Troy Tulowitzki Rumors
The Rockies were one of the most aggressive teams in baseball in terms of extensions last offseason. They locked six of their players up on multiyear deals, including two contracts worth $80MM or more.
It’s still too early to say with much authority that the deals failed or succeeded, but Troy Tulowitzki’s contract doesn’t expire until 2020 at the earliest and that’s a long wait, so let's check in on the deals now. The early verdict? Nearly five months into the season, the Rockies’ new deals are going well, largely because their biggest investments are looking good. That in itself doesn't justify the moves, but it's certainly better than the alternative.
Tulowitzki (ten years, $157.75MM), Carlos Gonzalez (seven years, $80MM), Matt Lindstrom (two years, $6.6MM), Jason Hammel (two years, $7.75MM), Rafael Betancourt (two years, $8.02MM) and Matt Belisle (two years, $6.125MM) all signed long-term last winter. Conventional wisdom says multiyear deals for relievers and megadeals for players already under long-term control aren’t the most prudent ways of spending money, especially for a mid-market team. Nevertheless, the Rockies went ahead with the moves and they’re going well so far this year.
It would be hard to argue that Tulowitzki isn’t the best shortstop in the game. Gonzalez has boosted his walk rate, lowered his strikeout rate and, thanks to a recent hot streak that has included seven home runs in 12 days, raised his season line to .289/.360/.523. Betancourt, Belisle and Lindstrom (now on the DL) have each pitched at least 43 2/3 innings with at least 6.2 K/9, no more than 2.3 BB/9 and an ERA of 3.41 or below. Even Hammel, who just lost his rotation spot to Alex White, provided Colorado with three months’ worth of solid starts before faltering in July and August.
The extensions look good so far, despite the Rockies’ disappointing 63-68 record. At this point, that’s all Colorado could hope for. But every player they locked up could have been on the team this year even if GM Dan O’Dowd hadn’t inked them to long-term deals, so the final verdict on the 2010-11 offseason deals will have to wait for another decade or so.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a new Full Count video up, so let's recap...
- Two GMs tell Rosenthal that the Yankees are more worried about Mariano Rivera's nagging triceps injury than they're letting on. If true, they could increase their efforts to acquire a setup man, though they're hopeful Rafael Soriano will be back from his elbow injury soon after the All-Star break.
- The Mets have called the Yankees and offered Francisco Rodriguez according to one source, but they're only interested if the Mets call them at the deadline and offer K-Rod at a minimal price.
- The starting pitching market could soon heat up. The Rockies are getting calls about Ubaldo Jimenez and several other players, though they're not shopping their ace right-hander. Rosenthal says they'll listen on anyone besides Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Jimenez is under contract through 2014 (though he can void that option if traded) and could return a significant package of the players, so the team would give a trade serious consideration.
- Don't be surprised if the Marlins listen on Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez. Florida will try to get back into contention, though they'll likely entertain offers for both pitchers if that doesn't happen. Nolasco is under contract though 2013, Sanchez under team control through 2012.
- The Blue Jays offer perhaps the best value on the bullpen market. Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel, and Jon Rauch aren't in the same class as Heath Bell, though all three could pitch better outside of the AL East and have club options for 2012. They all figure to qualify as Type-B free agents as well.
Every year a few select players join baseball’s exclusive $100MM club with free agent deals and mega-extensions. Last offseason was no different - we saw six players sign nine figure deals. The contracts were all for five years or more, so it’s far too early to call them successes or failures. But as the season approaches its halfway point, let’s check in on baseball’s newest $100MM players:
- Troy Tulowitzki, ten-year, $157.75MM extension - Tulo has slowed down after a scorching start, but he's still having an excellent season. His .274/.339/.491 line and 13 homers look especially good when you consider that he's a good defensive shortstop.
- Adrian Gonzalez, seven-year, $154MM extension - Red Sox fans dreamed of a season like this when Theo Epstein acquired Gonzalez from the Padres in December. The first baseman is a leading MVP candidate with a .350/.403/.603 line and 15 home runs.
- Carl Crawford, seven-year, $142MM contract - Crawford was heating up before he hit the disabled list, but his numbers are poor overall. He has a .243/.275/.384 batting line, just 8 stolen bases and his lowest walk rate (3.2%) since 2002, his rookie season.
