Being a good young baseball player right now is a little bit like going on that famous episode of Oprah: “You get a long-term deal, and you get a long-term deal, and you get a long-term deal!” On Monday, Jedd Gyorko became the latest youngster to land a big contract, signing a six-year contract with the San Diego Padres; the deal guarantees him at least $35 million and includes a team option that could push it closer to $50 million over seven seasons. The league is enjoying record profitability, and instead of chasing aging pricey free agents, teams like the Padres have chosen to take their newfound wealth and use it to keep their best young players around for six or seven prime years.
These deals have historically been big winners for MLB teams, as they’ve traded on young players’ desire for financial security to hold down salaries for future superstars like Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Sale, and many others. The return on investment has been so consistently positive that teams are now racing to get similar deals done with every player who shows that they might have the ability to be a core building block for the future.
From 2008 through the end of the 2013 season, there were 47 contract extensions that covered at least four seasons, and most of them were in the six- or seven-year range, especially if you account for the team options that the players gave up in order to get their first big paycheck. As I noted in that analysis of those contracts, only a half dozen or so of those contracts have ended up not working out for the organization. The success rate on these deals has been extraordinarily high, especially when compared to the minefield that is free agency.
However, if there’s one team that hasn’t reaped the benefits of the recent extension craze, it’s probably these very same San Diego Padres. Two of the half dozen or so deals that haven’t worked out in the team’s favor have been signed by the Padres: Cameron Maybin‘s five-year, $25 million deal and Cory Luebke‘s four-year, $12 million contract, both signed in March of 2012.
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