Locking Up Young Stars
Locking up young potential star players through their arbitration years has become quite trendy in baseball. Going year-to-year in arbitration with a Joe Mauer type is a thing of the past. A few might slip through the cracks - an unhappy Ryan Howard might not find common ground with the Phillies through his arb years. But it appears that most players are willing to sacrifice $5-10MM to set themselves and their families up for life. Since the deals sometimes steal a year or two of free agency, we can expect even weaker free agent classes in the future despite more money to spend.
Rob Bradford of the Boston Herald has a good discussion of this concept up at his blog. He's got some quotes from GMs that may be telling. Brian Cashman talks about how the Yanks have tried it and haven't had much success. That makes me wonder whether some covert talks have gone on with Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang. J.P. Ricciardi talks about his newfound skepticism of the process, most likely because of Eric Hinske.
Jonathan Papelbon has talked to his agents about long-term possibilities, but there's been no dialogue with the Red Sox. As Bradford writes, he is in a unique place because you don't find a ton of star rookie closers. 2005 rookies like Jeff Francoeur, Garrett Atkins, Ryan Zimmerman, Felix Hernandez, and Ervin Santana could start talks on long-term deals during or after this season.