Over the past couple weeks, there have been a flurry of MLB extensions. Whether players are wary of free agency. or teams are motivated to retain their players, 15 extensions have been signed since March 19th. Let’s analyze all of these extensions by ranking them in order of worst value to best value.
#15- March 23rd: Astros Extend SP Justin Verlander
Contract Details: 2 years, $66 million
2018 Stats: 2.52 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 1.2 HR/9, 1.6 BB/9, 12.2 K/9
This extension is extremely atypical for the Astros. A club that usually isn’t afraid to move on from aging players before an expected decline will now be paying Verlander the highest AAV for a pitcher through his age 38 season. Had Verlander reached free agency at the end of the season, it’s extremely unlikely that he would have been able to top $33 million on a multi-year deal. Heck, it’s likely that he would have made significantly less. The Astros were at a position of leverage; Verlander has been a different pitcher since joining the team and made it clear he didn’t want to leave. However, it’s unclear to see what the team is gaining from this deal; Verlander could easily continue to produce like an ace, but it’s a very risky maneuver in a deal with close to zero chance of providing net value.
#14- March 19th: Astros Extend 3B Alex Bregman
Contract Details: 6 years, $100 million
2018 Stats: .926 OPS, 157 wrc+, .396 wOBA, -6 drs, 7.6 WAR
*This deal will pay Bregman $11 million for the first three seasons and will rise to $28.5 million for the next two, and will buy out one year of Bregman’s free agency.
Bregman, 24, continued his development into a star last season, posting a 157 wrc+ and 7.6 WAR, according to Fangraphs. He improved his walk rate tremendously to 13.1%, cut down his strikeout rate to 12.1%, giving him a very rare 1.13 BB/K rate. His .289 BABIP also suggests his success was deserved; Houston should not expect any sort of backslide from Bregman. Still, the motivation to get this deal done is a little strange. This rises Bregman’s salary to $11 million this season, which is very expensive for a pre-arbitration player. They only time they look to be saving money is in Bregman’s second year of arbitration, where $11 million is on the low side, but even with that it still looks like they’re not making any sort of profit on this deal. $28.5 million seems reasonable for what Bregman could get on the open market if he was a free agent: the Astros aren’t buying out a free agency year at a discount. Bregman is on an upward trend and is a critical piece of Houston’s future, but it’s unclear why the Astros rushed to extend him, especially since he has all the leverage after an MVP-caliber season.
#13- April 2nd: Blue Jays Extend OF Randal Grichuk
Contract Details: 5 years, $52 million
2018 Stats: .803 OPS, 92 wrc+, .340 wOBA, -1 drs, 2.1 WAR
The 27-year-old Grichuk, a former first-round pick, seemingly had a bounce-back season last season with a .803 OPS and a 2.1 WAR. However, his BB/K ratio was still awful at .22, his hard contact rate decreased to 36.4%, while his chase rate was still an issue at around 35%. His defense also declined; his -1 drs was much lower than it had been in the previous season (6 drs). Grichuk is a solid contributor with plus power, and this contract, which takes him through his age 31 season, is decent value. Considering Grichuk’s regression is key areas last season, it may have been better to evaluate him for another season before committing to him.
#12- March 24th: Cardinals Extend 1B Paul Goldschmidt
Contract Details: 5 years, $126 million
2018 Stats: .922 OPS, 145 wrc+, .390 wOBA, 6 drs, 5.1 WAR
A year away from free agency, the 31-year-old Goldschmidt decided to not test the open market, opting to re-sign with his new club- the St.Louis Cardinals. That was certainly the smart decision for him; he remains a star, but the market for a first baseman over age 30 tends to be limited. Plus, although Goldschmidt has been on fire to start the season, there’s no guarantee he remains as productive as he currently is for the entire deal. His chase rate and K rate both went up last season significantly, while his base running, which is a critical part of his game, is bound to regress as he ages as well. Will Goldschmidt be a middle the order type slugger for the Cardinals? Yes. Was he going to come close to receiving this contract in free agency? Probably not, and it’s unlikely Goldschmidt’s value will exceed or even match this contract.
