Athletics Extend Sean Doolittle

The Athletics have signed left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle to a five-year contract extension with a pair of options, the club announced (via Twitter). The deal covers the current season and runs through 2018, after which time Oakland will have a pair of options for the 2019 and 2020 campaigns. Doolittle is represented by Jason Cook.


Doolittle’s contract is complicated, to say the least, as it is heavily dependent on whether or not Doolittle, who entered the season with one year, 122 days of Major League service time, qualifies as a Super Two player after the season (last year’s cutoff was exactly 1.122). Should he miss Super Two status, Doolittle is guaranteed a total of $10.5MM with club options valued at $6MM in 2019 and $6.5MM in 2020 — both with a $500K buyout. Under that scenario, Doolittle will receive $750K in 2015, $1.55MM in 2016, $2.6MM in 2017 and $4.35MM in 2018.

Should he qualify as a Super Two player, Doolittle will earn $1.4MM in 2015, $2.45MM in 2016, $3.65MM in 2017 and $5MM in 2018. In addition to the Super Two conditions, Doolittle’s contract also contains incentives based on games finished that could boost the deal’s value to $30MM. Should he finish 100 games between 2018-19, his 2020 option will become a mutual option. Additionally, Doolittle also received a $150K signing bonus and a $600K salary for 2014 — neither of which is impacted by his Super Two status.

Doolittle, 27, is entering his third year of MLB action and came into the year with 1.122 years of MLB service. Take with the 41st-overall pick out of the University of Virginia (where he was a two-way player) back in 2007, Doolittle started his professional career as a first baseman. He switched to the hill after knee problems, and wasted little time in getting to the bigs.

Since cracking the A’s pen in 2012, Doolittle has thrown 125 innings of 3.10 ERA ball. The fireballing southpaw has racked up 9.3 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 over that stretch, though he has averaged only a 32.7% ground-ball rate. (Advanced metrics have pegged his big league time at 2.56 FIP, 3.41 xFIP, and 2.76 SIERA.) Primarily a fastball pitcher, Doolittle has gone to his curve more frequently this year. Given his late turn back to pitching, it could be that the A’s see more room for him to grow; Doolittle was a starter in college.

While it is hard to pass any judgment on the extension without knowing its financial terms, it is obviously a surprisingly lengthy pact for a reliever. Obviously, the possibility of Doolittle driving up his arbitration cost by accumulating saves could be a consideration here. It would be surprising if Oakland did not achieve a significant discount in return for guaranteeing future salary for a reliever with such little service time.

Regardless how much it is worth, this contract lands in relatively uncharted territory. MLBTR’s Extension Tracker reveals only three reliever extensions of four-year durations, and none that have gone to five. Of course, given that the 2014 season is already underway, it is probably best to view Doolittle’s new deal as a four-year pact. Of those prior deals, two were for established closers (Craig Kimbrel and Joe Nathan) with significantly more service time and very different situations. The other — the four-year, $8.025MM deal (plus two options) signed by Manny Corpas and the Rockies when he had 1.076 years of service — appears to be the only clear comparable. (Corpas was coming off of a 19-save, 2.08 ERA campaign in his age-24 season.)

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle first reported the general contract parameters and conditional increases, and the Associated Press chipped in the year-to-year specifics.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Steve Adams contributed to this post.

22 Responses to Athletics Extend Sean Doolittle Leave a Reply

  1. $1534453 1 year ago

    This is good to see. I’m sure a lot of people would have preferred to see Gray or Donaldson extended first, but Doolittle deserves it as much as anyone, in my opinion. Even if he remains a setup man most of his career, he’s a really good asset.

    • JoshReddicksWalkupSong 1 year ago

      Gray only has 13 major league starts, but yeah, locking those guys up would be nice.

      • $1534453 1 year ago

        If they can get Gray on a deal that’s similar to the one Anderson signed, or Donaldson on a deal that’s similar to the one Cahill signed, I’d love to see it.

    • Snoochies8 1 year ago

      I’m probably in the minority of not wanting to extend Donaldson. When he’s eligible for free agency, he’ll be a year younger than when Doolittle is now eligible (assuming the A’s pick up both his options). He’ll be just at the end of his assumed peak years

      • $1534453 1 year ago

        For me, it depends on what his asking price is. If they can sign him through his 4 arbitration years for around $35M, with a club option or two, I wouldn’t mind seeing it. But if he’s wanting $50-60M guaranteed, then I agree they should hold off.

      • liberalconservative 1 year ago

        After Barton’s only good year there was talk of extending him. Moss and Donaldson would be good extensions. Cespedes has asked about a extension but that would be very costly.

    • It’s really weird to see Billy Beane suddenly putting a bunch of money into the bullpen…

      • $1534453 1 year ago

        Actually, the Johnson/Gregerson/O’Flaherty additions weren’t surprising to me. After they had replaced Colon and Young with Kazmir and Gentry, they still had some payroll space left, and bolstering the bullpen for 2014 was all they could do without having to hamstring themselves long-term.

  2. JoshReddicksWalkupSong 1 year ago

    That’s quite a long extension for a reliever. Great story for him to switch to pitching only a couple years ago to earn this extension. Looking forward to watching him pitch for the next five years.

    I’d also be happy with a Gray, Donaldson and Norris extension.

  3. Eric K 1 year ago

    Best news I’ve heard all day

  4. Mike R 1 year ago

    Can rack up saves now without a’s worrying about being priced out

    • garylanglais 1 year ago

      I was thinking the same thing. While I don’t agree with giving any RP a 5-year deal, if he’s the closer starting next season (or this season), they have cost control through his Arb years which can be heavily influenced by saves

    • Guest 1 year ago

      With 7 blown saves in his first 11 opportunities, that may not be something they were gonna have to worry about, anyway. He’s a very good reliever, who’s worth locking up, but he may always be best suited as a set-up man.

      • disadvantage 1 year ago

        In fairness, most of his blown saves came by allowing a run in the 7th inning to blow his chances of a 3 inning save, which wasn’t going to happen in the first place.

  5. Jesse Rodriguez 1 year ago

    DOOOOO, great extension

  6. disgruntledreader 1 year ago

    Anyone seriously think there are better than 50-50 odds he’ll be a big leaguer in the year 2020?

  7. Caleb 1 year ago

    A reliever? I think we’ve reached “peak extension”.

  8. Arbitration really jacks up the price of relievers, though unless Doolittle becomes the closer he wouldn’t have been looking at a massive payday. Could be a really good deal. It also might not.

  9. Ace McCloud® 1 year ago

    My boy ! Love this deal, love Doolittle..let’s go Oakland.

  10. agureghian 1 year ago

    Now Gray’s turn.
    How about a contract similar to Rays’ Archer.
    6 years 25.5m

  11. LittleOtterPaws 1 year ago

    I guess you could say the A’s are hoping he turns into Sean Doalot.

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