Pre-arbitration extensions aren’t exactly a new phenomenon. We’ve seen an increasing number of long-term deals with newer MLB players — and even pre-MLB players — over the past decade or so. (Way back in 2013, for instance, I referred to a “baseball-wide trend of … early extensions.”) Last winter featured a dizzying number of extensions, including quite a few involving players that hadn’t yet cracked into the big-dollar earnings stages of their careers.
Some further contracts of that kind were to be expected. But we could be seeing yet more expansion of the kinds of players targeted. The early-career extensions inked by still-youthful reliever Aaron Bummer and swingman Freddy Peralta may only be the tip of the iceberg, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan indicates on Twitter.
It seems there’s something potentially afoot that goes beyond typical team-by-team extension targeting. Passan says that “teams across baseball are trying to lock up pre-arbitration players,” specifically, and that “there could be a rash of such deals in the coming weeks.”
This evidently widespread effort is all the more interesting given the marked open-market shift observed in the just-completed offseason. In each of the two prior winters, free agents — even high-end, younger ones — were approached with obvious reluctance. But MLB teams attacked the 2019-20 market vigorously, doling out both market-moving superstar deals and a series of hefty, lengthy payouts to quality older veterans.
It goes without saying that it’s good for business for a MLB organization to put a quality product on the field. But doing so consistently and in a cost-efficient manner is the gold standard. That’s also naturally quite challenging, since a baseball season is not only a zero-sum game but one that can swing upon innumerable, not-always-controllable factors.
Teams understandably prefer only to enter competitive bidding situations for free agents as needed. It’s not difficult to recognize a team’s potential upside in drafting (or trading for), developing, and then extending a player at an early enough stage in his MLB career that it can lock in low-cost, productive seasons for many years to come. There are obvious risks here as well. The Yankees-Luis Severino extension seemed a slam dunk but has been gutted by unfortunate injuries. But that deal could easily still pay out. Even if it doesn’t, it’d equate to whiffing on a good but not great free agent signing.
Anyway, all of that has long been appreciated and acted upon by MLB teams. So, what to watch for the rest of this spring? Beyond the obvious — whether specific young stars will be approached and wooed — it’ll be interesting to find out how far teams can take this approach. Remember: it’s still unclear just how certain major issues — the next CBA, the lively ball, universal DH, robo umps — will be resolved in the near term. Will there be a chase for upside or an attempt to lock in reasonable rates of pay for solid pieces? Will teams look to get a jump on anticipated changes to the labor market? MLB organizations also value roster flexibility and will be loath to tie up future payroll to non-productive players. Much remains to be seen, but it appears we’re in for another lively and interesting extension season this spring.
I loathe the prospect of a universal DH. May as well remove the manager position while you’re at it. Robo-umps are another disgrace to the game. Won’t be long until they propose 8 teams per league in the playoffs.
Just have robo-players and be done with it.
just simulate the games
We don’t already ?
A good friend of mine is the son of an NBA player and a former college athlete who’s a personal trainer today. He’s 6’3 and in great shape. Yasiel Puig is 4x his size.
Yasiel Puig is 25′ tall??!!
That’s a HUGE strike zone. No wonder nobody wants to sign him.
You should work on your material….just not here
I think the point was that you may have been exaggerating on Puig’s size.
Lol. Compare puig to babe Ruth in size then holla @ me
I don’t want a universal DH or more teams in the playoffs. The robo umps, though, should make strike zones fair for all and cut down on arguments. A bad call or bias shouldn’t decide a game, the players should. The more bad calls we can eliminate, the better.
You know what this is called? Intimidation.
The umpire’s job is to enforce the rules. And the strike zone is part of the rules. If he can’t enforce the strike zone then we should seek out something that can.
The strike zone enforcement is fine
Angel Hernandez agrees.
Umps are absolutely horrible at calling balls and strikes. When batters complain about called third strikes, 90% of the time they’re right. If you follow gamecast, you’ll see 15-20 bad calls a game, sometime as many as 5 in an inning. Mostly balls called strikes. That sorta thing can and does change the outcome of games. No thanks. Bring on the robo umps. They’re MUCH better. Accuracy and consistency. The sooner the better. I can’t wait.
Why not have a universal strike zone regardless of the player’s height? Does the NBA change the height of the rim? Make players adjust, take away the subjectivity and be done with it.
