Rays and Manuel Margot agree to two-year extension

10:36 p.m.: Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times provides the breakdown, with Margot earning $7 million in 2023, $10 million in 2024, followed by a $12 million mutual option for 2025 that comes with a $2 million buyout.

2:21 p.m.: The Rays would be in agreement with the outfielder Manuel Margot on a two-year, $19 million extension, pending a physical. The terms will begin in 2023 and will buy out Margot’s first two seasons of free agent eligibility. The 27-year-old was on track to hit the open market for the first time after this season. He and the club have already agreed to a salary of $5.6 million for his final year eligible for arbitration, and that would not be affected by this extension. Margot is represented by Wasserman.

Margot has spent the past two seasons in Tampa after leaving the Padres on a 2019-20 offseason trade. In both years, he posted slightly below average numbers at home plate. Margot had 623 plate appearances in 166 games as Ray, posting a .258/.317/.375 cumulative line with 11 homers. He did well to put the ball in play, striking out just 15.2% of his plate appearances, but Margot neither hit with much power nor made many goals.

Although Margot has been a regular hitter for most of his career, he is an excellent defensive outfielder. Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating ranked him as a most glovemaker in his five full seasons in the big league. This has been true regardless of where it is suited. Margot is more than capable of handling center field, and was downright excellent when moving to right field in deference to Kevin Kiermaier last season. No outfielder did better than Margot in Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric, which pegged her at 16 plays above par.

Tampa Bay has lacked strong outfield defenses for years. This is largely due to the presence of an otherworldly centre-back in Kiermaier, but players like Margot, Brett Phillips and Randy Arozarena did well on their own. The Rays’ front office apparently emphasizes outfield defense, so it’s not too surprising that they want to keep Margot in the fold.

The Rays are expected to open the 2022 campaign with a franchise-record payroll of around $83 million, according to Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. However, there are only around $15 million guaranteed for next season. The Rays will have another umpire-heavy class, but Tampa Bay is never afraid to move arb-eligible players to younger, more affordable options. Last night’s exchange of Austin Meadows to the Tigers fit that bill, and it provided an opportunity for the best prospect Josh Lowe to get an extended major league look.

Lowe, Margot and Arozarena now appear to be in place as Tampa Bay’s first outfielder in 2023. Kiermaier is heading into the guaranteed final season of his contract. He’s controllable next year via a $13 million club option, but the Rays could look to trade him or just buy the option if they settle for Margot as an everyday center back. Tampa Bay reportedly explored potential offers from Kiermaier for a few seasons, but they have yet to pull the trigger on such a decision.

Margot’s extension removes one of the best centre-backs from the upcoming free agent market. Brandon Nimmo is poised to headline this fairly thin class, with Kiermaier being the second-best option if his option is denied. Beyond this duo, utility Henri Hernandez, Tyler Naquin (which is better placed in a corner) and veterans Lorenzo Cain and Jackie Bradley Jr. seem to be the best players available.

Tenchy Rodriguez first reported that the Rays and Margot have agreed to a two-year, $19 million extension. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times clarified that the deal would buy out his first two free agent seasons.

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