Betts, Springer, and Other Contract-Extension Candidates

As teams begin full workouts in Spring Training, they get the opportunity to make sure that all of their players arrive healthy and in good shape to start the season. While they likely pay attention to all players, of particular interest are those players who their second or third years in the big leagues. These players are still making the major league minimum salary and, as a result, are the best candidates to approach regarding a long-term extension. Such deals offer players with their first real shot at big-time money, and often pay off down the line for teams: indeed, as my research indicates, teams saved more than half a billion dollars on long-term extensions signed from 2008 to 2011. While the number of candidates for contract extensions isn’t as numerous as in previous seasons, there are a few potential stars.

While players and clubs certainly can agree on contract extensions during the winter, it’s less common for players who have yet to reach arbitration. The only long-term extensions signed this past offseason were between Dee Gordon and the Miami Marlins and Brandon Crawford and the San Francsisco Giants — and, in both cases, the relevant player was entering his second year of arbitration. Last year around this time, I discussed potential position-player candidates for extensions, and named eight players. Of those eight, four agreed to extensions: Brian Dozier, Juan Lagares, Adam Eaton, and Christian Yelich, although Dozier’s deal did not cover any free agent seasons. Adding Lagares, Eaton, and Yelich to the list from last year, here are the players who’ve been extended in the recent past.

Recent Pre-Arbitration Contract Extensions
Name Team OBP SLG wRC+ WAR Contract (Year/$M) Service Time
Mike Trout Angels .432 .557 176 10.5 6/144.5 2.070
Matt Carpenter Cardinals .392 .481 146 6.9 6/52.0 2.012
Andrelton Simmons Braves .296 .396 91 4.6 7/58.0 1.125
Starling Marte Pirates .343 .441 122 4.6 5/35.0 1.070
Jason Kipnis Indians .366 .452 129 4.4 6/52.5 2.075
Christian Yelich Marlins .362 .402 117 4.4 7/49.6 1.069
Juan Lagares Mets .321 .382 101 4.0 4/23.0 1.160
Yan Gomes Indians .345 .481 130 3.6 6/23.0 1.083
Adam Eaton White Sox .362 .401 117 3.0 5/23.5 2.030
Paul Goldschmidt Diamondback .359 .490 124 2.9 5/32.0 1.059
Allen Craig Cardinals .354 .522 137 2.7 5/31.0 2.077
Jedd Gyorko Padres .301 .444 111 2.5 5/35.0 1.016
Anthony Rizzo Cubs .342 .463 117 1.8 7/41.0 1.040

While the Allen Craig contract has not worked out, and Jedd Gyorko was unloaded to the Cardinals this offseason, the above contracts are some of the very best (for clubs) in the majors. Dan Szymborksi recently listed his 25 most team-friendly contract situations, and Marte, Rizzo, and Trout all made the list. In his most recent edition of the trade-value series, Dave Cameron ranked Trout first among all players, while Goldschmidt was third, Rizzo was seventh, and Marte, Simmons, and Yelich all cracked the top 30. Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis also appeared on that list. Matt Carpenter, meanwhile, has worked out well for the Cardinals and Eaton put in a solid season for the White Sox, while Lagares struggled through injuries and will begin this season as the fourth outfielder for the New York Mets.

Ideal candidates for extensions are typically those players who have a year remaining before they enter arbitration. They’re often willing to exchange a few free agent years for the security that comes with a multi-million-dollar payday. This year, however, there are few obvious fits for a contact extension. The players below all possess between two and three years of service time, but for one reason or another might not be extension candidates.

