As I'm sure you're well aware, Mike Trout recently signed a 6-year, $140 million extension with the Angels. The Twitter reaction was entertaining to say the least, with some Angels fans jumping in jubilation, knowing that the best player in baseball won't hit the open market until 2020 at the earliest, while others were underwhelmed at the mega-deal that wasn't. For example:
If Mike Trout really signs for 6/$140M, he either doesn’t care about money or he hasn’t been paying attention.— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) March 29, 2014
Can't believe Trout sold three FA years at those rates.— Dayn Perry (@daynperry) March 29, 2014
My rough estimate is that Trout left $50-$80 million on the table. Not really a big deal in my eyes. Good for him, amazing for Angels.— Neil Weinberg (@NeilWeinberg44) March 29, 2014
OK, so that last one was in reference to me crawling out from under my kitchen table after the latest SoCal earthquake that just so happened to coincide with the announcement of Trout's new deal, but let's not stray too far from the point.
Trout is the latest young superstar to get extended by his current team. As has been pointed out, this is a growing trend across baseball. Here's a leaderboard of the top 20 performances by position players under the age of 25 in the last two years:
|Brett Lawrie||Blue Jays||232||978||-2.7||6.4||3.8|
There are some pretty impressive names listed above, but what you should note is how many of these players have already received some kind of extension in order for their respective club to secure the player for additional seasons and/or to buy out arbitration years to keep prices down. Of the ten players with the most under-25 production over the last two years, only three of them haven't been extended in some way. Giancarlo Stanton is his first year as an arbitration eligible player, Manny Machado is still playing near the league minimum while Mike Moustakas is arbitration eligible following the 2014 season. That's it—the rest have signed some kind of extension.
See for yourself: Here are the same top twenty position players in under-25 production over the last two seasons, along with their 2014 season age, service as of Opening Day time, contract status, free agent year, career WAR on Opening Day and Oliver's 5-year projected WAR:
|Team||Age||Service Time||Contract Status||Free Agent||Career WAR||Oliver 5-Year Projection|
|Giancarlo Stanton||Marlins||24||3.118||1st Year Arb||2017||13.4||32.1|
|Manny Machado||Orioles||21||1.056||Non Arb Eligible||2019||7.5||22.4|
|Mike Moustakas||Royals||25||2.111||Non Arb Eligible||2018||4.3||8.5|
|Yasiel Puig||Dodgers||23||0.119||Signed as FA||2020||4||25.1|
|Bryce Harper||Nationals||21||1.159||Signed MLB Contract||2019||8.3||30.3|
|Brett Lawrie||Blue Jays||24||2.055||Non Arb Eligible||2018||6.3||16.4|
|Kyle Seager||Mariners||26||2.085||Non Arb Eligible||2018||7.7||16.3|
|Wilin Rosario||Rockies||25||2.023||Non Arb Eligible||2018||3.4||12.9|
|Jean Segura||Brewers||24||1.065||Non Arb Eligible||2019||3.2||20.1|
|Ben Revere||Twins||26||2.149||1st Year Arb||2018||5.4||10.7|
|Yasmani Grandal||Padres||25||1.115||Non Arb Eligible||2019||3||18.8|
|*Contract information via Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Reference|
Two players, Bryce Harper and Yasiel Puig, don't really fit our model. Harper signed an MLB contract covering his first five seasons after being drafted. Puig was signed as an international free agent and his contract covered his first seven seasons.
That leaves us with eighteen players that would fit the typical service time/contract mold. Of those eighteen, nine have already been extended in some fashion. Only Stanton and Ben Revere have been allowed to traverse into arbitration territory thus far, as the other seven non-extended players are all under three years of service time. These guys haven't gotten expensive yet, but some of them may do so in the next year or two if their respective teams don't look to lock them up.
Speaking of getting locked up long-term, who should we look to as the next Mike Trout—the player to sign the next big extension before hitting arbitration?
The answer here is pretty obvious: Manny Machado. Everyone loves Trout and Harper, but according Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks, there are some within the game's inner circle who think that Machado can be the most productive player over the next decade. Of course, those comments were made a few day prior to Machado's nasty knee injury, but reports are strong that he will be available to the Orioles shortly after Opening Day. Should the medicals be encouraging and he not skip a beat transitioning back to major league activities, the Orioles should make a serious attempt at extending their budding star.
What would an extension for Machado look like? That largely depends on what he and his agent are looking to secure. Oliver likes him as a 4.5-win player over the next half decade, which may be underselling him just slightly as he'll be in his age 21 season in 2014 with lots of room for growth. Still, a 4.5-win player is nothing to complain about and the team might be able to buy out his remaining league minimum season, plus his arbitration years and potential a free agent season or two if they approach him next winter.
The four years of team control (2015-2017) could feasibly cost the Orioles between $30 and $40 million as Machado progresses through the arbitration scale. Should his power really develop, a boost in home runs and/or RBI could really increase his arbitration costs. Hitting the open market as he enters his age 26 season, Machado would command huge dollars if continues to grow along the curve that most see for him. $15 million for a free agent season would be a bargain for the Orioles, even if he's just a 4.5-win player. Considering the rising cost of salaries, even $20 million for a free agent season of Machado's could appear palatable.
Let's assume Machado comes back to full healthy and shows no reverberations from the injury and the Orioles approach him about an extension next winter. A deal for six years and $80 million would be an incredible bargain for the Orioles. Taking salary inflation into account, this would secure Machado at roughly half the cost of normal free agent wins and getting anything at 50% discount is a good idea, especially if it's the face of your franchise. Of course, Machado may have his sights set higher, and if you think he's more like a 6-win player going forward he may have a great case, but this seems to be a great place for Baltimore to start the discussion. While Trout got 6/$140, Machado has a full year less of service time and the Orioles would only be buying out two free agent years whereas the Angels bought three of Trout's. This would allow Machado to hit the open market again in 2021 as a 28-year old in line for a massive payday, so securing a boatload of money now with the knowledge that he can get two or three boatloads later may be attractive, especially if he's concerned about any kind of long-term knee issues.
The other candidate that's perhaps best suited for an extension on this list may be Jean Segura of the Brewers. It's been reported that Milwaukee is already pushing for such a deal, but talks between the team and Segura's representatives may have stalled. Even if this is the case, I'd fully expect this topic to resurface in the near future. The Brewers were rightfully willing to gamble on Segura's limited track record in order to secure future production at a low cost, but Segura may be waiting until he (hopefully) posts a second productive season to increase his leverage before entering into negotiations.
Looking at the rest of the list above, Giancarlo Stanton is clearly the best player without an extension, but I'm incredibly skeptical that he'll receive one from the Marlins. Brett Lawrie has been up and down and the Blue Jays may want to see more from him before looking to lock him up just as the Mariners might want more time to evaluate Kyle Seager's potential growth and perhaps just what they have in top-prospect D.J. Peterson, who may have to shift to first, before exploring an extension with their third baseman. Should Wilin Rosario take a step forward defensively, the Baby Bull might be a strong extension candidate as would Yasmani Grandal potentially become if he can stay on the field, healthy and productive post-PED suspension. Moustakas, who has created his value through defense, likely needs to take a leap forward with the bat before the Royals consider an extension with him.
Team-friendly extensions are the new skinny jeans: everybody wants them even if they don't always look good (just ask the Cubs about Starlin Castro). Should the trend continue, Manny Machado and Jean Segura could be the next big names to ink deals with the Orioles and Brewers, respectively. They are hardly the only players on the radar, but Mike Trout's recent deal only cements this principle. Keep your eyes peeled for the next great contract, making a young player rich and saving his team a huge sum of money in the process.