FG on Fox: The Jedd Gyorko Problem

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.

Read the rest on FoxSports.com.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

23 Responses to “FG on Fox: The Jedd Gyorko Problem”

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  1. Aaron Trammell says:

    Broken link at the moment.

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    • Aaron Trammell says:

      Nevermind, works now. I agree, Gyorko’s best comp is probably Aaron Hill with less power. I’m not sure that opens pocketbooks anywhere, especially in a power-killing stadium like PETCO. -end armchair GM rant-

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      • Cory says:

        In the very small sample size, which is his career, he has shown more power at home in almost the same exact PA’s. On the other hand, his average is 27 points lower.

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        • Amish_Willy says:

          Yeah, right-handed hitters who pull the ball with power/frequency have had no problems with Petco.

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        • sumfears says:

          Just a small sample. Maybe they move the walls again. I mean if we are guessing the future we might as well guess they move the walls in 15 feet(!)

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  2. AC of DC says:

    Hmm. But I don’t like FoxSports.

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    • Cranky boss says:

      And Nas signed to Roc-a-fella….it’s all good.

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      • Emcee Peepants says:

        But comments like this one make it all worth it:

        “Just shut up already Dave Cameron. The padres owners are taking steps in the right direction to appease long time friar fans. Offering Gyorko this contract ensures that he will be a Padre for many years, and lets remember he is 3rd all time for most HR in a rookie season. I think a lot of people are hoping he flourishes with this new contract into the ‘khalil greene’ that never came into fruition.”

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  3. maguro says:

    Certainly is an…interesting website design.

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  4. Matthew Murphy says:

    To a certain degree, the value of the deal will be determined not just by whether Gyorko sticks at second, but whether an arbitration panel would treat him as a second basemen, which might be the case even if he shifted to third full time next year. While Freese made $3.15 Million in his first arbitration year, he had only hit 35 total home runs up to that point. While Gyorko’s .250 batting average is much lower than Freese’s .290-.300, he also would have been on track to hit around 70 homers before his first arbitration hearing.

    I think the 4/6/9 pricing for Gyorko’s arbitration years are pretty fair, so the team effectively guaranteed those years and gave up an extra $3M in pre-arb/buyout in exchange for one free agent year at $13M and an $12M team option. Not quite a grand slam, but if that’s what it took to extend Gyorko, have to think the Padres made a smart decision.

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    • Norm says:

      You have to remember – singing these deals at market value is NOT a smart move. The team is assuming all the risk, so in order to make it a good deal, they have to pay less than market value.

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      • Cory says:

        When you factor in possible inflation, this won’t necessarily be above market value. A small-market team will assume the risk to have a guarantee.

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        • Amish_Willy says:

          Not to mention the benefit of extending his stay for an additional two years then if they just went year-to-year with him. Would be nice to have Headley signed through 2016 right now at 13m a piece.

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      • Puig's Translator says:

        I read that as:
        You Have to remember – singing “These deals at market value is NOT…” to the tune of Camptown Races.

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      • Matthew Murphy says:

        Understood, the benefit is in the extra year (possible two) of free agency, at what will almost certainly be below market value, so long as Gyorko doesn’t completely fall apart. At the current rate of inflation, the cost of a win may very well be $10-11M in the two free agency years the Padres bought out, so Gyorko only has to be league-average in his age 30-31 seasons in order for 2/25 to be a steal.
        Also, while I said that 4/6/9 is fair, the Padres are protecting themselves from a breakout. If Gyorko crushes 30 homers next year, he could end up costing $5M first time through arbitration, and that number will only escalate in the second and third years.
        So yes, the Padres take on risk by guaranteeing what is probably fair arbitration salary by current projections, but I think that the two years on the back end should make it worth it.

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  5. Baltar says:

    Despite the occasional failures, these extended contracts for young players are really good for everybody. The player gets lifetime security at a young age, the team saves money, and the fans don’t have to change their player loyalties every season.

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    • Garrett says:

      This. Saying MLB teams “win” the deal is like the old fangraphs past time of WAR/$ to evaluate contracts (or perhaps it is the casual fan’s lack of understanding moreso than the writers). These deals really are great for everyone involved.

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  6. Amish_Willy says:

    In regards to Luebke not having the kind of durability that get pitchers paid, that seems pretty silly considering he’d had a clean bill of health throughout the minors (never missed a start) and into the first year as a big leaguer. He had an excellent track record in that department and started his career putting up better numbers then either Jake Peavy or Mat Latos did up to that same point. He was older then the likes of them, but it was an appetizing package.

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  7. Daniel says:

    First comment on FoxSports: “Just shut up already Dave Cameron”

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  8. BenRevereDoesSteroids says:

    From the article…

    Maybin was a speed-and-defense center fielder whose value came in posting a decent batting line once you adjusted for the pitcher’s paradise of Petco Park. Those guys are valuable, but they certainly don’t get paid like cleanup-hitting first basemen.

    Maybin signed a 5 year, 25 million dollar deal in 2012. Thats not exactly Prince Fielder territory. In fact, at the time, the Padres probably felt like they were getting a great bargain.

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  9. jayman4 says:

    As a Padres fan, I think those deals would have been good ones had they not been decimated by injuries. Either the Padres are worse than other teams at assessing that or they have been very unlucky. Luebke was hardly a fringe player. In his first year as a starter (spread over two seasons), his peripherals were comparable to Cliff Lee and other dominant lefties.

    That all said, the Gyorko deal seemed a bit early.

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