- Jayson Werth, seven-year, $126MM contract - Werth is hitting just .233/.334/.409, though he has 10 home runs. Nationals fans may be consoled by the fact that Werth erupted in the second half last year and has traditionally produced better after the All-Star break.
- Cliff Lee, five-year, $120MM contract - The prize of the offseason free agent market, Lee has a 3.12 ERA with 9.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 104 innings. The lefty is in the midst of another fantastic season and this time he doesn't have to worry about being traded.
- Ryan Braun, five-year, $105MM extension - Braun is having a monster year. He has a .310/.397/.555 line with 15 homers and a career-best 12.1% walk rate for the first-place Brewers.
It's fair to expect Werth and Crawford to turn their seasons around and produce as they did before signing nine figure free agent contracts. The other four additions to the $100MM club are justifying the deals, at least to the extent that it's possible in less than three months.
- Jack Etkin takes an in-depth look at Troy Tulowitzki in a piece for Baseball America. Within Etkin's article, there's word that Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd and Tulowitzki discussed an eventual position change "at length." Tulowitzki will be nearly 36 at the end of the 2020 season, the last one on his contract.
- O'Dowd told Dave Krieger of the Denver Post that Jimenez is completely healthy, just struggling to adapt to Major League hitters in ways he hasn't had to before.
- Ian Stewart, who was called up yesterday, is back with the Rockies for the first time in two weeks, as Steve Foster of Inside the Rockies notes.
In extending Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki through the year 2020, the Brewers and Rockies made bold commitments to their young stars by adding multiyear extensions on top of pre-existing contracts that already covered both men through 2015 and 2014, respectively.
Are these deals risky? Absolutely, but the contracts represent the latest step in how clubs attempt to lock up their young stars. It isn't enough to just gain cost-certainty on a player through his arbitration and first few free agent years. If a team feels they have a true franchise player, it won't hesitate to sign that player to what essentially could be a lifetime contract in order to (hopefully) avoid spending even more money to re-sign that player or a comparable star as a free agent.
Should other clubs look to explore this tactic of extending an extension, here are some of the possible candidates to join Braun and Tulowitzki in the "2020" club.
- Evan Longoria. We start off with the man with arguably the most team-friendly extension in baseball history. Longoria's six-year, $17.5MM contract signed in April 2008 contains three team option years (worth $7.5MM, $11MM and $11.5MM, respectively) that could keep him in Tampa Bay through 2016, his age-29 season. As MLBTR's Mike Axisa pointed out over the winter, however, the Rays' uncertain financial situation makes it unlikely that they would make an even longer commitment to Longoria than they already have.
- Robinson Cano. Cano signed a four-year, $30MM extension before the 2008 season that also includes team option years for 2012 ($14MM) and 2013 ($15MM). New York will obviously keep Cano in the fold through his age-30 season by picking up those two options, unless those years get replaced by a longer-term contract. Cano hired Scott Boras as his agent in February and while Cano said he isn't planning to ask for an extension before his current deal expires, the second baseman is clearly already thinking ahead.
- Justin Upton. The first overall pick of the already-legendary 2005 draft is signed through 2015 on a six-year, $51.25MM extension that will run out when he's 28 years old and right in the middle of his prime years. The Diamondbacks explored a few deals for Upton over the winter and set off a flurry of speculation, but it appears as if GM Kevin Towers was simply doing his due diligence to see if another team would go overboard with a trade offer. Upton had a slightly disappointing (.799 OPS) 2010 season, so Arizona might wait for at least one more superstar campaign from their young star to make sure he's worth the risk of another multiyear extension.
- Hanley Ramirez. It seems odd to think of the Marlins doling out any major extensions, let alone two to the same player. With the team moving into its new Miami ballpark next year, though, the extra revenue could make another multiyear deal for Ramirez into a reality -- not to mention generating some goodwill amongst Marlins fans to get them to spring for season tickets. Ramirez is under contract through 2014 on a six-year, $70MM deal and 2015 will be his age-31 season. If Florida did explore an extension for Ramirez, they would surely have to factor in a move away from shortstop, since his defensive woes (a career -9.4 UZR/150) are likely to worsen as he ages.
