can Rays fans invest in the team with the knowledge that every player they get stuck on is likely to move on quickly with how the Rays do things? Even Evan Longoria was replaced, the only guy they tried to make a basic play. Blake Snell another. Chris Archer in the past. The Archer deal obviously went well for the Rays, the Longoria deal did not, and we’ll see if the Snell deal. The common theme was that all three got points before they wanted what they were worth. Fans do not buy tickets to dream of future prospects they will get for the players they watch on the field. That does not mean that the Rays need to run on sentimentality, but you can see where fans may not be as connected to the team as they are elsewhere.
Most of all, the Rays are currently trying to hold two cities hostage over a new stadium. They have to sell something to fans in either Tampa or Montreal. There must be a face to it. Snell is gone. Franco is the logical choice. While it’s refreshing at some level to see Rays invest in any, Franco’s deal is almost certainly as much of an investment in their stadium as it is in Franco’s. When you press for a stadium and public funds to get it, people need to know what they will see when they enter it. Franco’s contract promises so much.
Had the Rays not been in the middle of this stadium debate at the moment, I have no doubt that they would be happy to let Franco play for the small sum that the players receive before they even reach their arbitration years.
It is nice that the rays have an identifiable star for what seems to be a foreseeable future. Save your praise until we see how the stadium is doing. Know the source.