Wouldn’t be fair for the strike zone to be the same for Jose Altuve and for Aaron Judge. Then again, the same zone is virtually used anyway. How many strikes are called above the belt for guys 6 foot 4 or taller? Umps need to start calling more strikes between the thigh and letters.
Yup guests you are correct- How many strikes do we see being called near the letters? 1 a game and the batter freaks out like hes never seen it
It’s not the calls above the belt that bother me. It’s the ones tall guys get below the knees and the ones that are completely off the plate. You can count on 15-20 “strikes” off the plate every game. That’ll change the score and could change the outcome.
But isnt missing a strike missing a strike? I mean they literally take away 3-6 inches of the top of the zone for pitchers on all tall guys
And if they go with tech strike zones get ready for ankle strike calls on breaking pitches. Hitters and media will lose their minds and ask for another rule change to lift the strike zone above the knee. Because Owners and the Commissioner’s office is all about hitting they will oblige.
Why wouldn’t it be fair? Obviously, the zone won’t be above Altuve’s head. Say, 27 to 54 inches above the ground or something like that. Batters will adjust or be replaced. Same as all business employees. I always blamed Shaq for not practicing free throws. Height and angle are important but some tall players do just fine at the line. Same thing with hitting a ball. Might even be easier if the subjectivity is taken out as it would be much easier for an electronic strike zone.
Programming with cameras adjusting for angles can be done.
The Adrian Beltre
The lefty on lefty zone seems to change inning to inning with some umpires l. I’m not sure if it was his stance or what, but David Murphy used to have way outside pitches called against him with regularity(with Josh Hamilton and Moreland also in the lineup)…
Pitchers have to adjust to the strike zone just like adjusting to ballpark factors, weather, or day/night games. It’s part of the game. A true pitcher adjusts to the conditions.
I am curious if there are any stats based on who the umpire is.
Why would anyone be against the use of a robo ump for balls and strikes? You’re asking umps to make judgement calls on 95+ mph pitches, with most pitches on the edges of the zone. And as far as DHs limiting strategy, they don’t. When you have a typical pitcher batting with a man on and less than 2 outs, there is only one strategy: bunt.
Or learn to hit like hitters have to learn to play a position.
What will umpire Joe West due with all his equipment patents on all the umpire gear he makes all the umpires purchase? Say it ain’t so Joe
I find it strange the Braves are vilified for the Acuna/Albies extensions. What about the Severino extension? That looked like a grand theft auto and the Yankees have deep pockets.
Wait Joke, who vilifies the Braves for that? Teams are probably jealous of those moves, if nothing else. And hey, it takes two – the players agree to the early wealth so you can’t say they are being taken advantage of. I don’t know of any vilification – just a lot of baseball people realizing how smart the Braves were to lock those guys up. And that’s becoming a real trend in MLB, locking up young guys early. I mean, you want to keep your homegrown stars, but how many 30-40 mil per year players can one team afford?
In this day and age and with the technology available. It’s time for “Robo umps”. Put a umpire on each base for close calls at outs. They shouldn’t be calling balls and strikes anymore there’s a couple who are absolutely horrid at it.
Pet peeve of mine is the play at first. When did the ball entering a glove constitute a catch? Balls can be dropped and it should be when the ball hits the glove if anything as that better represents when the ball is in the web or palm and actually is caught. Umps should still be able to make that call since they can hear the sound of the ball hitting as they look at the base for the runner and fielder’s feet.
I agree 100%
It’s a tricky thing for sure. Progress is good but tough to enact on a game that hasn’t changed much.
Hope yankees lick up torres. I don’t think they will though.
I hope you meant lock up. I think it depends on who represents him.
He has to want to sign an extension. If I had his degree of success, I’d probably bet on myself and test FA. If I had struggled in my rookie year or hadn’t been in the majors yet, I’d be more open to an extension because a high degree of performance is less certain.
That’s a lot of licking.
The Adrian Beltre
Well, they’re definitely past the sniffing butt stage…
Wait for it…Tony Clark will soon announce that the MLBPA deems this trend to be collusion by the owners.
No one makes the players agree to these deals
MLBPA would never agree but raise the minimum salary structure and only allow one year of current arb (year five). Other years are more typical of an arb hearing where yup the arbitrator does not know what’s been offered and demanded but a high-low agreement is in place. Such allows for decreased salaries after injuries or poor performance but also allows for a huge increase after a monster year. Players also gain by getting to free agency one year earlier and owners get the ability of being able to better manage payroll.
