Brian Dozier And Extensions for Position Players

Last spring, Mike Trout, Jason Kipnis, Starling Marte, Jedd Gyorko, Matt Carpenter, Yan Gomes, and Andrelton Simmons all received contract extensions buying out free agent years before they had even hit arbitration. The spring before last Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt, and Allen Craig signed similar deals. The deals ranged from Gomes’ $23 million guarantee to Mike Trout’s $144.5 million deal. As players file into camp and prove their health, more extensions are likely on the way.

The recent pitcher contract extensions tend to pay more for potential, but on the position player side, present production is more prominent. Of the players signed to extensions in the last two springs, every player had already shown himself to be at least above average, if not an All-Star quality level player. Here are the players who have signed the past two springs as well as statistics for the season prior to signing the extension.

Name Team OBP SLG wRC+ WAR Contract (Year/$M)
Mike Trout Angels 0.432 0.557 176 10.5 6/144.5
Matt Carpenter Cardinals 0.392 0.481 146 6.9 6/52.0
Andrelton Simmons Braves 0.296 0.396 91 4.6 7/58.0
Starling Marte Pirates 0.343 0.441 122 4.6 5/35.0
Jason Kipnis Indians 0.366 0.452 129 4.4 6/52.5
Yan Gomes Indians 0.345 0.481 130 3.6 6/23.0
Paul Goldschmidt Diamondback 0.359 0.490 124 2.9 5/32.0
Allen Craig Cardinals 0.354 0.522 137 2.7 5/31.0
Jedd Gyorko Padres 0.301 0.444 111 2.5 5/35.0
Anthony Rizzo Cubs 0.342 0.463 117 1.8 7/41.0

Mike Trout and Matt Carpenter were coming off MVP-level season while Simmons, Marte, and Kipnis were coming off very good seasons as well. Gomes played in just 88 games and put up 322 plate appearances to reach his line and Rizzo also only had half a season’s worth of games. Craig had a great season at the plate, Goldschmidt was not too far behind, and Gyorko showed power in a park that suppressed it. Every player but Simmons was solidly above average hitting, but Simmons was on his way to winning consecutive Fielding Bible Awards unanimously.

There are fewer clear cut extension candidates this spring. Anthony Rendon might be an interesting candidate, but with Scott Boras as his agent, he is unlikely to give up any free agent years with an extension. There are questions about Evan Gattis’ ability to get on base as well as his defensive position. Manny Machado has reached star-level performance, but has also suffered multiple injuries. The Cubs have a slew of prospects that are likely a year away from being extension candidates. Jean Segura and Wil Myers had difficult sophomore seasons. Matt Adams and Kolten Wong have shown potential, but have yet to step up for full seasons of everyday production. The Red Sox could show a lot of faith in Xander Bogaerts, but a big guarantee would still be a risk at this point. Chris Owings and Charlie Blackmon have provided some optimism for the future, but a long-term deal is questionable.

There are still a few candidates for an extension this spring, with a few defensive specialists mixed in with the typical solid offensive players. Numbers from 2014 season.

Name Team PA OBP SLG wRC+ Off Def WAR
Brian Dozier Twins 707 0.345 0.416 118 22.1 -2.7 4.6
Christian Yelich Marlins 660 0.362 0.402 116 16.1 4.0 4.3
Juan Lagares Mets 452 0.321 0.382 101 1.3 20.2 3.8
Marcell Ozuna Marlins 612 0.317 0.455 114 10.3 4.9 3.7
Kole Calhoun Angels 537 0.325 0.450 125 15.4 0.3 3.6
Billy Hamilton Reds 611 0.292 0.355 79 -7.9 22.0 3.5
Leonys Martin Rangers 583 0.325 0.364 89 -0.3 13.3 3.5
Adam Eaton White Sox 538 0.362 0.401 115 8.7 -1.6 2.7

Brian Dozier is an ideal candidate for an extension (they might be close). He has had two solid years in a row, including his breakout in 2014. He is set to make just around the minimum of $507,500 this season, making this spring an opportune time to work out a deal before he hits arbitration after the year. He has shown improvement every year he has been in the big leagues, increasing his walk rate from 4.7% to 8.2% to 12.6% last season. With a career .156 ISO, he provides decent power from second base in addition to his excellent speed on the basepaths (8.3 BsR in 2014).

The Miami Marlins have one of the best outfields in the majors without using “young” as a qualifier, but they definitely are young. The Marlins already have one outfielder signed to a contract extension after locking up elder statesman of the group, 25-year old Giancarlo Stanton. They have two other outfielders that could be worthy of an extension of smaller proportions as well. Marcell Ozuna can play center field and hit 23 home runs last year, although his on-base percentage was just .317. He needs to prove his health in spring after an ankle injury shut him down in September. Christian Yelich plays a corner and does not hit for as much power as Ozuna, but his .362 OBP proved very valuable in 2014. Miami has intermittently shown the ability to spend money, and their young outfield would be a good place to invest resources.

Lagares, Hamilton, and Martin are all defensive specialists in center field. They do not meet the usual qualifications for a contract extension, and as good as they are on defense, they are not quite on the same level as Andrelton Simmons. They are young, talented and do possess valuable skills. However, those skills are not always recognized in arbitration, and their teams might be better off going year to year through the arbitration process rather than make a large guarantee now.

Fellow center fielder Adam Eaton is not a defensive specialist, making him a more likely extension candidate. He has had some trouble with injuries, but put up an above average season last year with a 115 wRC+, fourth among American League centerfielders behind only Mike Trout, Michael Brantley, and Adam Jones. While he may not repeat that season offensively, ZiPS is still fairly optimistic with a .274/.354/.373 slash line good for a 107 wRC+ and 3.2 WAR.

In 784 plate appearances, Kole Calhoun has hit 25 home runs with a 122 wRC+. ZiPS projects his wRC+ to align with his career averages and produce a 3.0 WAR season. The Angels think highly of him, batting him in the leadoff spot right ahead of Mike Trout, so it would not be a surprise to see them try to sign him to a longer deal. He does play a corner outfield position, so he will need to hit to justify a new contract.

None of the contract extensions signed this spring will move the needle like Mike Trout’s from a year ago, but several teams are in a position to provide some cost certainty to their future. Buying out a few years of free agency could prove to be a bargain in future years as players continue to develop. Several young players are likely to sign new contracts within the next month.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Albert Lang
9 years ago

Isnt Dozier under control for like 3 more years? Why extend him? He’ll be 31/32 before he even sniffs FA … and he’s not all that good…