Pre-Arbitration Contract Extension Candidates
Name OBP SLG wRC+ WAR Service Time
Marcell Ozuna .311 .416 101 6.5 2.124
Xander Bogaerts .327 .392 96 4.8 2.042
Kolten Wong .303 .374 88 3.9 2.045
Corey Dickerson .345 .534 124 3.7 2.101
Stephen Vogt .320 .420 105 3.7 2.084
Travis d’Arnaud .313 .418 107 3.4 2.044
Wil Myers .327 .407 107 2.9 2.104
Nick Castellanos .304 .405 94 -0.7 2.029

The Marlins appeared to manipulate Marcell Ozuna’s service time last summer to prevent him from reaching super-two arbitration status this season which might preclude a productive meeting leading to a contract extension. In addition, both he and Bogaerts are represented by Scott Boras, who very rarely gives up free agent seasons absent a major cash outlay. Vogt is 31 years old and a catcher, which suggests he might want to receive the benefits of free agency as quickly as possible. The Rays just traded for Dickerson, so they might be inclined to see what they have before extending him while Myers has yet to put together anything close to a full season. Castellanos and d’Arnaud are potential buy-low candidates if their teams want to bet on increased production and health, respectively. The most realistic option above is Kolten Wong, who has put together two average seasons and slowed toward the end of last season.

There are also a few Lagares-like candidates who are defense-first players who could be super-two eligible after next season.

Potential Super-2 Contract Extension Candidates
Name OBP SLG wRC+ WAR Service Time
Kevin Kiermaier 0.305 0.432 106 9.5 1.131
Ender Inciarte 0.329 0.386 94 6.1 1.157

While Kiermaier is an incredible defender for the time being, he might not be more than average on offense, and trying to extract value on defense past age 30 — when his hypothetical free agent seasons would begin — might not make a lot of sense. Kiermaier might not make the deadline for super-two status, but Inciarte will if he plays a full season in the majors. Defense tends not to pay particularly well in arbitration, however. Given the lack of offense for the players above, teams are likely better off going year to year at this time.

If we drop down to players with one fewer year of service, we do begin to see some more interesting candidates. These players are still two years away from arbitration, but as we saw with the contracts for Goldschmidt, Marte, Rizzo, and Simmons, locking players up early can be very beneficial.

Contract Extension Candidates With Under Two Years of Service Time
Name OBP SLG wRC+ WAR Service Time
Mookie Betts .348 .471 121 6.7 1.070
Joe Panik .364 .419 126 5.8 1.100
George Springer .354 .463 128 5.3 1.116
Kevin Pillar .303 .391 88 5.0 1.113
Matt Duffy .331 .415 113 5.0 1.059
David Peralta .351 .492 127 4.9 1.120
Rougned Odor .307 .435 98 2.7 1.121
Gregory Polanco .316 .369 92 2.6 1.103

Both Polanco and Springer turned down contracts prior to even making the majors, but it might be a good time to revisit those deals with higher guarantees to see if an agreement can be reached. The Giants already extended Crawford, but if they believe the breakouts of Duffy and Panik were real, they could look to extend more of their infield long-term. The Diamondbacks couldn’t strike a long-term deal with breakout star A.J. Pollock, but they could seek to preempt that from happening again with Peralta. Pillar is likely in the same category as the Lagares-like players, so not an urgent need for the Jays. Another year’s production from Odor is likely necessary before a long-term commitment would be agreeable.

If Mookie Betts is agreeable to a contract extension, he is exactly the type of player to whom a team would want to commit a big contract. He has already proven himself at the big-league level, his signing bonus out of high school was under $1 million, and he his still two years away from a seven-figure salary in the majors. If the Red Sox can throw a big enough guarantee at Betts — something in the $40 million range — it would be worthwhile to get a few of the precious free agent seasons. This spring does not present many great candidates for extensions on the position-player side, but if there are deals to be made, they could turn out to be very beneficial for the team that locks the players in long-term.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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6 years ago

Great, another Fangraphs Mookie puff piece.

6 years ago
Reply to  paulkrugman

Mookie was mentioned three times in the article – once in a table and twice in the last paragraph.
And in the title, which I assume is all you read.

6 years ago
Reply to  MuadDib

It’s been a few months of off-season. Have we really already forgotten our own jokes?