Why would the MLBPA not be in favor of players reaching free agency earlier? How would having players constantly having their salaries adjusted based on success or injuries help teams manage future costs? This would also crush successful low revenue teams like the A’s and Rays. If they have little cost control on young players, every time they have team success they will likely have to follow up that offseason with huge sell offs to find the next inexpensive player. Fans here in Tampa complain now when productive players get moved after 4 or 5 years. What will happen if they are moved after 2 or 3 years?
I don’t see it that way Ryan. Of course the MLBPA would like to move up free agency but there has to be a set off. The current system guarantees 99% of the players raises and sometimes the extent already forces teams like Tampa to trade or even release players. I look at Boston and JBJ. Why was he entitled to $11m this year through the process when he wouldn’t get even $8m as a free agent (using Kevin Pillar’s deal to guess here). After bad years, salaries should come down and if the sides didn’t know the other’s submission to the arbitrator, more cases would likely settle as the sides would worry more about letting a third person set the price.
How the hell is it collusion for one team to keep a player away from offers by other owners?
Dodgers need to be sending contract offers to Smith, Lux, and Buehler’s agents ASAP.
I guess they could if they really want to bust through the luxury tax this year. Take Buehler for example. He’s making something like $600k this year. Assuming he has a great year, his salary in arbitration next year is going to jump to something like $8 million in 2021 and he has three arbitration years after that. What would an extension look like if they bought one year of FA?. Maybe:
2021 – $8M
2022 – $13M
2023 – $17M
2024 – $20M
2025 – $25M
Total: 5 years $83 million.
Taking his AAV from $600k to over $16 million.
I’m thrilled with the White Sox locking up Robert, Bummer, and, last year, Eloy. I hope they can lock up Giolito, Moncada, and Madrigal. I think, overall, this is probably bad for players who’ve had a good year or two and good for teams. For players yet to get to the majors or thrive, it’s tough to tell. For every Acuna, there are two Delmon Youngs. It’s a risk for both.
I absolutely despise the DH. But I’m sure it will happen to make extra jobs for people.
But that exactly is one of the fallacies concerning the DH. There are not “extra” jobs, only “different” ones.
I’m tired of MLB continually to slip among major national sports. I’m for anything which helps revitalize the popularity of the game. I loath the NBA passing MLB far more than more playoff teams
In some cases correlation does represent causation.
Look, some, not all but SOME of these other sports relative popularity is related to the demographics if the fans – and, and yes, even race. There I said it, the elephant in the room.
As demographics in the country shift, if particular sports are favored by any given class – race based, or maybe more importantly Socio-Economic groupings, then support follows with. People either shift groups, or, one group grows more than the others? Boom, you get a popularity shift
You want to grow fans? MAKE GAMES CHEAPER TO ATTEND. who the heck wants to become a fan of a sport they only ever watch on tv and NEVER can manage to attend live?
Family of 4 can go see a NBA game (around here) for maybe $50 including 4 tix, parking, and a snack for the kids to share.
MLB game? Hah, double or triple that. Whole lot more of families can afford a $50 excursion than a $150 one…
The hawks suck. Lol try looking up other seats. Also the Atlanta market isn’t super strong. Even though the bulls suck the United center is still crazy pricy. A lot of ticket pricing comes down to where when and who is playing. I’ve had seasons of going to 15+ MLB games (non season ticket owner). Usually you can find super cheap tickets during day games etc. not always the case. And nfl does just fine with having the most expensive tickets. MLB’s problem is that baseball is long, the season is long, they have tons of stars but terrible marketing. They could radically change the game and make it more fun, but they don’t want to do that. I would implement DH in NL. I would have electronic strike zones. They could crack down on the review duration. Shorten the season by 5-10 games or at least shorten the spring training games by 10-15 (won’t happen, but it could move up the postseason) Shorten the length of the game from 9 innings down to 7. Instead of commercial breaks every half inning, go every inning.
I’m not sure why you have such a hard time finding cheap Braves tickets, but looking at stub hub shows loads of tickets to Braves games for $10-$12 each, which is similar or less than they show for Hawks games. Also, a search online shows the average NBA ticket is about 4x the cost of the average MLB ticket.
You can’t even go to a crappy Twolves game for that price. What are you smoking?
Hey, let’s be fair about the smoking. He could be doing edibles. Come on now!
Further proving the homerun is not what brings the boys and girls to the yard or to the TV screen.