- Ryan Zimmerman. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently outlined how the Nationals' previous extension with Zimmerman -- a five-year, $45MM pact that runs through 2013 -- was a terrific bargain for the club. Given Zimmerman's production, age (he'll be 29 when his deal runs out) and Washington's willingness to spend, Zimmerman is probably the most likely player on this list to receive a Braun/Tulowitzki-esque deal.
- Joey Votto. The Reds took the first step towards locking up the reigning NL MVP when they signed Votto to a three-year, $38MM pact that covered the first baseman's arbitration years. Votto is still on pace to hit free agency as a 30-year-old in his prime, and as one agent put it, "the Reds took on all the risk" with this initial deal. Cincinnati has put itself in position to contend over the next few seasons, so that will theoretically take care of the Great American Ballpark's attendance problems and make it possible for the team to get Votto signed to an even longer-term contract.
- Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera signed an eight-year, $152.3MM extension with the Tigers before the 2008 season. He'll turn 33 in 2016, and that advanced age plus his off-the-field issues make him an unlikely extension candidate. Detroit has the money and Cabrera has put up Cooperstown-worthy numbers throughout his career, but there just may be too much risk involved for the Tigers to commit more money to the slugger.
Links for Friday, as we celebrate the anniversary of Jackie Robinson's MLB debut. Robinson's Hall of Fame career began 64 years ago today, when he broke baseball's color barrier...
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos continues to talk to teams about David Purcey and tells Rogers Sportnet's Shi Davidi (Twitter link) that there is "very strong" interest in the left-hander. Purcey was designated for assignment earlier this week, and Anthopoulos said he expects to use all 10 days of Purcey's DFA period exploring trades.
- The Mariners are still searching in vain for a cleanup hitter to anchor their lineup, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.
- Jonah Keri of Fangraphs looks at some players who parlayed "a small sample of greatness — a stretch-run tear, monster playoff performance, even a single game or play — to big paydays" and how none of these signings worked out for their respective teams.
- Now that Josh Hamilton is on the disabled list, it's Nelson Cruz's chance to carry the Rangers, Jon Paul Morosi writes at FOX Sports.com.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports points out that the Rays figure to have a tougher climb to the top of the AL East standings than the Red Sox.
- Is Troy Tulowitzki the best player in baseball? Rob Neyer of SB Nation asks a legitimate question and says it'd be hard to argue that there's a better player to be found right now.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
- The Rockies' offer of a seven-year, $80MM extension was probably less than Gonzalez could have earned between arbitration and potential free agency several years down the road, writes Heyman, but Gonzalez accepted it anyway.
- Gonzalez, who grew up poor in Venezuela, is exceptionally mature and humble for his age, according to Heyman, and rather than chase top dollar, he preferred the security of the long-term deal with a team that's he comfortable with.
- Gonzalez had the full support of his agent, Scott Boras, whose clients typically go to free agency rather than signing extensions. Boras provided Gonzalez with the information indicating that Gonzalez could probably make more money if he waited till free agency.
- Boras praised Gonzalez for handling and analyzing the information, noting that Gonzalez turned down three or four offers before accepting the one that he did.
- Turning down top dollar is not new for Gonzalez, however. He accepted a $150K bonus as a 16-year-old international free agent when he could have demanded as much as $1MM, writes Heyman.
- Gonzalez is a close friend of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who also signed a long-term extension with Colorado this offseason. Tulowitzki said part of the reason he signed his extension is because Gonzalez had told him that he wanted to sign long-term, too.
Troy Tulowitzki's first extension with the Rockies, a six-year, $31MM deal signed three years ago, set a precedent at the time as the largest deal ever for a player with less than two years of Major League service time. Tulowitzki had one full big league season under his belt, but the Rockies guaranteed $17.25MM for his three arbitration years and $10MM for a far-off free agent season, with a club option at $15MM for an additional free agent year. Even with Tulo's lack of service time, the risk in total dollars was minimal.
