We wrap up the pre-free agency extension candidates discussion with players from the National League Eastern division. So far we’ve looked at extensions for Wade Miley, Wilin Rosario, Clayton Kershaw, Chase Headley and Buster Posey in the NL West, and Anthony Rizzo, Mat Latos, Wily Peralta, Jon Jay and the Pittsburgh duo of Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon.
Atlanta Braves – Jason Heyward is the obvious extension candidate here. Heyward went from stellar rookie to slumping sophomore, but rebounded to post an .814 OPS in his third season. Entering his first year of arbitration, he compares favorably to Nick Markakis who just three years ago signed a six year, $66.1 million deal with the Orioles. Heyward’s career OPS+ is 116 while Markakis notched a 122 OPS+ in his first three years, but I find Heyward to be a superior defender. Given the fact that the Braves just lost their franchise player to retirement, this would be a great time for them to lock up the next Face of the Franchise. I think if they were to start negotiations today, Heyward would end up with a six year, $70 million deal. It’s a deal that would give Braves fans some encouragement, but one that would pale in comparison to the extension divisionmate…
Miami Marlins – Giancarlo Stanton would receive if he decided, for some reason, to stay a Marlin for awhile. After expressing his displeasure with the Marlins front office via Twitter, I can’t see any way the Marlins and their employee would come to an agreement whereby the organization would be willing to pay the freight and the employee would be willing to accept the terms. Forget Nick Markakis, the 23 year old slugger is the greatest young outfield power hitter we’ve seen since Hank Aaron, and barring injury will have every opportunity to meet Barry Bonds in Cooperstown. Unfortunately for the Marlins, it’d take something upwards of Albert Pujols’ seven year $100 million contract signed in 2004 just to begin negotiations. Instead, Giancarlo can probably just wait two years before arbitration makes him too expensive for Jeffrey Loria’s queasy stomach, and will find no shortage of teams begging for the chance to give him a ten year deal.
New York Mets – Ruben Tejada is one of my favorite National League players, and Ike Davis has the kind of power that makes scouts put their names on the line. Unfortunately for these two (and fortunately for the rest of baseball), the Wilpon’s inability to spend is only slightly less infuriating than Loria’s unwillingness to spend, so these two seem destined for free agency or pre-free agency trades. Rather, it’s Daniel Murphy who looks most likely to be extended, as he’s older (28 on Opening Day), still has three years of arbitration left, and plays a securely “average” game. Oddly enough, the two recent second baseman who have signed extensions are Dustin Pedroia (six year, $40.5MM) and Robinson Cano (six year, $57MM), whom Murphy cannot compete with. I think it’d be more likely that Murphy receive a deal that covered only his arbitration years, for a grand total of three years at $15 million total. This puts him below Pedroia’s average annual value, while also giving he and the Mets the ability to see how things play out before Murphy hits free agency.
Philadelphia Phillies – Domonic Brown being the Phillies’ best extension candidate is at the same time an indictment of their recent ability to develop talent, a testament to how good they’ve been at locking up their home grown talent over the years, and an example of Ruben Amaro Jr.’s willingness to trade away prospects. Chase Utley is coming to the end of his run as a Phillie, and (unfortunately for Phillies fans) Ryan Howard is not. Since 2006, Amaro has dealt away Jason Knapp, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and Travis d’Arnaud, among others. None of which has become an impact Major Leaguer since then, so good on Ruben. An aging lineup just keeps getting older though, and I can’t in good conscious recommend or even conceive of anyone on the Phillies current roster receiving a pre-free agency extension.
Washington Nationals – Which is in direct contrast to the Washington Nationals, who have (at the very least) Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg who are worth extending. Harper and Strasburg already have Major League contracts for a few more years, but they should be extended for as far as agent Scott Boras will allow their clients to be tied down. We’ll have to look at Ian Desmond for this exercise, since he seems to be the most likely to have these talks. Desmond is 26 years old and entering his first arbitration hearing as the Major League leader in home runs for a shortstop with 25 round-trippers. Jose Reyes’ 2007 contract may serve as a starting point in talks. Reyes signed for five years at $34.25 million once the one year, $11 million club option was exercised. Given five years of salary inflation and Desmond’s power potential at a position lacking many other home run threats, Desmond should be able to garner a five year deal in the $40-$45 million range.