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White Sox lock up Tim Anderson with a bargain extension

Tim Anderson’s deal is the latest in a series of very team-friendly contracts the White Sox have handed out to young players recently.

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Over the last decade, the Tampa Bay Rays have been famous for their propensity to lock up their young talent to early long-term contracts. The comprehensive list is long and distinguished, and ranges from Carl Crawford’s $15.25-million contract signed in 2005 to Kevin Kiermaier’s newly inked $53.5-million deal. These team-friendly deals are one of the reasons why the Rays have stayed afloat in the hyper-competitive AL East.

Tampa Bay has company, though. The Chicago White Sox and shortstop Tim Anderson agreed to a six-year, $25 million extension on Monday, setting a record for the richest contract ever handed out to a player with less than a full year of MLB service time under his belt. Assuming the White Sox pick up the two team options at the end of the deal — for the 2023 and 2024 seasons, I should mention — the contract’s value would increase to $50.5 million over eight years. That’s $6.3 million per season, or $1.7 million fewer than Mike Pelfrey made last year.

For his part, Anderson is deserving. He is an athletic, 23-year-old shortstop who hit .283/.306/.432 in 99 games for the Sox last season. He was a consensus top-50 prospect heading into the season, and Baseball Prospectus had him No. 19 overall. He has been praised for his athleticism — he was originally a basketball star and picked up baseball late, a fact any broadcaster will happily remind you of — and graded out as an above-average shortstop in his partial season of work.

As a rookie in 2016, Anderson racked up 2.4 fWAR; that alone would have been worth $19.1 million on the free-agent market, according to FanGraphs. Barring injury, it’s hard to see him not racking up $25 million worth of value with his glove alone over the next half decade. If the bat pans out, he’ll be among the best bargains in baseball.

Speaking of bargains, the White Sox have their own history of signing players to team-friendly pre-arbitration deals.

White Sox pre-arbitration deals

Player Contract Year Signed Option Years Total Years/Value
Player Contract Year Signed Option Years Total Years/Value
Chris Sale 5 years, $32.5 million 2013 2 7 years, $61 million
Jose Quintana 5 years, $21 million 2014 2 7 years, $48.5 million
Adam Eaton 5 years, $23.5 million 2015 2 7 years, $43.5 million

Before the 2013 season, Chris Sale signed a five-year, $32.5-million contract with a pair of team options at the end. Thanks to those options and some performance incentives, that dollar total will nearly double by the time he hits free agency. He has already produced 21.5 fWAR since signing the contract — a total that would cost a team nine figures on the open market by any dollars-per-win estimate — and still has three years of club control remaining.

Meanwhile, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton have arguably produced more surplus value since signing their respective deals. In the five player seasons since their new contracts kicked in, Quintana and Eaton have produced a combined 24.4 fWAR for just $13.25 million.

It’s tough to see Beckham joining this tier of hyper-valuable players, but we also didn’t expect this type of production out of Quintana and Eaton. Both players were coming off three-win seasons before signing their contract extensions, but have since become two of the best players in the game. Quintana has averaged nearly five wins per season since signing his deal, while Eaton produced a whopping 6.0 fWAR after moving to right field in 2016. Anderson has the physical tools to make that leap, but is still a valuable player even if his bat doesn’t fully pan out.

Of course, this assumes that Anderson will be in Chicago throughout the entirety of his contract. The White Sox traded both Sale and Eaton this offseason, hauling in a bevy of talented prospects in return. Hard-throwing pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Michael Kopech could form the newest group of frontline starters on the South Side, and infielder Yoan Moncada is arguably the top prospect in baseball. Add young in-house talents like Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer, and the Sox are quickly forming the next great core of young players in the majors. If the White Sox trade Quintana this season, they could further add to that stockpile.

Not only have the Sale and Eaton trades helped beef up the farm system, they have also provided the White Sox an opportunity to sign more team-friendly extensions. The deals they’ve already handed out have paid for themselves several times over, and young players around MLB still don’t seem all that deterred from signing away a year or two of free agency for a more immediate payday. Anderson called his contract “life-changing,” and no matter how many times we point out how much money players are potentially throwing away, that instant financial security means something.

Above all, we should probably give more credit to general manager Rick Hahn. Despite a losing record and no playoff appearances since he was promoted in 2013, Hahn has pulled off several underrated moves — including the deal that brought Eaton to Chicago in the first place — and seems to have a knack for locking young players up at bargain prices. With Anderson, he has done so again.

Rob Rogacki is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score and the Managing Editor of Bless You Boys, SB Nation's Detroit Tigers community. You can follow him on Twitter at @BYBRob.