With the Rockies' first bet on Tulowitzki looking prescient, a few months ago they made another wager about four times the size by guaranteeing their shortstop's 2014 option year (plus an extra million bucks) and adding $118MM for the 2015-20 seasons. The popular question was, why now? Tulowitzki was already under team control through '14. Wouldn't the safe move be to wait at least a few more years?
The answer is that the Rockies likely feared that the price to retain Tulowitzki for his age 30-35 seasons would increase drastically with each additional MVP-caliber season. With the new money totaling $119MM over six years, that's $19.83MM per year. The cost of Tulowitzki's age 30-35 seasons falls between the salaries of newly-signed free agent outfielders Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford, but they're poor comparables. Premium all-around up-the-middle players almost never reach free agency, with only Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Torii Hunter, and Miguel Tejada coming to mind in recent years. With such a tiny sample of similar free agents, not to mention economic uncertainty, I can't use a formula to predict what Tulowitzki might have gotten as a free agent in 2015.
Still, it's easy to look at the player Tulowitzki is now and imagine him getting a $200MM+ contract on the open market in four years, given inflation and the rarity of elite shortstops. Since 2000, only Tulowitzki, A-Rod, Brian McCann, Grady Sizemore, Hanley Ramirez, and Joe Mauer posted a pair of 130 OPS+ seasons at age 25 or younger while playing up the middle. Take the sample back to the 90s and we add Mike Piazza, Ken Griffey Jr., and Nomar Garciaparra.
This is where I start to worry about the Rockies' gamble. Sizemore, Griffey, Nomar - in their mid-20s it sure looked like they'd still be premium players at age 30-35. Fans might have responded positively to Tulo-style extensions, unable to imagine worst case scenarios. But Griffey and Nomar saw that slice of their careers destroyed by injuries, and Sizemore currently has something to prove at age 28. Tulowitzki has already missed significant time with a broken wrist and a quad tear in his young career, but he came back strong in both cases.
To their credit, the Rockies built in slight protection by dropping Tulowitzki's base salary down to $14MM in 2020, his final guaranteed season. Performance decline isn't the main concern - even as just a good player, Tulo's contract won't look bad in his early 30s. The greater worry is that injuries will take over at that stage, perhaps due to the extra wear and tear of playing an up-the-middle position.
The Rockies have locked up Troy Tulowitzki through 2020 and they've agreed to a deal that should keep Carlos Gonzalez in Denver through 2017. Both are powerful young hitters capable of playing premium defensive positions at a high level, so any team would want them.
Tulowitzki, 26, finished fifth in MVP voting in 2009 and 2010. He plays Gold Glove defense and has an electrifying bat capable of carrying a team (remember those 15 September home runs?). Gonzalez, also a Gold Glove winner, is just 25. He won a batting title last year and hit 34 home runs. Few teams have two elite young players like Tulo and CarGo, so it's not surprising that GM Dan O'Dowd wanted to keep them around.
But the Rockies didn't have to offer Tulowitzki and Gonzalez massive extensions to keep the players in Colorado. They were both under team control through 2014 before they agreed to extensions. You could argue that the Rockies took on unnecessary risk with their recent deals. It begs the question...
When we think of extension candidates, we think of players like Albert Pujols or Clayton Kershaw - franchise players nearing free agency or young players establishing themselves as big league stars. Players like Troy Tulowitzki, who already have extensions, don't usually come to mind, but that didn't stop the Rockies from extending Tulo with a $119MM deal that will keep him in Denver through the 2020 season. Here are some reactions to the extension from around the web:
- ESPN.com's Keith Law writes that the contract is excessive and risky, even though Tulowitzki is "among the ten most valuable position players in baseball."
- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs says this "seems like a deal [the Rockies] should have sat on for another year at least."
- Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe points out that this deal makes Boston's Dustin Pedroia extension look pretty good. Pedroia is under team control through 2015 on a contract that will pay him $44.5MM at most for 2011-15.
- Yahoo's Jeff Passan argues that argues that the deal is bad for Tulowitzki and "ill-conceived and unconscionable" for the Rockies.
- I respectfully disagree with Passan on Tulowitzki, who seems to like playing for the Rockies. It seems doubtful that Tulo will regret signing an extension that pays him $20MM per season.