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Wander Franco, Rays closing in on massive contract extension for 20-year-old star

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Shortstop Wander Franco quickly emerged as one of MLB‘s best players this season and the Tampa Bay Rays are wasting no time locking him up. The club is closing in on signing Franco to a record-setting contact extension and Jim Bowden of CBS Sports HQ reports the deal is expected to be in the 12-year, $225 million range. The team has not yet confirmed the news.

The current record contract for a player with less than one full year of service time is Ronald Acuña Jr.‘s eight-year, $100 million contract with the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves, a record Franco is poised to smash. Here are the largest ever contracts given to players with less than a full year of service time (not including players signed from Japan or Korea):

  1. Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves: 8 years and $100 million
  2. Luis Robert, White Sox: 6 years and $50 million (signed prior to MLB debut)
  3. Eloy Jiménez, White Sox: 6 years and $43 million (signed prior to MLB debut)
  4. Paul DeJong, Cardinals6 years and $26 million
  5. Chris Archer, Rays: 6 years and $25.5 million

The contract guarantees Franco $182 million across 11 years with a $25 million club option for a 12th season, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan. There also salary escalators tied to finishes in the MVP voting beginning in 2028. The contract does not include a no-trade clause (the Rays have never given out a no-trade clause), though Franco will receive a $3 million bonus if traded.

The 11-year term would cover Franco’s remaining six years of team control (three pre-arbitration and three arbitration) plus five free agent years, with a club option for a sixth free agent year. It would also cover his age 21-31 seasons, meaning Franco would still be in line for a large free agent contract once this deal expires. If the club option is picked up, Franco would become a free agent at the same age Starling Marte is right now, for reference.

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Franco, 21 in March, was the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball going into each of the last two seasons. He was called up to make his MLB debut in June and became an impact player almost immediately, hitting .288/.347/.463 with seven home runs in 70 games. Franco struck out only five times in his final 31 games, and he went 7 for 19 (.368) in four postseason games. He also tied Hall of Famer Frank Robinson’s record by reaching base in 43 straight games as a 20-year-old.

As much as any single player can be a centerpiece for the Rays, Franco is already the face of the franchise, and locking him up was the only way to keep him long-term, realistically. Tampa will never win a free agent bidding war for an elite player, and they have a long history of trading players when they start to get expensive through arbitration. Franco could have found himself on the trade block in 3-4 years if not for this contract.`

The Rays of course have a long history of locking up their best players early in their careers. They famously signed Evan Longoria to a six-year contract worth $17.5 million six days into his big league career, then the record for a player with less than one year of service time. Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Lowe, Matt Moore, and Blake Snell are among the others to sign long-term with Tampa.

Franco’s contract is far and away the largest in Rays history in terms of total guarantee, beating out Longoria’s six-year, $100 million extension in 2012. Franco’s reported $16.55 million average annual value is just under Longoria’s $16.67 million, however. Kiermaier ($53.5 million) and Snell ($50 million) are the only others plays to sign deals worth at least $50 million with Tampa.

Over the last three seasons the Rays have won more games than any other American League team, and this past season they won the AL East with a 100-62 record. The franchise is still searching for its first ever World Series championship, but they have a very impressive young core even outside Franco, plus a top farm system. They are in position to contend for several more years.

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It should be noted Franco’s extension extends beyond 2027, when the team’s Tropicana Field lease expires. The Rays continue to explore a two-city solution with Tampa and Montreal, which doesn’t seem all that realistic. Wherever they’re playing come 2028, the Rays know they will be able to open their new stadium will Franco as their cornerstone player.

The Padres signed Fernando Tatis Jr. Jr. to a 14-year, $341 million contract this February. He signed when he was four years away from free agency, not six like Franco, giving him more leverage and earning potential. Nationals wunderkind Juan Soto (three years from free agency) and Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Jr. (four years away) could be next in line to sign a huge extension.





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Aaron Rodgers to the Jets? Giants' free agency options & Mike McCarthy's future with Cowboys | Ask Jay Glazer

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Jay Glazer discussed whether Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will head to the New York Jets, the New York Giants’ free agency options, and breaks down Mike McCarthy’s future with the Dallas Cowboys.



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Super Bowl LVII: Chiefs and Eagles will meet for title in Arizona

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Patrick Mahomes finally got the best of Joe Burrow. 

All he needed was a little shove.

Harrison Butker made a 45-yard field goal with 3 seconds left — after Cincinnati’s Joseph Ossai was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for shoving Mahomes after he was out of bounds — and the Chiefs beat the Bengals 23-20 in the AFC championship game to make it back to the Super Bowl.

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Kansas City will face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona. 

