September isn’t usually a terribly active month on the trade front, as players acquired after August 31 are not eligible to join an acquiring club’s postseason roster. However, in recent years, we have seen some notable extensions hammered out in the final full month of the regular season (or shortly thereafter in early October). While most such agreements represent short-term arrangements with veterans — such as with the recent pact between Tyler Flowers and the Braves — every now and again there’s a more significant pact to be found. Could we see one go down in the coming weeks ? Here’s a look back at some notable late-season extensions over the past seven seasons…
- Reds sign Tucker Barnhart to four-year, $16MM extension. — Easily the most notable pact of this grouping, this agreement gave the Reds control and cost certainty over a player who had emerged as a solid semi-regular performer. True, he’s a dreadful baserunner (by measure of Fangraphs’ BsR) and has not quite hit at a league-average rate. But Barnhart has steadily improved with the bat to the point that he’s better than the average backstop at the plate. He’s generally regarded as a quality defender, though he hasn’t been as good at controlling the running game this year and isn’t well-loved by framing metrics, though it’s certainly possible the Cincinnati pitching staff doesn’t help with those measures. Baseball Prospectus does grade him as the game’s best blocker of balls in the dirt, however, and there’s a case to be made that he’s a valuable handler of hurlers (see this recent story from Shannon Russell of The Athletic, though it requires a subscription).
- Blue Jays sign Marco Estrada to one-year, $13MM extension. — After two-straight sterling campaigns, Estrada was not quite at the top of his game in 2017. Still, the Jays bet that he’d return to form, staking a rather hefty payout to keep him for the ’18 campaign. Estrada has not performed as hoped, however, working to a 5.43 ERA in 124 1/3 innings. He has maintained a swinging-strike rate in his typical ten percent range, but is generating only 6.5 K/9 and allowing 1.8 homers per nine as of this writing.
- Padres sign Clayton Richard to a two-year, $6MM extension. — While the bottom-line results weren’t all that exciting, Richard gave the Friars nearly 200 frames in 32 outings last year. This contract seemed to represent solid value, particularly since the veteran lefty could not only occupy a rotation spot but also perhaps slide into a pen role if the Pads had a need. Unfortunately, he has been knocked around thus far in 2018, allowing 5.33 earned per nine over 158 2/3 innings.
- Braves sign Kurt Suzuki to one-year, $3.5MM extension. — In the midst of a breakout season at the plate, Suzuki agreed to re-up with the Atlanta organization. He has delivered solid value thus far in 2018, slashing .269/.328/.439 while swatting ten home runs in his 341 trips to the plate. With the Braves deciding this time around to pursue a deal with Flowers, the duo could split up in 2019 — though perhaps it’s still possible that a reunion (even via late-season extension) could be hammered out.
- Marlins sign Martin Prado to a three-year, $40MM extension. — This is one of the biggest deals we have seen at this stage of the season. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the worst. The steady veteran had a long history of quality performance — solidly above-average hitting with good glovework — and had settled in as a leader in Miami. Of course, the contract also didn’t seem to represent much of a discount for a low-power player who was already 32 years of age. Prado has struggled with injuries quite a bit ever since, slashing just .246/.284/.326 in only 356 total plate appearances, which makes the backloaded deal look like a suboptimal investment.
- Braves sign Jim Johnson to a two-year, $10MM extension. — This early October deal set the Braves’ offseason course, as the club would go on to invest in several other veteran hurlers. Then 33, Johnson was wrapping up quite a strong season at the time of the extension, as he contributed 64 2/3 frames of 3.06 ERA ball with 9.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 along with a 55.0% groundball rate. Johnson was expected to function as Atlanta’s closer, keeping a veteran arm to the back of the pen while tamping down the arbitration earning power of younger pitchers. As it turned out, he struggled in 2017 and ended up having his salary dumped via trade by Atlanta. But he has logged solid results, posting a 3.62 ERA even as his strikeout rate (6.1 K/9), swinging-strike rate (7.3%) and groundball rate (50.6%) have trended down.
- Marlins sign Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year, $2MM extension with a club option. — The Fish pushed a 41-year-old Ichiro harder than had been expected in 2015, and he responded with a less-than-useful campaign. But he was still valued as a bench presence, and it didn’t hurt that 2016 promised a run at 3,000 hits. Ichiro not only passed that milestone, but thrived in a more limited role that year, providing solid baserunning and glovework as well as a sturdy .291/.354/.376 batting line in 365 plate appearances. The Marlins ended up repeating the contractual move late in 2016, picking up the option and adding another option year. He hasn’t been nearly as productive at the plate in 2017, however.
- Rockies sign Jorge De La Rosa to a two-year, $25MM extension. — De La Rosa saw a strong uptick in his fastball velocity in 2014, his second full season back from Tommy John surgery. With an average of 92.3 mph on his heater versus 91.1 mph in 2013, De La Rosa pitched to a 4.26 ERA with 6.7 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 51.9 percent ground-ball rate in 160 2/3 innings of work at the time of the signing. In 2015, the hurler pitched to a similar 4.17 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9, but his productivity fell off in the second year of the contract — which proved to be the end of his tenure in Colorado.
