Multiyear Free Agent Contracts On The Rise

Multiyear free agent contracts are on the rise again. If the first six weeks of the 2010-11 offseason are any indication, teams are offering more long-term deals than they were a year ago.

Over the course of the entire 2009-10 offseason, 27 free agents signed multiyear contracts. A month and a half into a new offseason, owners have already surpassed that figure and agreed to 28 multiyear deals, as MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker shows.

After two offseasons of relatively restrained spending, baseball owners are pursuing top free agents with vigor. Already, Jayson WerthCarl Crawford and Cliff Lee have agreed to nine-figure contracts (though Lee declined to take the biggest offer available to him).

It’s the first time since 2006-07 and just the third time in baseball history that three free agents have signed deals worth over $100MM in the same winter. Alfonso Soriano, Barry Zito and Carlos Lee all signed for $100MM-plus in a 2006-07 offseason that stands out as one of the more player-friendly winters in recent history. Six years before that, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Mike Hampton signed nine-figure deals within three weeks of one another. 

Barring another coup by Scott Boras, who represents free agents such as Adrian BeltreRafael Soriano and Magglio Ordonez, Lee's contract will be the last $100MM deal of the current offseason. However, the winter promises to bring a number of more modest multiyear deals. Carl Pavano, Adam LaRoche, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Grant Balfour and others could sign for two or more years before the offseason ends.

Please note that extensions like the ones Troy Tulowitzki and Jay Bruce signed are not counted as free agent signings, since they weren’t completed on the open market. Multiyear deals signed by international free agents like Aroldis Chapman and Noel Arguelles are not counted either.

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