We have just a few weeks of exciting hot stove action while the cold reality of a likely work stoppage lurks. We've seen a few years of smaller labor skirmishes that have undercut joyful moments with financial truths. (It's his big league debut! Ugh, but they manipulated his service time?)
But this week, finally, we have reached an oasis.
Wander Franco's new 12-year, $182 million extension with the Rays is the rare win-win-win-win for the fans, the player, the team and the league: Human-explosion-of-joy Franco is generationally wealthy, the Rays keep their franchise player through age 32, and the league sees a young star continuing to play for its best-run franchise (at a time when it could really use a morale boost). Let's dive in to how each of these three contingencies sees this precedent-setting deal:
For more casual baseball fans, the way a young player is paid by his team -- if drastically simplified, and with the caveat that these rules might change this winter with a new collective bargaining agreement -- goes like this: basically just the league minimum ($570,500 for the 2021 season) for the first three years of his big league career, then three years of arbitration in which the player gets escalating percentages of his actual market value (in a convoluted process you shouldn't care about). He gets to be a free agent after six-plus seasons (it's often six full seasons and a small part of a seventh). Franco, who's 20, just had that small part in 2021, so without this extension, he would have six full seasons in which he would get paid less than he's worth, then would hit free agency for his age-27 season.
That happens to be the same situation Carlos Correa is in right now: a 27-year-old who should get around $300 million in free agency. When you break down Correa's year-by-year salary, this is what it looks like: