We don’t really know whether or to what extent extension talks will continue during the coronavirus hiatus. But as I wrote recently, it seems reasonable to think they’ll be explored. Some may already have advanced nearly to completion before the global pandemic intervened.
While we may have to wait to learn who the targets are and see what deals get done, there’s a silver lining: more time for rampant speculation! Okay, we’re not going to speculate here; rather, we’ll tick through some interesting possibilities on paper. Remember, we’ve seen an increasing prevalence of deals with less-experienced players (even some without any MLB service) and with new player types (early-career relievers and utilitymen).
The Snakes have managed to control costs, compete, and build their farm system all at the same time. It’s a tricky balancing act to manage over any length of time. And extensions are a key component. Ketel Marte, Nick Ahmed, Eduardo Escobar, and David Peralta are already playing on extensions. There are some other candidates on the roster as well.
Several Arizona veterans are conceivable candidates, not that any seems particularly likely to agree to terms. Hurler Robbie Ray is heading into a walk year, but comes with a pretty wide risk/upside spread. Recently acquired outfielder Starling Marte is already 31 years of age, so the club probably won’t be in a rush to work out a new deal with two years of control remaining. Reliever Archie Bradley is also two years from the open market; an extension could make sense in his case. The team will be looking at a big arbitration bill next year if Bradley racks up saves, while he’d surely be open to eliminating some personal health/performance risk.
The younger class of players contains some rather intriguing possibilities. Catcher Carson Kelly and starter Luke Weaver are both entering their final pre-arbitration season (the former via Super Two status). Though 2019 trade deadline addition Zac Gallen isn’t even close to arbitration, it could be an opportune moment to get something done.
When the Dodgers acquired superstar outfielder Mookie Betts, they knew they were giving up significant value for just one season of performance. Now, with the season on hold, there’s newfound uncertainty for all involved — particularly given that it’s not even clear yet whether Betts will hit the open market as expected this coming fall. After a few happy weeks together this spring, could the sides take advantage of the lull to discuss a longer-term relationship?
There’s no evidence of that happening, but it’d be a potential coup for the Dodgers. It would also be extremely costly. No doubt the team is at least as intrigued by the idea of finding some savings by locking in superstar slugger Cody Bellinger. Trouble is, the 24-year-old just landed a whopping $11.5MM contract as a Super Two. His arbitration eligibility could easily set an overall record and he’ll expect a long-term deal to reflect that and pay at a premium rate for any future free-agent campaigns.
There was a time when Corey Seager would’ve seemed an obvious extension target, but his place in the team’s plans is uncertain after some injury-limited campaigns. More interesting at this point are some of the newest members of the L.A. roster. Backstop Will Smith and infielder Gavin Lux each carry huge promise and some MLB experience. Though the Dodgers haven’t led the league with aggressive early-career extensions, both of these players are sensible targets.
Yikes. It’s not a good sign to see a roster that lacks for extension candidates — unless, perhaps, many young players have already agreed to deals. In this case, the Giants have a combination of veterans playing out underperforming contracts and largely un-established younger players who don’t really seem in line for any long-term commitment.
If you squint hard enough, you could see Mauricio Dubon as a candidate if the team has really fallen in love since acquiring him last summer. But that’s probably unnecessarily aggressive. Otherwise, basically every conceivable possibility has too many areas of concern to warrant serious consideration. Perhaps the situation will look different this time next year — someone might step up with a big season; top prospects like Joey Bart or Heliot Ramos may turn into candidates for early-career extensions — but it’s hard to see much reason for talks at the moment.
The ideal outcome would be to secure the services of Fernando Tatis Jr. with a deal along the lines of the Braves’ pact with Ronald Acuna Jr.. The Friars will probably have to keep dreaming about that team-friendly arrangement, but there has been some reporting indicating the sides could hold talks. Tatis himself said in late February that nothing was cooking, but there’s every reason to keep a conversation going if there’s mutual interest. Righty Chris Paddack could certainly also be a candidate as well, though perhaps the added risks on the pitching side will keep the sides apart for the time being.
There are other younger players that could hold appeal in the right situation. On the position player side, Trent Grisham, Franchy Cordero, and Francisco Mejia could be considered. And among pitchers, you could easily see the merit of locking in Dinelson Lamet or Joey Lucchesi.
Oh, and the Friars do have one notable veteran in an obvious extension stance: closer Kirby Yates. There’s reason to believe the sides have some interest, but it’s not clear how likely it is a deal will come together. Yates is a late-emerging star reliever who’s two days from his 33rd birthday and one season away from free agency. His age limits his overall contractual upside, but he was absurdly dominant in 2019. It’s certainly possible to imagine both player and team seeing the sense in a deal.
The Rox already have long-term control over German Marquez and Nolan Arenado. So … why not add Jon Gray and Trevor Story, making a strong core four over the long haul? Well, it’s not a simple situation for the Colorado organization. Trouble is, some brutal fortune in the free agent market has left little financial flexibility and a top-heavy roster. We can’t rule out deals for Gray and/or Story, but they’ll both cost a ton and would be hard to pull off — particularly given the ongoing drama with Arenado.
That’s not to say the Rockies couldn’t still look to other ways of achieving value. In particular, outfielders David Dahl and Sam Hilliard could be interesting targets. The former has had quite a few injuries and the latter has only spent about a month in the majors, but those factors might also drive down the price tag and with it the contractual upside. Otherwise, you could perhaps see some daylight for a deal with reliever Carlos Estevez if the Rox are fully sold on his 2019 showing. But the team already made a deal with its best reliever (Scott Oberg) and probably doesn’t need any more long-term bullpen entanglements.