There was a well-documented run on contract extensions prior to this season, which bled into the current campaign in multiple instances. All told, 30 players inked multiyear pacts with their clubs between January and April. We highlighted five last week who’ve disappointed this year since landing their new deals. Now, here are six who have actually improved in 2019, thereby making their teams look that much better for locking them up…
- There were many who believed Bogaerts left a good amount of money on the table last spring when he inked a long-term deal with the Red Sox a year before a potential trip to free agency. It was debatable then whether that was truly the case, but not anymore. The consistently terrific Bogaerts is now enjoying a career year at the age of 26. Bogaerts has totaled 5.5 fWAR on the strength of a .308/.384/.563 line (good for a 142 wRC+) through 539 plate appearances. With a personal-best 27 home runs, he’s a shoo-in for his first 30-HR campaign. It helps that Bogaerts has swung at fewer out-of-zone pitches than ever and walked at a career-best rate.
- Thanks in part to what’s somehow a team-friendly nine-figure contract, the FanGraphs crew recently ranked Acuna as the player with the most trade value in baseball. Anyone care to argue? The 21-year-old may become the game’s latest 40/40 player this season, having amassed 34 home runs and 28 stolen bases over 562 trips to the plate. He has also slashed .298/.377/.539 (134 wRC+), posted nine Defensive Runs Saved and a 1.3 Ultimate Zone Rating among all three outfield positions, and racked up 4.8 fWAR.
- The majority of observers regarded the Albies deal as an absolute steal for the Braves when he signed it. The 22-year-old hasn’t done anything to change minds since then, having batted .298/.353/.502 (117 wRC+) with 18 homers and 11 steals across 530 PA. Albies has added three DRS and a 1.3 UZR in the field, helping lead to a 3.4 fWAR a year after he logged 3.8. The switch-hitting Albies was clearly among the game’s best second basemen before landing his extension, and the contract has only made him more valuable from Atlanta’s perspective.
- Back in May, the Kepler extension was one of two MLBTR’s Jeff Todd highlighted as a gem for the club. The 26-year-old Kepler was off to an impressive start to the season at that point, and he hasn’t let up. Kepler’s already up to 32 homers, 12 more than his previous high-water mark, in 501 PA. Overall, he has batted .258/.337/.536 (124 wRC+) with 3.7 fWAR. Unlike many hitters who’ve increased their power, Kepler’s excellence hasn’t come with more strikeouts. He has fanned in a meager 16 percent of plate appearances and drawn walks at an above-average 10.2 percent clip.
- The Reds extended Gray immediately after acquiring the 29-year-old from the Yankees, with whom he struggled. Wise choice. Gray was mostly successful with the Yankees before an adverse year and a half in New York, and he has returned to his top form as a member of the Reds. He owns a stellar 2.98 ERA/3.40 FIP with 10.45 K/9 (easily a career-high amount), 3.39 BB/9 and a 52.6 percent groundball rate over 132 2/3 innings. The fact that Gray has reverted to being a front-of-the-rotation arm is a key reason why the Reds’ starting staff has taken massive steps forward this season.
- Polanco’s extension was another brilliant preseason decision by the Twins, who’ve seen the 26-year-old hit .294/.357/.487 (118 wRC+) with 17 long balls and 3.3 fWAR since signing it. Polanco, like Kepler, has been rather difficult to strike out, having gone down in that manner in a mere 15.8 percent of PA.