The Rays have approached Tyler Glasnow’s representatives at Wasserman and Austin Meadows’ representatives at Excel Sports about potential long-term deals for the pair of burgeoning stars, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
There’s no indication that talks with either party have progressed beyond the preliminary stage, but the reaction from the pair is notable. Both say they’re open to such an arrangement, with Meadows saying he “definitely would be open to something like that” but Glasnow taking a bit more reserved approach. While the right-hander acknowledged that he’d listen to offers, he also made clear that he doesn’t want to “sell [himself] short” and that he has “no problem going year-to-year.”
Looking at the two as separate cases, Glasnow’s situation is a bit trickier. The right-hander was utterly dominant when healthy in 2019, pitching to a 1.78 ERA with averages of 11.3 strikeouts, 2.1 walks and 0.59 home runs allowed per nine innings pitched. Unfortunately for both him and the Rays, a forearm strain limited the towering righty to 60 2/3 innings.
Glasnow was one of the game’s premier pitching prospects for years and, since being traded to the Rays, has broken out with 116 2/3 innings of 2.94 ERA ball and nearly 11 punchouts per nine frames. He doesn’t have a long track record in the Majors, though, and his platform season was noticeably light on workload. Throw in that he’s a Super Two player who’s already set to earn $2.05MM in 2020, and it becomes a bit muddier when trying to determine what the two sides might deem a fair price point.
For context, Glasnow’s own teammate, Blake Snell, holds the record for largest contract ever signed by a pitcher with between two and three years of big league service time. Snell signed a five-year, $50MM contract just last spring, but he wasn’t a Super Two player at the time of that agreement. He was, however, fresh off a Cy Young win, which makes his case perhaps something of an outlier. The second-largest deal ever inked by a two-plus pitcher was German Marquez, who landed a five-year, $43MM deal (also last winter). Marquez wasn’t a Super Two player but tossed thrice as many innings as Glasnow in his platform season. Luis Severino was a Super Two with two-plus years of service time when he signed a four-year, $40MM deal with a club option for a fifth season in February 2019, but he was projected to earn more than double the $2.05MM to which Glasnow agreed for the upcoming season (by virtue of his 2017-18 workload).
The unique nature of Glasnow’s situation and his stated willingness to go year-to-year might make an agreement tough to hammer out. A healthy and productive season out of the righty, after all, would lead to a substantial raise. Mike Foltynewicz played out the 2018 season as a Super Two player on a $2.2MM salary and, after 183 innings of 2.85 ERA ball, saw a 149 percent raise to $5.475MM for the 2019 campaign. Even with some regression in terms of his ERA, Glasnow could be looking at similar financial upside if he can rack up the innings. There’s also virtually no circumstance in which he’d be in for a pay cut in 2021, so he’s looking at a minimum of $4.1MM over the next two seasons as it is. At the very least, he has a bit of security on his side now that he’s into arbitration.
Meadows is in a different situation. The 24-year-old has a year and 74 days of service, which places him two full seasons away from reaching arbitration. Meadows slashed .291/.364/.558 with 33 home runs, 29 doubles, seven triples and 12 steals in 591 plate appearances during a breakout 2019 campaign with the Rays. In doing so, he cemented himself as a fixture in the lineup for the foreseeable future. The Rays’ interest in keeping him cost-controlled is plenty sensible, as Tampa Bay has routinely had to move on from its players as their salaries escalate in arbitration (Tommy Pham and Corey Dickerson are recent examples in the outfield). That looks particularly likely to be the case with Meadows iff he goes year-to-year, as his power numbers would play quite well when he does reach arbitration in the 2021-22 offseason.
Looking for some historical comps, Christian Yelich’s first extension — seven years and $49.57MM — is the largest ever signed by a player with between and two years of service. Ronald Acuna Jr. secured a $100MM payday with less than a year of service time, although that deal was an outlier and required him surrendering four would-be free-agent seasons in the process. Something closer to the first Yelich extension is a likelier base point, but that deal is five years old, so Meadows’ camp could aim to set a new precedent.
In the event that one or both do put pen to paper, the Rays’ 2020 payroll figures to be largely unaffected. Tampa Bay is set to again field one of the lowest-cost (but most-talented) rosters in baseball, with a projected Opening Day mark of just under $71MM. The Rays have about $34MM in guaranteed money on the books both in 2021 and in 2022, though, and that number dips to $24MM by the 2023 season. Fitting contract extensions for Meadows and/or Glasnow into the long-term budget shouldn’t be much of a reach — if the involved parties can years and dollars.