The Eagles opened as a 1 1/2-point favourite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

There are no shortage of storylines: Kansas City coach Andy Reid goes against his old team — which he led to Super Bowl 39 — in a game that’s also the first matchup of Black starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl with Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts. 

On top of that, there’s a brother-against-brother showdown between Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Philadelphia center Jason Kelce.

“Officially done being a Chiefs fan this season!! ” Jason Kelce tweeted immediately after the Chiefs won.

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The Chiefs have been making deep postseason runs on a regular basis ever since Mahomes came to town as the franchise quarterback. 

This was their fifth straight trip to the AFC title game and will be their third Super Bowl appearance in that span. They beat the 49ers for the NFL title in the 2019 season, but lost to the Bucs the following season.

The Eagles clobbered the Niners 31-7 in the NFC title game earlier Sunday. They’ve looked dominant in the playoffs so far, also beating the New York Giants 38-7 in the divisional round.

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Philadelphia is back in the Super Bowl five years after beating the New England Patriots 41-33 on Feb. 4, 2018. 

Now a mostly new generation of Eagles — led by coach Nick Sirianni and Hurts — will come to Arizona to try and win another title.

The Chiefs-Bengals game looked as if it was going to overtime before Ossai’s ill-advised play. Mahomes — who was playing on a badly sprained ankle — was running to get a first down in the final seconds as Ossai desperately tried to track him down. 

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Mahomes was out of bounds when Ossai gave him a shove, sending both players tumbling to the turf. The ensuing 15-yard penalty was enough to push Butker into field-goal range and the kick split the uprights.

A distraught Ossai sat on the bench with his head in his hands, well after the game was over.

The Bengals and Chiefs were playing for the fourth time in less than 400 days and Cincinnati had won the previous three meetings — all by three points. This one was decided by a field goal, too, and all Burrow could do was watch.

The Bengals lost to the Rams in last year’s Super Bowl and they just missed another chance at returning to the title game.

NO DRAMA IN NFC

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Oddsmakers thought fans were in for some close conference championship games. 

They’ll have to settle for a 50% success rate.

The NFC title game was a blowout. Niners rookie quarterback Brock Purdy was injured in the first quarter when Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick drilled his right arm on a play that was ruled a fumble. The Eagles recovered that fumble and the injury proved to be a game-changer.

With Purdy hurt, San Francisco turned to 36-year-old journeyman Josh Johnson, who couldn’t do much before eventually leaving with a concussion. Purdy came back into the game, but could barely throw, and the Eagles cruised to the win.

The 49ers dealt with quarterback injuries all season, losing Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo before turning to Purdy, a seventh-round draft pick out of Iowa State. Purdy stepped into a starter’s role in December and won his first seven games before Sunday’s injury. 

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Here’s a few things to know about the upcoming Super Bowl:

WHAT’S THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE?

FEB. 5

Pro Bowl flag-football game, 3 p.m. EST, ABC/ESPN

FEB. 12

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Super Bowl LVII, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 6:30 p.m. EST, Fox

RIHANNA AT HALFTIME

Rihanna will take center stage as the headline act for this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.

With sales of more than 250 million records worldwide, Rihanna ranks as one of the best-selling female artists ever. Her most recent album was 2016′s “Anti.” Rihanna last performed publicly at the Grammy Awards in 2018.

The singer said she turned down a similar opportunity for the 2019 Super Bowl that was ultimately headlined by Maroon 5. At the time, many artists voiced support for Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who protested police brutality against Black people and minorities by kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

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Country music star Chris Stapleton will sing the national anthem, while R&B legend Babyface will perform “America the Beautiful.” 

PRO BOWL MAKEOVER

The Pro Bowl is getting a major makeover this year after the NFL eliminated its full-contact all-star game and replaced it with weeklong skills competitions and a flag football game.

The flag football contest is Feb. 5 in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium, one week before the Super Bowl.

The Pro Bowl debuted in January 1951 in Los Angeles and stayed there for 21 seasons before the game moved to different cities from 1972-80. Hawaii hosted from 1980-2009, and the game has had several homes in the years since, including Miami, Phoenix, Orlando and Las Vegas.

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“The game was kind of silly, I guess,” Saints two-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk said back in September when the news was announced. “Guys weren’t out there playing true football. Hopefully, there’ll be a lot of interactions with the fans and guys will get their opportunity to go out there and show some skills. I could see that being a good change.”

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Ohio State hires James Laurinaitis & Tennessee extends Huepel's contract | Joel Klatt Show

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Joel Klatt discussed Ohio State Buckeyes hiring former linebacker James Laurinaitis as a defensive GA. Joel believes that Laurinaitis can help transform the defense into a powerhouse like the offense is for wide receivers. He then discussed the Tennessee Volunteers giving Josh Huepel a contract extension after their 11-win season.



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