Yes, Franco was worth the investment

by Gary Shelton on November 25, 2021

in general

Franco is suddenly a wealthy man.

Thursday, 4 a.m.

There was a time, back when the world was in black and white, when the Rays were simply giddy in announcing they had signed Evan Longoria to a 10-year extension.

It was party time, pat-each-other-on-the-backs time. After all, this was Longo, the best-ever play in the history of the franchise. Why, he was a bargain. He was the big deal of the day.

And five years later, he was gone, traded for a whole lot of nothing.

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There was a time, back when dinosaurs were puppies, that giving a six=year extension to Brandon Lowe seemed like a fine idea.

After all, he was a second baseman with muscle in his bat. He was going to be able to take over games. Soon, his contact wouldn't seem out of whack. Right?

And now, Lowe is fresh off two post-seasons in which he has become invisible.

Then there was a time, back when Van Gogh decided he had too many ears. that it seemed perfectly reasonable to hand Kevin Kiermaier a whopping new contact.

Why not? His defense was inarguable, and he was a good clubhouse guy, and well, his hitting was bound to get better. Right?

Yet, here the Rays sit, staring at paying Kiermaier $12 million to play next season. It is a contract the team would love to get out from under.

I mention all of this in the after glow of the team signing Wander Franco to a whopping new contract that will keep him on the team's roster (perhaps) for 11 more seasons.

Just remember this: The Rays are smart, but they aren't perfect.

Hey, don't get me wrong. I think Franco is terrific, and if I was going to take a chance with a player, it would be he. I think he'll be great. There are no guarantees, but Wander is a heck of a bet.

Then, there is this: At this stage, it's tingly whenever the Rays pay anyone. Theirs is a history of dodging contracts, of getting what they can out of a player before his big-money years and then moving on. And as disheartening for the fans as it may be to see players like Longo and David Price and Carl Crawford leave town, it's a workable business model.

So why is Franco different?

Well, he's different because he's so darned good. Start with that. Franco has been everything as advertised, a charismatic, talented kid who is a delight to watch play. The thought of him being traded should send shivers up everyone's spine.

But the skeptical part of me has to wonder this, too.

I wonder how the news of Wander will play in Montreal?

Or, for that matter, in St. Petersburg?

Do you think that could be part of the deal? To convince politicians in both towns that the team has a young star wrapped up? There is the House That Ruth Built; could we be on the brink of two houses that Wander will build?
"Look, Montreal! All you have to do is build a stadium! Look, St. Pete. You don't want to let this kid get away, do you?"

Either way, the Rays are a more inviting team with Wander than without him.

I've said it before: I hate the twin-cities idea with every fiber of my being. To me, it's worse than a team leaving. Think of it like this: A half a sandwich doesn't sound that good if you've had full one. If you don't have anything, however, it's tempting.

Again, it's hard to rip a cheap team for wise spending. And if there was one player you want to see in a Rays uniform in 2028, it's Franco. I'm convinced he's the real deal, and considering the going rate for stars, I think he's worth the investment.

Heck, another year like last year, he may even deserve a raise.

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