Taking Stock Of Recent Early-Career Extensions

Some franchises have had tremendous success locking up star players to team-friendly extensions early on in their careers. The deals are an integral part of the current Rays teams, and they figured prominently into John Hart’s model for the 1990s Indians. 

But not all early-career extensions are team friendly, even if they first seem shrewd. Teams couldn’t make Mo Vaughn-sized mistakes on players with one or two years of service time if they tried to, but the moves can and do backfire on a more modest scale. 

MLBTR's Extension Tracker lists all the extensions signed by players with less than two years of service time since 2009. I’ve compared these contracts to how the players' earnings might look if they had gone year to year instead of signing long-term (click on the team names for MLBTR posts for each extension):

Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies – Even though Jimenez is coming off of an up-and-down 2011 season, his deal is a team-friendly one. If he hadn't signed, Jimenez would have been arbitration eligible for the first time following the 2010 season. The combination of his sparkling platform season and strong career numbers would have set Jimenez up for a potentially record-setting 2011 salary of $4.4MM or more followed by a raise for the 2012 season. Instead, he earned $2.8MM last year and will earn just $4.2MM in 2012. There's no denying Jimenez struggled last year, but this extension saved his teams money.

Denard Span, Twins – Before signing his deal, Span had a career OPS of .811 in 1087 plate appearances. Since the contract, he has a .682 OPS in 1016 plate appearances. I estimate he'd be in line for a salary in the $2-2.5MM range if he had gone to arbitration as a first-time eligible player this offseason. Instead, he'll earn $3MM in 2012 with generous raises on the way for 2013-14.

Anderson

Brett Anderson, Athletics – Anderson (pictured) would have been arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason if he hadn't signed his extension. The lefty missed the second half of the 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and will earn $3.25MM in 2012. If he hadn't signed an extension, his salary would have been lower, likely in the $2-3MM range. This deal could pay off later, since the A's have a club option for one of Anderson's free agent seasons.

Ricky Romero, Blue Jays – Romero would have been arbitration eligible this offseason and his numbers would likely have placed his 2012 salary in the $4MM range if he hadn’t signed an extension. Romero will earn $5MM in 2012, so the Blue Jays’ savings will start in 2013 or 2014, when the left-hander earns $7.5MM per year. The deal couldn't be going much better for either side at this point.

Wade Davis, Rays – Davis wouldn't yet be arbitration eligible even if he hadn't signed his contract last offseason. So far the Rays' investment looks fair, but unspectacular. Davis pitched 184 solid innings last year and would be well on his way to a 2013 salary in the $3MM range. Instead, he'll earn $2.8MM next year.

Jose Tabata, Pirates – Tabata has only played a partial season since signing his deal, so it’s too early to assess its success.

Matt Moore, Rays – Moore has thrown all of 304 pitches at the Major League level (postseason included). We’ll have a better sense of how his deal is going a year from now.

Extensions are about risk management for both the player and the team. It’s understandable for players like Evan Longoria to seek guaranteed money early in their careers, just as it’s understandable for teams to cap costs on players who seem headed for certain stardom. Some deals work out considerably better than others, though, and the lesson here is that early-career extensions are far from a sure thing for teams.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.


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27 Comments on "Taking Stock Of Recent Early-Career Extensions"


j6takish
3 years 5 months ago

Are the A’s just awful at developing pitchers? Or do they always draft high risk guys in later rounds of the draft? Seems like their pitchers blow out their arms left and right

Sajju Shah
3 years 5 months ago

right because Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito (oops), Dan Haren, etc, etc etc, all blew out their arms. 

Redbirds16
3 years 5 months ago

Dan Haren was drafted and developed by the Cards, and traded for Mulder, who did indeed blow out his arm (shoulder really) with the Cards.