MLB also needs to address their digital reach. They need a better, more effective strategy.
In December 2019, NBA ratings were down 15% from the prior season. While the NFL, MLB and even NHL saw increased ratings in 2019. Since the last CBA was signed, MLB revenue is up about a billion dollars.
I have no idea what sports are going to be most popular in 10 years but if I had to guess, esports is going to be in there somewhere.
Speed texting !
This could be the Tip of the Iceburg…. or not. Signing middling players provides them security and the team cost surity, but middle relievers are a dime a dozen,
I’d do cartwheels if the Indians can lock up Shane Bieber long term. He’s good enough that he’d likely be willing to bet on himself, but he was also a 4th rounder and doesn’t have a lot of money to fall back on.
Given his production so far, and his affordability (he isn’t even eligible for arbitration yet), I’d have to say Bieber is one of the – if not THE – best starting pitcher in MLB to have (not counting prospects).
I’m a fan of robot umps if they can get the lag solved. As implemented in the Atlantic League there’s a weird delay that detracts from the rhythm of the game while we’re waiting for the ump to tell us the call. Figure out how to speed that up and I’m all for ending the arguing. I’m also all for taking that particular weapon away from petty tyrants like CB Bucknor, Angel Hernandez and Joe West.
If there ends up being a run of extensions this year it’s likely because the front offices know that things will likely change with the 2021 CBA. And given the posturing of the players, likely not for the benefit of teams’ control over players. These sort of contracts could end up being huge discounts after 2021.
I agree with you, Colonel.
Batters can play with their gloves during the lag time.
I hope the Rangers can lock up Gallo pretty soon before he becomes an all out super star. Plus, I’d like to see us get Minor back for an additional 2 years after 2020.
the future of MLB is paying players the most money during their prime seasons.
Unfortunately it looks like this trend is paying under-market rates for prime players, just because it’s a gamble to sign not yet 100% into their peak players to long term high dollar contracts, at least the way things used to be. I think MLB is going to rapidly come in line with the rest of the world’s sports where only the truly elite athletes get paid a lot after their initial contracts. The rest will be essentially journeymen role fillers while the game gets taken over by the under-30 crowd and it’ll be rare (like the trend is starting now anyway) to see a past their prime veteran get rewarded by a different team for past performance.
Rookies need better contracts in general, there should be a bigger salary floor and a more straightforward system than arbitration for determining a player’s value once they’re in the majors and are being productive. Right now I think teams are getting away with it if they’re throwing out a contract worth maybe 1/3 of a player’s value, calling it a gamble and getting that player locked up for sub-market value until they hit free agency and are essentially not worth their next contract.
As far as pre-arbitration salaries, I agree that they should be a little bit higher. But if you raise them too high, I think you could also run the risk of some players (especially fringe 40-man guys) being held in the minors for a little longer so that they aren’t owed as much in prorated salary.
As far as early extensions, no one forces players to sign them. The player knows they’re possibly leaving some money on the table, but if they sign one it means they’re willing to take the risk. They’re agreeing to it.
I’m generally on the side of players making more not less, but in the case of these pre-Arb extensions, with perhaps the exception of the Acuna and Albies deals, I think the team is generally taking a lot of risk so the player should take a haircut in exchange for tens of millions in guaranteed money on a short resume of performance.
Exactly Mo. Like you, I am a worker’s rights type of guy normally, but in this case it’s true that the owners need some risk mitigation here. And hey, we are talking millions of dollars. so If that’s being taken advantage of, please, someone, take advantage of me like that!
The agents can negotiate contracts early in a player’s career to lock in a long-term guarantee. Players have more earning power early on (not huge, but more), if they choose.
And there’s a downside to locking young guys up early. Who knows how serious Severino would have been about his arm this winter if his performance had some consequences to his paycheck this year. As it is, it doesn’t matter if he won the Cy Young or never pitched an inning. I have no doubt SOME players take their responsibility to live up to their contracts very seriously; I also have no doubt that some will skate until the next time they’re “up”.
Not to mention it creates situations like Acuna. What exactly are you going to do to make him take the game more seriously? Can’t sit him (or if you do, it’s not going to bother him; it’s getting paid for doing nothing). You can’t afford the PR nightmare of sending him down. In easy language, you’re stuck with him, ALL of him, ALL elements of his performance.
