Remarkably, no free agents have secured MLB guarantees of four or more years to this point, as the MLBTR 2017-18 free agent tracker shows. Hyun-soo Kim did get that length of deal to return to his native Korea, and several players picked up vesting options for fourth seasons, but it’s still a notable aspect of this winter’s player market.
That said, several players have secured promises for at least three campaigns, some of which include hefty average annual values. Relievers have dominated the early proceedings, but two position players and two pitchers who are expected to work as starters are among those to secure the largest contracts to date.
Keeping our field to the group of players who’ve secured three-year pacts, which do you think was the wisest signing, all things considered?
- Carlos Santana, 1B, Phillies ($60MM with club option): While most sluggers remain uncommitted entering 2018, Santana was pursued by multiple teams and ended up as a surprise first splash from the Phils’ front office. This was a competitive bidding situation for an accomplished hitter who is limited to playing first base, but there’s an argument to be made that the team has added a cornerstone piece at a palatable price and manageable term of commitment.
- Wade Davis, RP, Rockies ($52MM with vesting player option): While we had guessed that Davis could take down four years, he took a higher annual value over a slightly shorter term. The deal also leaves Davis with some protection at the back end, as he’ll have a very achievable vesting player option for the 2021 campaign. It’s possible to highlight the record-setting AAV here, but the Rox also no doubt feel pleased that they got the open market’s best closer at a lower overall guarantee than that secured by Mark Melancon last winter.
- Tyler Chatwood, SP, Cubs ($38MM): Here at MLBTR, we thought we might be a bit bullish on Chatty when we predicted he’d secure a three-year guarantee. It turned out we were extremely light on the dollars, as he ended up nearly doubling our best guess. Teams obviously were enamored of his stuff and youth; if he can thrive while pitching full-time away from Coors Field, perhaps the Cubs may yet have a bargain.
- Zack Cozart, SS/3B, Angels ($38MM): Year after year, Cozart has rated among the best defenders in baseball. And more recently, he has shown the bat to match, never more than in a highly productive 2017 campaign. But there just has never been adequate demand at short to drive his market. Enter the Angels, who intend to utilize Cozart at third base, where he’ll pair with the incomparable Andrelton Simmons and new second baseman Ian Kinsler to form an incredibly talented trio of defensive infielders.
- Mike Minor, SP/RP, Rangers ($28MM): Though he rebounded as a reliever in 2017, Minor has in the past been quite a high-quality starter. It seems that the Rangers’ willingness to utilize him in that role may have been a separator to allow the team to land Minor. His health remains a question, but if Minor can return to anything like his former form in the rotation he’d deliver huge value on the contract.
- Jake McGee, RP, Rockies ($27MM with vesting option): We expected the power lefty to secure a three-year deal, but he flew past our best guess ($18MM) at the guarantee. Still, it’s worth remembering that McGee succeeded in baseball’s most difficult pitching environment last year, so he has already shown the Rox what he can do at altitude. And he regained the velocity he had lost in his first year in Colorado, though he still is working at about two mph less than he did in his best days with the Rays.
- Bryan Shaw, RP, Rockies ($27MM with vesting option): Here again, an accomplished reliever secured a larger guarantee than we foresaw (in his case, $21MM). Shaw’s recent track record is of the sort that invites the question: does his durability through heavy use prove that he’s a workhorse, or suggest he could be carrying some worn-out parts that might be prone to breaking? Colorado is betting on the former. The 30-year-old has been steadily effective and has always answered the call to this point in his career.