#11- March 19th: Rays Extend 2B Brandon Lowe
Contract Details: 6 years, $24 million
2018 Stats (43 games): .774 OPS, 113 wrc+, .334 wOBA, 0 drs, 0.8 WAR
Ranked as the 9th best second baseman prospect by MLB.Com, Lowe should carve at a role at least as a utility player, which the upside to be an everyday second baseman. Though not a power hitter, his walk rate (10.7%) and his contact skills should make him a solid offensive producer, while his versatility increases his value. This isn’t an incredible deal; it forces Tampa Bay to pay extra for his first pre-arbitration seasons. However, it’s a fine move to lock up a nice young player, makes his arbitration seasons very cheap, and has the could take away two free agent seasons if his two club options are exercised.
#10- Rays Extend SP Blake Snell
Contract Details: 5 years, $50 million
2018 Stats: 1.89 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 0.8 HR/9, 3.19 BB/9, 11.01 K/9
*The deal will pay Snell $4 million this season, $7 million in 2020, $10.5 million in 2021, $12.5 million in 2022, and $16 million in 2023.
The AL Cy Young award winner last season, the 26-year-old Snell still looks like more of a #2 starter than an ace based on his 2.95 FIP and 3.30 SIERRA. That said, he’s still a high-quality pitcher, looks to be coming into his own. and showed positive signs with an increased strikeout rate and a decreased walk rate. The $30 million he’ll make in what would have been his arbitration seasons is a bargain for the club, and the same goes for the $16 million that buys out one year of free agency. What holds this extension back from being a terrific deal though is the lack of options, and Tampa probably should have waited until next season, considering the leverage was currently on Snell’s side following a terrific season.
#9- March 23rd: Red Sox Extend SP Chris Sale
Contract Details: 5 years, $150 million
2018 Stats: 2.11 ERA, 1.98 FIP, 0.63 HR/9, 1.94 BB/9, 13.5 K/9
There’s no questioning that Sale is a tremendous pitcher. In fact, he rated as our best starting pitcher heading into the season. There is good reason to question, however, why the Red Sox rushed to give the 30-year-old a monster extension worth $30 million per season. Though Sale comes into the season as a Cy Young favorite, he’s dealt with second-half struggles down due to overuse and injuries over the past two seasons, which is a red flag considering this deal will take him through his age 35 season. Though I’m confident Sale will be able to live up to this deal with Boston, it’s no sure thing, and the club is now paying three pitchers (Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi) a significant amount of their payroll at a time when Mookie Betts is due to be a free agent in two seasons.
#8- March 31st: Red Sox Extend SS Xander Bogaerts
Contract Details: 6 years, $120 million
2018 Stats: .883 OPS, 133 wrc+, .373 wOBA, -19 drs, 4.9 WAR
Although not a star, the 26-year-old Bogaerts has been a very consistent player for the Red Sox; he has had at least a 4.6 WAR in three of the past four seasons. He’s also constantly made improvements to his strikeout rate and hard contact rates, which is the type of progression that is especially encouraging when making a long-term commitment. Bogaert’s -19 drs is a red flag, but his 1.1 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) suggests he’s not as bad a defender as advertised. As long as he continues to be the player he is, and he’s capable of being more than that, then he’ll certainly fulfill this contract. However, similar to the Sale extension, this could be another sign that the team may move on from Betts in two seasons.
#7- March 26th: Cubs Extend SP Kyle Hendricks
Contract Details: 4 years, $55.5 million
2018 Stats: 3.44 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 0.99 BB/9, 1.99 BB/9, 7.28 K/9
Despite constantly posting below-average strikeout rates, the 29-year-old Hendricks has been a solid #2 to #3 starter for the Cubs, with a career 3.55 FIP. That’s thanks in large part to a high ground ball rate, though it did dramatically decrease last season, and a low hard contact rate allowed. The decreased ground ball rate is a serious concern; it’s what Hendricks relies on. However, that’s the only major concern with Hendricks, and as long as he remains a mid-3.00 ERA type pitcher, he’ll definitely be worth this investment.
#6- March 27th: Mets Extend Jacob deGrom
Contract Details: 4 years, $120.5 million
2018 Stats: 1.70 ERA, 1.99 FIP, 0.41 HR/9, 1.91 BB/9, 11.16 K/9
Though he has two more seasons before free agency, the Mets will now have the 30-year-old deGrom through at least the 2023 season. He’s certainly capable of living up to this contract; his Cy Young season last year clearly wasn’t a fluke based on his peripherals. Though there is some risk in locking him up through his age 35 season, deGrom didn’t make the majors until his age 26 season anyway; he has mileage than other pitchers of his age. To be frank, I don’t see a scenario in which deGrom doesn’t prove to worth this extension. The Mets probably could have waited another season, but there was growing tension from deGrom’s camp, meaning that if they didn’t work out an extension now, there may have never been one. This is a good deal for all parties; deGrom gets locked up while the Mets get to keep their ace at a reasonable cost.