Chris_RG
3 years 5 months ago

Tim Hudson has had arm issues (on top of the previously mentioned fact that Haren was developed by the Cards)

FunkyTime
3 years 5 months ago

The difference is if an early extension works out better for the player it’s still only going to cost the team a few extra million at most, over the course of the contract.  The Longoria deal will save the Rays tens of millions of dollars.

So even if the majority of the deals ended up helping the player, the teams would still save money with these deals in the long run.

Chillin_in_California
3 years 5 months ago

The rays signing Matt Moore to that deal was sheer robbery. That guy has ace written all over him. While other teams are spending 100 million plus to get aces the rays are pulling shrewd deals like this.

dc21892
3 years 5 months ago

They’re paying hundreds of millions for proven pitchers. Clearly, nothing is guaranteed but do you really think it was a steal on the Rays part? He has had too little time in the majors to be saying he’s got ace written all over him.

faceforest
3 years 5 months ago

The guy is getting payed more than what he would if he was back down at league minimum. That’s guaranteed money over potentially making it when he becomes a free agent and blowing it a few years before he hits the market.

stl_cards16
3 years 5 months ago

Wouldn’t Jaime Garcia qualify for this list? Or was he over two years?

3 years 5 months ago

I thought Colorado traded Jimenez???

3 years 5 months ago

They did. The team listed is the team that signed him to an extension, not their current team.

3 years 5 months ago

Very enjoyable article.  Thanks!

Rangersalchamps
3 years 5 months ago

Oh yeah to all you Sox and Yankee fans I’m going to go ahead and apologize for bashing your teams! I plan on entering Yankee and Red Sox rehab so I’ll stop bashing you guys.

Go Rays and Rangers!

3 years 5 months ago

Except both teams would rather be over the luxury tax and win then under not make the playoffs/be a top 2 team in their division.

BitLocker
3 years 5 months ago

Except both teams have the money to go over the luxury tax and will if they see that it makes sense for them. If Cano, Granderson, and Gardner still perform how they are now then you bet the Yankees will be signing them to whatever money they want to keep them and no luxury tax will stop them. Same goes with the Red Sox.

chico65
3 years 5 months ago

Bravado from a Texan?  Well, I never…!

Rangersalchamps
3 years 5 months ago

I know both teams are capable of going over but is to worth it? I’m not really sure but isnt the punishment for being over the luxury tax quite steep? I’d go over only if that team has the surefire talent to win a W.S.. Not just make the playoffs. I’m not a GM so I don’t make these kinds of decisions though. Food for thought my friend

Crosstownkid
3 years 5 months ago

Doesn’t he have a clause that if he got traded which he did. He can void the 2014 option?

ellisburks
3 years 5 months ago

If the Indians are willing to pay Fausto Roberto Hernandez Heredia Carmona $7mil coming off of a 5.25ERA, 1.4o5Whip season I think they will pick up Jimenez’s deal for a measly 5.75.

Rangersalchamps
3 years 5 months ago

Not quite sure what a “Bravado” is?

Crosstownkid
3 years 5 months ago

Oh absolutely. With his past track record too he has an ok season. He will get a good sized payday

Piccamo
3 years 5 months ago

In the new CBA, it starts off relatively weak and gets steeper the longer a team is over the cap. A team can go for 3 years over the cap, go under the cap for a season, and then back over for another season and is treated as a first-time offender again. The new CBA would penalize the Yankees at the maximum level until they get under the cap.

I don’t have the numbers handy at the moment for how much the tax increases each year over the cap.

ellisburks
3 years 5 months ago

“A pretense of bravery; The quality or state of being foolhardy; A blustering swaggering conduct”

ellisburks
3 years 5 months ago

I defined bravado and now that is getting moderated. I guess you will have to look it up yourself.

rickjimbo
3 years 5 months ago

Check the googles?

westprice
3 years 2 months ago

bravado from someone that doesn’t even know what it means. i guess that is fitting.

chico65
3 years 5 months ago

Irony: A Texan responsible for “No child left behind”