The Twins have already extended a pair of young players this winter, inking both Max Kepler (five years, $35MM) and Jorge Polanco (five years, $25.75MM) to long-term deals, and they at least made an attempt to hammer out a long-term arrangement with Jose Berrios as well. The young righty tells Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he and his representatives at Wasserman turned away an extension offer this winter.
Berrios, however, didn’t rule out signing a contract that would extend his stay in Minnesota — perhaps even before Opening Day 2019. “I have to manage my business, too,” said the 24-year-old. “…We’re waiting for the best for both sides. If it doesn’t happen this year, maybe next year.”
Miller lists the recent extensions signed by Aaron Nola (four years, $45MM) and Luis Severino (four years, $40MM) as data points, though it’s not clear that Berrios’ camp is seeking that type of guarantee. Furthermore, Severino was a Super Two player when he signed that deal, and Nola was had already reached three years of MLB service. Both players were already eligible for arbitration and were in line for salaries of at least $4.4MM for the coming season, whereas Berrios has two years, 44 days of MLB service and won’t be eligible for arbitration until next winter. As such, signing a comparable contract to either Nola or Severino would set a new precedent for the two-to-three service class.
As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes explored when looking at a potential extension for the Rockies’ Kyle Freeland, Berrios finds himself among a group of quality players with two-plus years of service who still seem likely to fall shy of record-setting money. Corey Kluber’s $38.5MM extension, signed on the heels of a Cy Young season, is the largest ever for a non-Super-Two pitcher with between two and three years of MLB service. Berrios’ case, clearly, isn’t as strong; historically speaking, he’s more in line with a large group of starters who signed in the realm of $30MM over five years (though many of those contracts are close to a decade old). It’s worth emphasizing, of course, that Berrios’ asking price and the parameters put forth by the Twins earlier this winter aren’t known.
Berrios had an awful rookie campaign as a 22-year-old but has since settled in as very solid big league starter — one whose raw stuff and former prospect pedigree create optimism that there’s still a fair bit of improvement left in the tank. Dating back to 2017, the Puerto Rican-born righty has worked to a 3.86 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.06 HR/9 and a 40 percent ground-ball rate in 338 innings. He’ll take the hill for Minnesota in his first career Opening Day start this season as the Twins hope the long touted right-hander can take another step forward and keep them in competition for a division title in the AL Central.
If Berrios is able to do that, he’ll vault himself into another tier of earning potential. At that point, he’d line up more comparably with Nola’s $45MM guarantee or the $51MM guarantee attained by the Cardinals’ Carlos Martinez, the latter of which stands out as the largest deal ever promised to a pitcher with between three and four years of MLB service (as can be seen in MLBTR’s Extension Tracker). For the time being, Miller’s colleague La Velle E. Neal III reports (via Twitter) that Berrios agreed to a one-year contract worth $620K for the upcoming season — his final pre-arbitration salary before at least entering the arb process next winter. Minnesota controls Berrios through the 2022 campaign.