Shane Victorino has been pretty chatty about his contract lately. He’s said that he wants to stay in Philadelphia and will give the Phillies a “home town discount” in order to keep him, but then yesterday, he noted that his goal is to get a five year extension that would cover his age 32-36 seasons. Victorino’s been an underrated player for a while and has certainly been vital to the Phillies success, but can he really expect to land a five year contract next winter if he hits free agency, as his agents have suggested?
Here are the players that have signed contracts of five years or longer as free agents over the last five years.
Alex Rodriguez (10/275)
Albert Pujols (10/240)
Prince Fielder (9/214)
Mark Teixeira (8/180)
CC Sabathia (7/161)
Carl Crawford (7/140)
Jayson Werth (7/126)
Matt Holliday (7/120)
Cliff Lee (5/120)
Jose Reyes (6/106)
Torii Hunter (5/90)
John Lackey (5/83)
A.J. Burnett (5/83)
Adrian Beltre (5/80)
C.J. Wilson (5/78)
Aaron Rowand (5/60)
That’s 16 guys, or about three five year contracts handed out per winter. They’re not all that common, and as you can see from the list of names, they’re generally reserved for pretty good players. That said, there are some Victorino-like players on that list, and guys he could point to as reasonable comparisons on some points.
Rowand is the natural starting spot, as like Victorino, he was an unheralded player who made good as the Phillies starting CF, and turned one monster offensive season into a big contract from the Giants. However, Rowand was two years younger than Victorino when he hit free agency, so the contract just took him through his age 34 season, and that contract was a colossal failure for the Giants, so other teams probably aren’t going to want to repeat that mistake. The contract was also handed out five years ago, and teams have gotten smarter since then. His agents can point to Rowand if they’d like, but I don’t think that’s going to be a convincing argument for too many GMs.
Torii Hunter is the other natural comparison on the list, as he got five years that covered his age 32-36 seasons, and in terms of on field performance, Victorino has been a better player than Hunter leading up to his free agent seasons. However, Hunter was the fortunate recipient of an outsized defensive reputation, and he specialized in the skills that are best compensated by the marketplace – specifically, hitting for power. He hit 59 home runs in his final two seasons before free agency, while Victorino has only hit 79 home runs in his career. Victorino’s contact skills and speed simply aren’t valued the same way as Hunter’s home runs and highlight reel catches were, and despite being a better player, he won’t be viewed as favorably as a player with a different skillset. Pointing to Hunter can help make the case that a +3 win CF in his mid-30s is deserving of a five year deal, but when you factor in the discount that goes along with his skillset, it might be a tough sell.
Perhaps Victorino’s best argument for a five year deal is not a center fielder at all. Adrian Beltre and Shane Victorino might not seem all that similar, but they actually have more offensive similarities than you might think. Neither of them strike out much at all, and while Beltre has a bit more home run power, he hasn’t hit more than 28 home runs in a season since 2004. Like Victorino, Beltre had essentially been a +3ish win player based on league average offense and good defensive value before he had a monster season in Boston that landed him his five year deal with Texas that covered his age 32-36 seasons. Victorino’s big year came one year before his contract ended, but his line the last five years (115 wRC+, 21.2 WAR) looks a lot like Beltre’s from 2006-2010 (111 wRC+, 21.2 WAR).
However, Beltre did have the advantage that his best offensive season came in the most recent year, while an expected regression from Victorino this year might serve to make his big year look more like a fluke than genuine improvement. Beltre’s defensive reputation is also significantly better than Victorino’s, and he’d shown himself to be one of the game’s most durable players as well. Toss in his more obvious physical advantages and the extra power, and I’m guessing most teams would prefer Beltre to Victorino. Still, the differences are small enough that you could make a compelling case for the comparison to be valid, and the recent Yadier Molina and Ryan Zimmerman extensions do suggest that defensive value is being valued more highly now than it has been in the past.
If Victorino has another big year, he could probably get five years, but that would take away his ability to choose where he plays, as there would probably only be one bidder willing to go that high. If he really wants to stay in Philadelphia, he’ll probably have to settle for a four year contract, or if the market treats him more like a Jimmy Rollins, he might even have to settle for three.