The Pirates proposed a contract extension to third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). It seems no deal is imminent, as Heyman writes that there’s “no traction” in talks between Pittsburgh and the Ballengee Group client.
It’s hardly surprising the Pirates would have interest in locking up Hayes long-term. The former first-rounder has been considered a top prospect for a while, but he arguably took his stock to new heights last season. Called up to the big leagues on September 1, Hayes went on an absolute tear to start his MLB career. He hit .376/.442/.682 with five home runs in his first 95 plate appearances. Both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference credited him with nearly two wins above replacement, an incredible amount of value to amass in less than a month of action.
No one should expect Hayes to sustain anything approaching that level of offensive output, but he only needs to be a decent hitter to be quite productive given the reports on his glove. Still rookie-eligible, Hayes enters 2021 as a consensus top 15 prospect in the league.
Hayes is controllable through 2026 and stands to make salaries around the league minimum for the next three years. Already 24 years old, he isn’t slated to hit free agency until after his age-29 season. The Pirates needn’t have any urgency in locking him up then, although it’s easy to see the appeal for the organization in initiating talks. Not only is there reason to be bullish on Hayes’ future, early-career extensions tend to carry plenty of upside for teams.
The specific offer the Pirates put on the table isn’t known. Extensions for players with less than one year of MLB service are rare but not unheard of. Looking at players in comparable situations over the past couple years, however, it’s difficult to find a prior agreement that perfectly maps with Hayes’ situation.
Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez signed six-year extensions guaranteeing $50MM and $43MM, respectively, each including a pair of club options to buy out free agent years. Both the White Sox stars were more than a full year younger at the time of their deals than Hayes is now, though. Evan White and Brandon Lowe, meanwhile, signed extensions with guarantees around $24MM and multiple club options. Neither of those players was seen as the same caliber of prospect as Hayes at the time. A guarantee in between those general ranges that extends the Pirates’ team control window could make some sense, but obviously a player’s urgency to sacrifice earnings upside for upfront guarantees varies person-to-person.