The Pirates made an extension offer to Ke’Bryan Hayes back in Spring Training, which obviously didn’t manifest in a deal, but Hayes himself confirmed to The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel this week that it wasn’t the team’s first effort. As Hayes explains, the Bucs also came to him with an offer before he’d even played in a big league game, during Spring Training 2020.
While the two sides still haven’t worked out a deal, Hayes made clear that he’s open to a long-term pact, wants to step up as a leader of future Pirates clubs and hopes to “win a championship with the team that drafted me.” For now, his focus is on a strong finish to the 2021 season.
Pirates fans, in particular, will want to check out the column for full quotes from Hayes on his future with the club. But for the purposes of this post, let’s take a look at some historical context to see just where Hayes might slot in if he and the Bucs were to approach an extension in earnest. As always, service time is crucial to these explorations, and historical precedent is quite often relevant.
Hayes will finish the 2021 season with a year-plus of Major League service time. We haven’t seen a third baseman in that service class ink a long-term pact since Jedd Gyorko’s five-year, $35MM agreement with the Padres back in 2014. That seven-year-old deal probably won’t hold much weight as a comp — particularly since even with his recent slump, Hayes has been more productive now than Gyorko was at the time. At the time of Gyorko’s extension, he carried a .242/.295/.433 line through 573 plate appearances — four percent better than league average, by measure of wRC+. He’d previously been regarded as a top-end prospect, but not to the same extent as Hayes.
Conversely, Hayes has slashed at a .282/.351/.463 pace through his first 319 Major League plate appearances. His 2020 performance vastly outweighs his 2021 performance, but his ’21 production has perhaps been sapped by a wrist injury that shelved him for two months early in the year. He’s been a better hitter than Gyorko, plays better defense, and that extension is rather dated by now.
Interestingly, however, there simply haven’t been many position players in this one-plus bracket of service time to use as a point of comparison. That’s been especially true in recent years, when touted young players have either signed before reaching a full year of service or waited to further establish themselves in the Majors. Ozzie Albies, who inked a seven-year, $35MM extension in 2019 is the most recent comparable, but that was one of the more widely panned extensions in recent memory. Hayes, presumably, would be looking to set some form of new bar for players in this general service bracket if he were to seriously entertain offers.
Of course, whether the Pirates would want any part of setting a new precedent in any service bracket remains questionable, at best. The largest contract the Pirates have ever given out was a six-year, $60MM one to catcher Jason Kendall way back in the year 2000. That pact ties them with Cleveland for the smallest franchise-record contract awarded to an individual player. Biertempfel speculates within his column that the Pirates may already have put forth a larger offer than that to Hayes. If that is indeed the case, it’d be a rather shocking effort from such a historically low-payroll club.