Extensions That Didn’t Buy Out Free Agent Years

When MLBTR's Tim Dierkes and I examined the reasons teams do and don't extend young starters last fall, it became apparent that obtaining control of free agent years was critical for teams considering extensions. By locking a player up for one or more of his free agent seasons, the team gets to keep the player for longer, without having to bid for him on the open market.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein weighed in on extensions for arbitration eligible players this morning and explained that he doesn't like the idea of extending players if they aren't willing to sign a deal that includes a free agent season.

"If we’re going to sign arbitration-eligible players long term, we have to get one free agent year and we have to get an option for the club," Epstein said on WEEI. "Because we’re giving the player certainty. We need to be able get some of those prime years back in exchange. That makes it a fair bargain."

Most of the 21 arbitration eligible players who signed extensions this offseason surrendered at least one year of free agency, but nine players signed multiyear deals that provided them with security without delaying their arrival on the free agent market.

There are potential benefits for the teams that signed extensions without gaining control of their players' free agent years. The clubs obtained cost certainty and may end up saving money through arbitration, so free agent years aren't the only variable in play. The arbitration eligible players below signed extensions that did not include free agent years this offseason (sorted by most guaranteed dollars):

These extensions are by no means a new trend. Last winter alone, Mark Reynolds, Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, Andre Ethier, Jonathan Broxton and Matt Kemp signed extensions that didn't cover any free agent years.

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13 Responses to Extensions That Didn’t Buy Out Free Agent Years Leave a Reply

  1. Brad426 4 years ago

    Just as I said in a different post to Tim: how can it be called an extension if the amount of time that the player is obligated to the team isn’t lengthened?

    Take Votto as the example… yes, he was arbitration eligible in 2011, 2012, and 2013 but as long as the Reds wanted him he couldn’t go play for another team (or am I wrong about that?) So the contract he just got didn’t extend the amount of time he was contractually obligated to play for the Reds by a second, right?

    • Yes but now they can’t “non-tender” him. So it’s basically more of a risk for the club which is why the Votto deal looks so bad for the Reds.

      You would think that since they’re guaranteeing those years to him, they would get some type of a discount and it doesn’t look like they did.

      • Janssen 4 years ago

        Still baffled by that deal. It seems like the handed him a bucket-load of money for no real reason. Do they not understand how the process is supposed to work? Very strange signing.

        • Guest 4 years ago

          Its because they know that once he hits free agency, the only team he really wants to play for is the Blue Jays.

          They are trying to butter him up so he’ll stay.

    • Chip1010 4 years ago


      “Extension” might not be the best word, but it’s just the accepted term. And although a player is under team control for six years regardless, he doesn’t have a contract until they offer him one every year, and they’re only one-year deals. So, in a way, the player’s contract IS extended in that it’s guaranteed over the next x number of years instead of just one.

      • Brad426 4 years ago

        Yeah, I guess I am quibbling over semantics, but the very definition of the word is “an ADDITIONAL period of time given one to meet an obligation” and in these examples there is no additional time.

        But thanks for the reply.

    • Correct

  2. Brad426 4 years ago

    I whole-heartedly disagree. They pay him pretty close to the max they would have had to pay him if he continues to be healthy AND awesome and get not one second of additional time of him in a Red’s uniform. The team takes on all the risk.

    Read Ben’s article “Votto, Lozano Make Smart Deal” right over there —>

  3. timmytwoshoezzz 4 years ago

    The Reds got to defer a significant portion of his salary to help them make payroll and keep a contending team until revenue (season ticket sales) increase.

  4. Brad426 4 years ago

    How so? Votto gets $5.5MM in 2011, $9.5MM in 2012 and $17MM mil in 2013 along with a $6MM signing bonus. Probably not a lot different structure than had they paid him year by year in arbitration.

  5. Brad426 4 years ago

    Well, we’ll see I guess. My personal thought is that if Votto was interested in staying with the Reds HE would have shown some good will and given at least one FA year in this deal. In three years I have a feeling he will have more good will towards the biggest offer (or his hometown Blue Jays) than to what the Reds gave him three years ago.

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