In Part I of this series, I reviewed pre-free agency extension candidates in the National League Western division. I took a look at potential contract extensions for Wade Miley, Wilin Rosario, Clayton Kershaw, Chase Headley and Buster Posey. In Part II of this series, I’ll take a look at extension candidates on National League Central division teams.
Chicago Cubs - With Starlin Castro already locked up, choosing who to analyze gets a lot easier. Anthony Rizzo is the clear choice, though Jeff Samardzija, Welington Castillo and Travis Wood are also deserving of varying levels of consideration. For Rizzo, he is coming off a .285/.342/.463 half season at age 22, as Jed Hoyer’s continued pursuit of Rizzo across three organizations finally started paying dividends. Since he has less than one year of service time, this is the year the Cubs can try to get an Evan Longoria-type deal. You’ll remember, Longoria signed a six year, $17.5 million deal (plus three years of club options) in 2008 after only 11 Major League games. Frankly, the fact that Longoria’s deal worked out so well for the Rays probably deters future players from accepting such a deal. Rizzo could make himself a guaranteed millionaire by accepting a six year, $20 million deal which includes club options covering his first couple free agent years, but I’m not sure it makes sense for him to do so. Contracts like this go beyond risk/reward for both player and club. They get into things like player relationship with the front office, coaching staff and fans, as well as the city the team is located in. If Chicago is somewhere Rizzo wants to spend his career, his deal could make sense for both sides. If not, he should go year-to-year and give himself and the organization a few years to feel each other out.
Cincinnati Reds - They’ve locked up Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Aroldis Chapman and Johnny Cueto for multiple years already. While Todd Frazier just had a nice rookie season, he’s already 26 years old. Depending on your opinions of Devin Mesoraco, he may be worth signing to the deal Salvador Perez just got (I’m personally in wait-and-see mode with Mesoraco). No, the real pressing need in Cincinnati is to keep Mat Latos in Red Stockings for as long as possible. Latos just finished his third full MLB season but is still only 24 years old. Arbitration-eligible for the first time this year, MLBTradeRumors.com suggest Latos is in line for a $4.6 million salary in 2013. Rather, I think Cueto’s current deal could provide a framework for negotiations with Latos. Cueto signed after three years of MLB service time also at age 24. Cueto received a four year, $27 million contract with a one year club option for 2015 that could push the value of the contract to $37 million. I would argue that Latos at age 24 is better than Cueto at age 24, and should be able to get a four year, $30 million contract with a $14 million club option for 2017.
Milwaukee Brewers - Well, Ryan Braun just got another extension, Yovani Gallardo is already signed through 2014 with a club option for 2015, Jonathan Lucroy is signed through 2016 with a club option for 2017, and while I’m a fan of both Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada, they are already 27 and 28 years old, respectively. Jean Segura is an unknown to the Brewers, having just recently acquired him from the Angels for Zack Greinke. That leaves us with Wily Peralta, a 23 year old right-hander who got five MLB starts last year. Projected as a future #3 starter, signing Peralta long-term would provide cost-effective rotation depth, allowing the Brewers to spend their limited budget elsewhere. Matt Moore just signed a five year, $14 million deal which includes three club options on the back end. While Peralta is no Matt Moore, I think he could get something similar, maybe shaving the club option years and the last arbitration year by a million dollars each. Let’s call it five years, $13 million with three club options of $6 million, $8 million and $9 million each.
Pittsburgh Pirates - Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata are already signed for multiple years, and unless you feel like ignoring the first three and the last one-half seasons of James McDonald’s career, our best option for long term deals is going to take a little extra risk. It is in the best interest of teams like the Pirates to lock up their top young prospects just as soon as they are able. The risk of a prospect signing and not panning out isn’t as high as a prospect panning out but not being able to stay in the organization long enough to build a contender around because they got too expensive too quickly. Therefore, I think the Pirates should offer both Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon each a seven year, $19 million deal with three club options that follows the same structure as Matt Moore’s deal but pays them each $1 million per year for the two years on the front end of the contract. This would guarantee each pitcher becomes a millionaire next season (which seems to be AAA for Cole and AA for Taillon), but also gives the club incentive to bring the pitchers up sooner than later. With this deal, each pitcher would still be able to hit free agency at age 30 and collect that big contract elsewhere should they reach their respective ceilings.
St. Louis Cardinals - The Cardinals have several interesting extension candidates in David Freese, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia and Matt Carpenter. While I like both Lynn and Garcia, I feel Garcia’s recent injury concerns are enough to give me pause and Lynn wasn’t nearly as dominant in the minors as he was in the majors this year, so I’m not sure I buy the success just yet. Carpenter is someone I covet if I’m an opposing General Manager, but the Cardinals have the ability to wait a couple of years before committing to him long term, though if they wanted to, his situation closely mirrors Anthony Rizzo’s. Freese is already 29 so any extension he signs should only be for his arbitration years and maybe one free agent year, but he’s also a player I would wait and go year-to-year with. However, Jon Jay is a player who, while old for this list, is still only 27 and plays excellent centerfield defense without giving anything up offensively. The only centerfielder to sign a long term extension with only 1+ years of MLB experience is Grady Sizemore, and Sizemore’s rWAR at that point of his career was roughly double that of Jay’s, so he’s not a good comparable for this exercise. Rather, let’s look at Cameron Maybin’s recent deal with the Padres which guarantees him $25 million over the next five years with one club option year. Instead of removing the last year of Maybin’s deal to make this fit, let’s add one year at $1 million for Jay’s last pre-arbitration season and call it a six year, $26 million deal for Jay. factor in the problem of Jay already being 28 at the start of next season and we make it a four year, $16 million deal with club options for the 2017-18 seasons at $8 million and $9 million, respectively. I don’t particularly see either side walking away from this deal.