Angels closer Huston Street, who acts as his own agent, told reporters at Angels camp today that he has been in “steady” negotiations with the team dating back to September (via the L.A. Times’ Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter). Street thinks a contract will eventually get done, but he has his sights set high, as DiGiovanna tweets that Street sees something between the four-year, $36MM contract signed by Andrew Miller and the four-year, $46MM pact inked by David Robertson this offseason as fair value. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register clarifies that Street is envisioning a new contract that would override his current $7MM salary and run through the 2018 season (Twitter link).
If that’s the case, then Street is essentially eyeing something along the lines of three years and $34MM worth of new money on an extension (using a $41MM midpoint between the aforementioned Robertson/Miller deals) — a lofty goal for a reliever entering his age-31 campaign. The Angels, conversely, are trying to sell Street on an extension that runs through the 2017 season, per MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter links). There’s no deadline on extension talks, Gonzalez adds.
From a performance standpoint, it’s easy to see why Street feels that he should be compensated at a level that is commensurate with the top arms on the market. Over the past three seasons, he’s worked to a 1.97 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 35 percent ground-ball rate in 155 innings between the Padres and the Halos. His 97 saves in that time tie him for 10th in the Majors.
However, there’s also reason for the Angels to express caution. Aside from the standard caveat emptor that comes with giving long-term contracts to all relievers, who are typically volatile assets, Street is a full year older than Robertson and Miller. A four-year deal covering the 2015-18 seasons would span Street’s age 31-34 seasons, whereas Robertson and Miller are under contract for their age 30-33 seasons. Street also has a lengthy injury history, with seven separate DL stints under his belt in the Major Leagues — three of which came from 2012-13.
Street has never been a flamethrower, but he’s averaged just north of 89 mph on his heater over the past three seasons and relies greatly on inducing weak contact and stranding runners. That’s not to say that his K/9 rate is sub-par — he’s whiffed nearly a better per inning — rather that he is of a different breed than the more prototypical elite relievers to which we’ve become accustomed (e.g. Robertson, Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Greg Holland).
There are few recent historical precedents for a reliever of this age signing an extension. The most recent comparable is probably Glen Perkins, who tacked an additional two years and $14.1MM onto his existing deal prior to the 2014 season. However, while that deal buys out a similar portion of Perkins’ career in terms of age, there are varying factors that prevent the two from being a truly apt comparison. Firstly, Perkins was two full seasons away from free agency as compared to Street’s one. Secondly, Perkins stated after the deal was completed that maximizing his earnings was never his top priority; he instead had simply hoped to remain with his hometown team for the bulk of his career.
As such, Street would seem to be in relatively uncharted territory. Not only is he negotiating his own deal, but he’s doing so at a time of his career when his peers have typically preferred to test the waters of the open market (or are already in the midst of long-term deals). Were Street to enjoy a typically excellent season and remain healthy, it’s not hard to envision teams showing interest in the three-year realm that he currently seeks. However, going that route would come with the risk of an injury in 2015 as well as the task of negotiating his own deal with not one, but many teams that would likely show interest.
It stands to reason then, that both sides have a motivation to get a contract worked out. Some form of vesting option could be a compromise, though such clauses can prove to be a headache down the line (as Jonathan Papelbon’s current trade talks demonstrate). While there’s no deadline on talks, one would think that each side would prefer to complete something prior to the onset of the season, meaning that Street could ultimately be one of the many Spring Training extensions we see on a yearly basis, assuming a deal is eventually agreed upon.