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Yandy Díaz extension: Rays agree to three-year, $24 million deal with infielder

The Tampa Bay Rays have handed out another multi-year contract extension. The Rays and third baseman Yandy Díaz have agreed to a three-year contract worth $24 million, the team announced Tuesday. The deal includes a club option for 2026. Tampa signed lefty Jeffrey Springs (four years, $31 million) and righty Pete Fairbanks (three years, $12 million) to extensions in recent days.

Earlier this month, the Rays and Díaz were unable to agree to a 2023 contract prior to the arbitration salary filing deadline. Díaz filed for $6.3 million and the Rays filed at $5.55 million. Had the two sides gone to an arbitration hearing, the three-person panel would have picked either his filing number or the team’s, nothing in-between. Now a hearing is no longer necessary.

The three-year extension buys out Díaz’s final two arbitration years and one free agent year with a club option for a second free agent year. FanGraphs estimates Tampa’s 2023 payroll in the $77 million range. They opened last season with a franchise record $83.9 million payroll, so the club has not meaningfully upped payroll — and in fact done the opposite — despite their recent extensions.

The 31-year-old Díaz was one of the most productive hitters in baseball last season, slashing .296/.401/.423 with 33 doubles and more walks (78) than strikeouts (60). He was 43 percent better than the average hitter once adjusted for ballpark and the league’s run-scoring environment, and is a .277/.374/.419 hitter in four seasons with the Rays.

Díaz routinely ranks among the league leaders in exit velocity — his 92.2 mph average exit velocity and 49.0 percent hard-hit rate were both in the top 10 percent of the league last year — but because he routinely runs ground ball rates north of 50 percent, his power output is muted. That impressive slash line came with only nine home runs in 2022.

Curtis Mead, Tampa’s top prospect, is ostensibly a third baseman, though he is not an especially adept defender. He has played some first and second base in the minors, plus Díaz has first base experience as well, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get them into the lineup together whenever Mead gets the call.

The Rays filed arbitration salary figures with an MLB high seven players earlier this month. Díaz, Fairbanks, and Springs are now taken care of. Jason Adam, Colin Poche, Harold Ramírez, and Ryan Thompson remain unsigned.

Tampa went 86-76 last season and qualified for the postseason as the third wild-card team. They were swept by the Cleveland Guardians in the Wild Card Series and scored just one run in 24 innings.

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