As teams begin full workouts in Spring Training, they get the opportunity to make sure that all of their players arrive healthy and in good shape to start the season. While they likely pay attention to all players, of particular interest are those players who their second or third years in the big leagues. These players are still making the major league minimum salary and, as a result, are the best candidates to approach regarding a long-term extension. Such deals offer players with their first real shot at big-time money, and often pay off down the line for teams: indeed, as my research indicates, teams saved more than half a billion dollars on long-term extensions signed from 2008 to 2011. While the number of candidates for contract extensions isn’t as numerous as in previous seasons, there are a few potential stars.
While players and clubs certainly can agree on contract extensions during the winter, it’s less common for players who have yet to reach arbitration. The only long-term extensions signed this past offseason were between Dee Gordon and the Miami Marlins and Brandon Crawford and the San Francsisco Giants — and, in both cases, the relevant player was entering his second year of arbitration. Last year around this time, I discussed potential position-player candidates for extensions, and named eight players. Of those eight, four agreed to extensions: Brian Dozier, Juan Lagares, Adam Eaton, and Christian Yelich, although Dozier’s deal did not cover any free agent seasons. Adding Lagares, Eaton, and Yelich to the list from last year, here are the players who’ve been extended in the recent past.
Recent Pre-Arbitration Contract Extensions
While the Allen Craig contract has not worked out, and Jedd Gyorko was unloaded to the Cardinals this offseason, the above contracts are some of the very best (for clubs) in the majors. Dan Szymborksi recently listed his 25 most team-friendly contract situations, and Marte, Rizzo, and Trout all made the list. In his most recent edition of the trade-value series, Dave Cameron ranked Trout first among all players, while Goldschmidt was third, Rizzo was seventh, and Marte, Simmons, and Yelich all cracked the top 30. Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis also appeared on that list. Matt Carpenter, meanwhile, has worked out well for the Cardinals and Eaton put in a solid season for the White Sox, while Lagares struggled through injuries and will begin this season as the fourth outfielder for the New York Mets.
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