Are recent Tommy John surgery victims about to become a new kind of contract extension candidate?
About a year ago, Sam Millerspeculated about the future of contract extensions, which had by then been embraced by big-market teams after years of mostly being the province of small-market clubs. “When that happens,” Sam wrote, “the market inefficiency might as well be gone.” To regain an edge, teams would have to get more creative with the kind of extensions they offered.
One of Sam’s suggestions was that we might start to see much longer extensions—contracts that would pay a player for 15 years or more. That hasn’t happened yet. However, Sam made two more predictions that have come to pass. First, he suggested that a team might offer a player an extension before his big-league debut, which has since occurred in the cases of George Springer and the Astros and Gregory Polanco and the Pirates. And second, he proposed that teams that lock up more marginal players than had previously been considered extendable. “Of the 20 players who have signed extensions longer than four years since the start of last season, all are, if not stars, something close to it,” Sam wrote. Since then, non-stars Jedd Gyorko, Yan Gomes (debatable), and Jose Quintana have signed five-year deals, not to mention Michael Brantley and Sean Doolittle, who’ve inked four-year pacts.
How many recent contract extensions would the team that bestowed them still sign?
It’s not always easy finding something to say about a fresh new contract extension. Most of them appear to be basically club-friendly, and follow a template set by previous players. Furthermore, they generally cover so much time that it’s even more impossible than usual to predict just what the player is likely to do that far out, and just what the team is likely to need that far out. Shoot, a lot of times they don’t even kick in until a time far enough into the future that our predictive powers go poof.
But we’re a few years into the extension era, and a lot of these moves are starting to have actual histories to judge. At the very least, we can look at the extensions signed two years ago and decide anew whether the teams should be happy or disappointed with the extensions they’ve signed. We can see whether these turn out as universally club-friendly as I tend to expect.
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A look at ever-increasing player salaries and the player best-positioned to eclipse the $300 million mark
"Professional baseball is on the wane. Salaries must come down or the interest of the public must be increased in some way. If one or the other does not happen, bankruptcy stares every team in the face." – Albert Spalding, 1881
How long have we been hearing that baseball players are paid too much? By my count, it’s been since it was decided that they should be paid. Babe Ruth was the first to hit the $50,000 mark in 1922, and Hank Greenburg hit the $100,000 mark 25 years later.
Long-term extensions for star players may be shortsighted moves by teams.
On Opening Day Eve (ignoring the two games held at the crack of dawn to accommodate the Tokyo Dome venue), the big story in baseball is a pair of big-money deals—Matt Cain and Joey Votto got paid, man. What’s interesting is that these were players years away from free agency, who certainly didn’t need to be signed now.
Can these deals go bad? Of course they can. An object lesson is Ryan Howard, whose contract extension has managed to look worse and worse over the past few seasons, even though it won't start covering real baseball games until tomorrow. Will they go bad? It’s hard to say, and the esteemable Ben Lindberghdoes a better job covering the possibilities than I could. That frees us up to consider the larger implications—what does all this money mean?
Are team-friendly contract extensions signed early in players' careers about to become a lot longer?
A few weeks ago, I asked this question on Twitter: If Mike Trout were willing to sign a 20-year contract with the Angels right now, what would be a fair price? The responses I got ranged from $100 million to $350 million and averaged $243 million. Glenn DuPaul did the heavy lifting to try to answer this, which is great for me, because Less Heavy Lifting is basically my entire goal in life. It’s why I went to college, and it’s why my furniture is made of Nerf. Glenn’s answer: $274 million. OK! He also wrote this, which is probably what I would have written, too, to avoid sounding like a crazy person:
The Pirates have turned into a three-ring circus, along with other notes from around the major leagues.
Pirates management insists it has a plan in place that will transform the downtrodden franchise from laughingstock to winner. Chairman Bob Nutting says they do and so does team president Frank Coonelly, general manager Neal Huntington, and manager John Russell. However, the plan certainly isn't paying dividends at the present. The Pirates are 25-44 and 13 games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central. Only the Orioles, with their 19-50 record, are keeping the Pirates from having the worst record in the major leagues.