Reviewing Jon Singleton’s Contract One Year Later by Craig Edwards April 2, 2015 One year ago, Jon Singleton was a consensus Top-100 prospect. Eleven months ago, he was making around $8,000 per month in Triple-A. Ten months ago, he was was promoted to the majors where the Major League Baseball minimum salary would have paid him a little over $300,000 for the rest of the season. Just yesterday, he was sent back down to the minors where he again would have been making around $40,000 for the season. He is not making $40,000, however, because Singleton signed a controversial contract last year guaranteeing him $10 million before he reached the majors. He’ll make $2 million this season, and every month he spends in the minors he will make 50 times as much money as he would have without his contract. Nothing is going to change the fact that the Astros likely got a bargain when they signed Singleton. They lowered his potential arbitration salaries and received an option for a free agent year while only guaranteeing $10 million. Even if Singleton does not become a successful major league player, guaranteeing him less than what the team is paying Scott Feldman this year was an easy choice. For Singleton, the choice was not likely so easy. As Dave Cameron wrote at the time, the Astros appeared to promote Singleton because he signed the extension. Cameron noted that Singleton’s signing bonus after being drafted was just $200,000 and had been signed five years earlier. If Singleton had not signed the extension, there was a decent chance that he would have remained in the minor leagues for some time longer. Singleton received criticism for signing the deal, particularly from Bud Norris, who took to Twitter and said, “Sorry but this Singleton deal is terrible. Wish the Jon listened to the union and not his agent.” At the end of his piece, Cameron was not sure the deal was necessarily a good or bad one for Singleton, given his options. Craig Calcaterra defended Singleton’s decision, and put the onus back on the union for forcing Singleton to make that decision. After signing the contract Singleton did not perform well for Houston last season. He struck out 37% of the time, and a low, .238 BABIP caused a hitting line of .168/.285/.335 and a wRC+ of 79. He did post an excellent 13.8% walk rate and his .167 ISO was not terrible, but the strikeouts and poor BABIP in 362 plate appearances resulted in a disappointing season. Strikeouts are on the rise, but Singleton’s rate still stood out. In the last 100 years, there have been nearly 19,000 player seasons with at least 300 plate appearances, and only Melvin Nieves in 1997 struck out a higher rate than Singleton did last season. Singleton is not the only player to strike out a lot as a young player in the majors. Also in the top ten of that list from above are Bo Jackson in 1987, Chris Carter in 2013, Russell Branyan in 2001, and Chris Davis in 2009. Each of those players went on to varying levels of success and had good seasons offensively despite high strikeouts. Javier Baez struck out in more than 41% of his 229 plate appearances last season, and his future still looks bright even though he has also been sent to Triple-A to start the season. The performance last season was poor, but Singleton’s projections are still decent. The Fangraphs Depth Charts projections give Singleton a .216/.318/.407 line with a wRC+ of 106. Those numbers are not great for a first baseman, but they are above average and a good indicator that Singleton can still contribute at the major league level going forward. At just 23 years old, Singleton still has some development ahaed of him, and could improve as he gets older. Looking back, the contract extension looks about the same for the Astros and better for Singleton after his disappointing 2014 and beginning 2015 in the minors. Hearing that a player was guaranteed just $10 million and had a free agent year bought out is jarring, but the number of options in this case understate the value. Assuming Singleton is called back up before August he will have more than one year of service time at the end of this year. When the original five-year term of the contract ends, Singleton will still have two more years of arbitration left. The options during those years would pay Singleton another $7 million on top of the $10 million he was guaranteed. Compare Singleton’s pay to the amount potential Astros’ teammate Colby Rasmus who just went through three years of arbitration. For his first six seasons in the majors, Colby Rasmus took home a little under $16 million before hitting free agency. If Singleton is an average player, he likely did not cost himself any money at all. Singleton could be much better than Rasmus, and then he might have cost himself some money, but the risk of getting nothing is great for a player who has not yet reached the majors. Before hitting arbitration, Singleton looks to make $7.5 million instead of under $2 million receiving the MLB minimum salary. He gives back some of that money in arbitration salaries, but it does not look to be a significant amount. Even in the free agent year that Singleton potentially gave up, he would make $13 million. When Evan Longoria signed his extension just after hitting the majors, he gave up two free agent years. The more recent extension Longoria signed does not even kick in until his first contract ends after the 2016 season. Singleton potentially gave up just one free agent season and could still be a free agent at the end of his Age-29 season after making $30 million. Given the way the salaries are structured, his salaries are not likely to be cited by any parties in arbitration, and an extension prior to having any major league service time does not look to be precedent-setting at this time. Singleton was not the prospect that George Springer was, and his expected level of contribution and singing bonus coming out of the draft are not anywhere near the level of Kris Bryant. The union appears to have lost little due to Singleton’s extension while Singleton has been given security without making a major sacrifice to future earnings. The Astros would love for Singleton to be playing well enough in four more years to begin picking up their options and Singleton would be happy to be playing well enough to take the money. Criticism for Singleton last year was not justified, and it looks worse in hindsight after he did not make the Opening Day roster. The Astros might still be getting a bargain, but Singleton is likely quite happy with his “terrible” deal.