- Padres sign Will Venable to a two-year, $8.5MM extension. — Venable had a breakout season in terms of his power production in 2013, so the Padres moved to lock in his remaining arbitration salaries, as further 20-homer/20-steal seasons would cause the price to soar. Unfortunately for the team, Venable’s decision to opt for security looks wise, in hindsight, as he batted just .224/.288/.325 in the first year of the deal and .248/.325/.356 in 2015. Venable ended up moving to the Rangers in an August waiver trade and saw only minimal MLB time from that point forward. He ultimately hung up his spikes and took a front-office gig with the Cubs in 2017.
- Marlins sign Greg Dobbs to a one-year, $1.75MM extension. — This extension drew plenty of public scrutiny, as Dobbs’ on-field performance in 2013 (.228/.303/.300) didn’t warrant the deal. It was eventually reported that owner Jeffrey Loria negotiated the deal without consulting former president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest. The Dobbs extension would be one of many stories that were referenced when describing the rift between Loria and Beinfest at the time of Beinfest’s dismissal.
- Giants sign Hunter Pence to a five-year, $90MM extension. — The most notable of any extension in this post, Pence was positioned to be one of the top free agents in the 2013-14 class, but he took what looked to be market value at the time to remain in San Francisco. As it turns out, the market for outfield bats was more aggressive than many had thought, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo landing seven-year deals worth $153MM and $131MM, respectively. In the first season of his deal, Pence hit .277/.332/.445 with 20 homers. While he largely continued that output over the next two seasons of the pact, injuries sapped his playing time and Pence hit a wall in 2017 (his age-34 campaign).
- Padres sign Chris Denorfia to a two-year, $4.25MM extension. — Denorfia’s strong season led former GM Josh Byrnes to lock in his final arb years with this modest extension, and Denorfia made the deal look like a good one in 2013 by hitting a solid .279/.337/.395 with a career-high 10 homers and excellent numbers against lefties. His production fell off in the contract’s second year, but the Padres’ triumvirate of interim GMs were still able to flip him to Seattle for outfielder Abraham Almonte and minor league righty Stephen Kohlscheen.
- Rangers sign Colby Lewis to a one-year, $2MM extension. — Lewis went down for the season in mid-July back in 2012, but he’d been enjoying a strong season and was expected to return for the 2013 campaign, making a $2MM salary a potential bargain for Texas. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Lewis had multiple setbacks and wasn’t able to take the hill the following season, but it’s not hard to see why they were interested in the low-risk deal; Lewis had turned in a 3.93 ERA over his previous 506 1/3 innings with the Rangers.
- Cardinals sign Chris Carpenter to a two-year, $21MM extension. — Carpenter led the league in innings pitched in 2011 and had been generally excellent over the previous three seasons, prompting quite a bit of praise for this deal. He, in fact, restructured his contract and took what most expected to be less money in the long run, giving up a $15MM club option in favor of this two-year deal. Of course, Carpenter would sadly throw just 17 more innings in his career before injuries forced him to retire. While it looked good at the time, this deal didn’t pan out.
- Mets sign Tim Byrdak to a one-year, $1MM extension. — While the extension wasn’t particularly memorable and didn’t have a large impact on the 2012 Mets, Byrdak fired 30 2/3 innings of 4.40 ERA ball and was a strong weapon against lefties, making him worth his modest salary.
- Cardinals sign Lance Berkman to a one-year, $12MM extension. — After a huge rebound campaign in 2011, Big Puma was rewarded with this contract, but he totaled just 97 plate appearances the following season due to knee injuries. He wasn’t able to recover with the Rangers in 2013 and retired following that season, putting an end to an excellent career.
- Marlins sign Omar Infante to a two-year, $8MM extension. — This contract paid dividends in the sense that Infante was largely excellent for the Marlins over the next half-season before being dealt to the Tigers along with Anibal Sanchez. That trade netted former top prospect Jacob Turner, catcher Rob Brantly and lefty Brian Flynn — a respectable haul at the time but one that now looks lackluster. Miami dealt Turner to the Cubs for a pair of low-level relievers last season, and Brantly was passed over in favor of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
- White Sox sign Sergio Santos to a three-year, $8.25MM extension. — Signed at the end of a breakout season as the White Sox closer, Santos found himself traded to the Blue Jays for pitching prospect Nestor Molina that offseason. Molina didn’t do much and was outrighted by the ChiSox in 2014, but they probably feel fortunate not to have had to pay Santos the money he was guaranteed, as shoulder injuries led to a 5.23 ERA and just 51 innings pitched over the life of his three guaranteed years with Toronto.
The original version of this post was written by Steve Adams and Zach Links and ran in September 2015.