Tim Anderson and the Chicago White Sox have agreed to an extension that will pay the young shortstop $25 million over six years and which includes two team options that could double the amount of the contract.
The deal is both big and small. It’s the largest contract ever given to an MLB player with less than a year of service time. So that’s significant. On the other hand, the contract also figures to pay Anderson an average annual value that equates to an amount less than deals signed this winter by Boone Logan and Mitch Moreland. If Anderson doesn’t progress as a major-league player and is out of the league in a couple years, he’ll have at least made $25 million — a substantial figure, in other words. If Anderson is good, then the White Sox will have themselves a huge bargain.
Contracts like Anderson’s aren’t very common. While extensions are signed with some frequency by players who’ve recorded a year-plus of service time — and occur with similar frequency for players at each year of service time until free agency — that’s not the case for players like Anderson, who have little experience in the majors.
Consider: since 2010, there have been 143 extensions of three or more years given to players who’ve recorded less than six years of service time, per MLB Trade Rumors. Of those deals, Tim Anderson’s is just the fifth signed by a player with less than a year of service time. That’s a rarity, as the graph below reveals.
As to why these contract extensions are so rare, one likely explanation is the lack of incentive for a team to pursue a deal any earlier. While extensions such as these can certainly represent bargains for team — and while teams certainly like bargains — clubs can frequently secure players for similar terms after a year or two of play. That allows them to gather more information about the player in question.