It’s a delicate balance, and has to do with factors that don’t have much to do with spin rates or launch angles or stuff like that.
Bob – This is a great point and one frequently overlooked as we all see the relatively mediocre players that happen to have much better years in their walk year. It is even openly acknowledged among analysts when referencing performance.
That’s why you’ve got to get to know the player inside and out, at least to the extent that you possibly can. You’re right, it comes down to much more than numbers and measurements and things like that…how hot does his competitive fire burn and what is his work ethic and stuff like that matters even more when signing guys to extensions early. The truly great ones are motivated beyond the money.
Mets should be all in but the Wilpons are too stupid
You know whose name you never hear in the extension discussions? Jon Singleton. $10M for less than 100 ML game starts. Acuna is in 100% of the discussions, and Singleton is in 0%. I can probably name 100 players who probably would’ve been better off having signed a long-term contract after a successful start.
Just for fun, go thru the ROY voting. I’d say you wouldn’t even recognize half the names of the players that got votes. Anyone remember Ron Kittle?
Or my favorite, Kal Daniels? #7 pick, killed it in the minors. In the pros at age 22. In his first three seasons, he had a .935 OPS and a 154 OPS+, with a 68/16 SB/CS.
Great Pull !!! I remember Kal but damn dont remember those numbers being so beefy !
I think a lot of times the hitters are favored for a bit until the pitchers get the book on them – Baseballs all about adjustments-
Pedro Cerrano just wasnt going to ever see too many fastballs by Major League II
That pull was from my BB card buying days. I was always leery of lefties with great minor league stats, but one of my friends, who knows more about BB than a lot of people, He didn’t think there would be a split issue. What else was there to look at? Age 20, in AA, and he had 59/73 K/W with power & speed. I was really surprised he didn’t make it.
Kittle could make the All-Specs team with Chris Sabo, Darrell Porter, Tom Henke and Rance Mulliniks. I’m forgetting a lot more.
That entire White Sox team was loaded with good young players. Kittle, Greg Walker, Baines, Dotson, Burns, Hoyt, Bannister (not quite a kid at that point), I thought they were going to compete for a long time.
My Cubs had a player who won ROY in 1989 by the name of Jerome Walton. Not only did he have a terrific rookie season, but he even had a 30-game hit streak that year! Yet that was about it. Came into camp out of shape and complaining about money. So, can you imagine if he had been signed long-term?
I love the errors jumps make. You know exactly what will happen next. Missed strike 3 call? Next pitch is a Home Run.
I really think if they want to change the pre-arbitration, they should eliminate the required time a player stays in the minors for “controlled” years. I honestly believe that certain players are being held down for way too long. In most cases, it’s because teams want the extended year or two of that player. We seen it with Vlad Guerrero Jr, Kris Bryant, Andrew McCutchen, Garret Cole, and so many others. I believe if a player is destroying all levels of the system, they should be called to the major leagues sooner by adding them to the current roster or a forced trade to a club who has interest in that player. Granted, it’s not bulletproof, but if MLBPA feels a player is being “held down” too long, they should be able (with approval from agents and MLB commissioner) to force the organization of that player to be on the major league club or be traded to a club who will add that player to the major league club. I would settle for a month of MLB service time (just in case the player struggles) before considering sending the player back into the system.
I hate the current player system for the fact that a lot of players who appear to be ready for MLB, spend a season or half season in the minors before reaching the majors. I listed some names above, but there are a lot of names that go with Cole, Bryant, Guerrero, and McCutchen that I haven’t listed. There are guys who spent 8 years in the minors because the position they played was already “filled”. These players should have been traded to other clubs once they established themselves in AAA after 2 years! It’s robbery of a players career!
The names you listed, imo, aren’t an open-and-shut case.
Vlad had a .772 OPS with the BJs last year. That was good, but not great.
McCutchen had a .710 OPS in AA, followed by a .770 OPS his first year in AAA. Those numbers don’t scream out for a promotion.
Cole didn’t even spend two full seasons in the minors. One full season in 2012, and 12 starts in 2013. Even then, he wasn’t promoted because he had great stats; he was promoted because PT was in the race. His AAA stats included 47/28 K/W in 68 IPs.
I’ve never heard of a guy being held down for no other reason than to be held down. They’ll be held down for a month to add an extra year of service time, but that’s about it.
Plus, I can show you 100 guys that demolish AAA pitching, and flunk out in the pros. In any case, that’s what the 5-year rule is for.