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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.


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The Mets did this with Jose Reyes and David Wright last year. They both look like good deals all around, unless David Wright's recent performance is not just a slump but the beginning of the end. It's certainly a risk from a team standpoint, but so is signing a free agent. And, it's much cheaper. The Indians totally made out in the Grazy Sizemore deal. (6 years, 23.45 million), and yet, at the time, it was the largest deal ever for a player with less than 2 years of ML experience. Also, the Travis Hafner extension (3 years, 7 million) is just pure robbery.

I really think teams should save this option for only the top, top tier of players (Reyes, Wright, Sizemore etc.) It seems like everyone and their mother got this type of deal this winter, and some of those teams will get stuck with the Eric Hinskes of the world.

Its the Risk vs Reward thing, teams like the Twins, they need to do this to know their future financial obligations, so they take on the risk.

The Red Sox don't really need to know that, They can wait it out, eliminate the risk, knowing it might cost them some extra money.

Eric Hinske was ROY, how was he not a top-tier guy? even the top-tier guys can be duds long term too.

ROYs often look shabby. Angel Berroa didn't have an impressive ROY year either. For that matter, Bobby Crosby didn't blow me away as ROY either.

Even the top tier options don't look so great. I wouldn't pay Ryan Howard a ton of money either, I think it's too easy to find production at first base. And I don't think the Chase Utley deal was any kind of bargain, he's averaging like $15 million a year, I wouldn't pay Utley that even if he was on the free agent market now.

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