#5- April 2nd: Rockies Extend SP German Marquez
Contract Details: 5 years, $43 million
2018 Stats: 3.77 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 1.1 HR/9, 2.62 BB/9, 10.56 K/9
Although he was overshadowed by Kyle Freehand last season, the 24-year-old Marquez is the best pitcher on the Rockies. He’s shown consistent improvements with his ground ball rate, his whiff rate, and his strikeout rates, and should be a frontline starter for the club for years to come. Running through the 2023 season with a club option for 2024, this deal has the chance to buy out three years of Marquez’s free agency as well as his arbitration, all at a very cheap cost. This is a great move by Colorado to lock up Marquez long-term before he has an “ace”-type season, and it should pay dividends in quick order. There’s little risk with this contract, yet there’s so much reward.
#4- March 20th: Astros Extend RP Ryan Pressly
Contract Details: 2 years, $17.5 million
2018 Stats: 2.54 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 0.76 HR/9, 2.79 BB/9, 12.8 K/9
After being acquired by the Astros mid-season last year, the 30-year-old Pressly was dominant with a 1.49 FIP, utilizing his curveball much more. Assuming his pitch usage remains the same, he’ll likely be one of baseball’s top relievers at least through this season and the two seasons following under team control. Considering most less effective relievers such as Tommy Hunter and Joe Kelly have made near $10 million on the open market, the fact that Houston is keeping a very reliable reliever in Pressly at just $8.5 million per year on a short-term extension is impressive.
#3- March 22nd: White Sox Extend OF Eloy Jimenez
Contract Details: 6 years, $43 million
2018 Stats (AAA): .996 OPS, 179 wrc+, .434 wOBA
*The deal will pay Jimenez $1 million in 2019, $1.5 million in 2020, $3.5 million in 2021, $6.5 million in 2022, $9.5 million in 2023, and $13 million in 2024. There are also two club options for $16.5 million in 2025 and $18.5 million in 2026.
Ranked as the 3rd best prospect in baseball according to MLB.Com, the 22-year-old Jimenez should be an impact player right away with superstar potential. His ability to hit for power without striking out much is rare, and he looks to be the face of the White Sox rebuild. The structure of this contract is terrific; the money Chicago is saving avoiding arbitration makes up for the slight increase in his pre-arbitration seasons. Had Jimenez taken it year-by-year, his arbitration total would’ve had a chance to double. Instead, the White Sox have secured their franchise cornerstone at an affordable price and now will have him under contract through his age 30 season if the options are exercised. Plus, the grievance Jimenez had on the club for not calling him up sooner has been dismissed with this extension as well.
#2- March 19th: Angels Extend OF Mike Trout
Contract Details: 10 years, $360 million
2018 Stats: 1.088 OPS, 191 wrc+, .447 wOBA, 8 drs, 9.8 WAR
Trout, 27, is on pace to be one of, if not the greatest MLB player of all time with a career 64.9 WAR. Even more impressive, he posted career highs last season in OPS (1.088), BB% (20.1%), wrc+ (191), and on-base percentage (.460). It looked like the Angels were bound to lose him in two years due to several rumors linking him to the Phillies, so for them to extend Trout now is tremendous. Now, the distractions of Trout’s free agency are gone, and they didn’t have to go overboard to get it done. There’s always the chance Trout regresses later in his career, but this is a move that they had to make.
#1- April 2nd: Braves Extend OF Ronald Acuna
Contract Details: 8 years, $100 million
2018 Stats: .917 OPS, 143 wrc+, .388 wOBA, 4 drs, 3.7 WAR
How can you not love this deal for the Braves? Acuna, 21, is coming off a season in which he won the NL Rookie of the Year and had a 1.028 OPS in the second half. He also ranked as the game’s best prospect heading into last season and is a rare, generational type 5-tool player. Had Acuna taken it year by year, his arbitration totals would likely have eclipsed $60 million, which on its own is more than half of this contract. Had he been a free agent at age 26, he would have easily been in line to earn a $400 million contract. Instead, with two club options, Atlanta has a chance to buy out FOUR free agent seasons at an affordable price. Now that they’ve locked up the face of their franchise, expect the club to be able to be more aggressive in pursuing outside talent to round out the roster.