The Mets and Yankees have decisions to make on their top young players. Do they engage in the contract extension trend? Or wait…
The Mets and Yankees study and read the MLB Transaction wire just as many of us do on a daily basis. Beyond the usual cuts made by teams at this point in Spring Training, we are seeing a phenomenon we’ve never witnessed before. Teams are lining up to lock in their top young players with guaranteed contracts which take the player up to, and sometimes, even surpassing his free agency year.
The Yankees moved quickly in helping to establish the trend by signing Luis Severino to a 4-year $40 million contract, and Aaron Hicks to a 7-year $70 million extension. Within those two contracts is another trend settling in on MLB too, which is to offer contracts to position players for more years than pitchers. This is logical when it’s clear the injury rates are much greater for pitchers. Ironically, both players will begin the season on the Injured List (no longer know as the DL).
Beyond that, however, both the Mets and Yankees have several young players, all highly valued within their organization, who conceivably are ripe for contract extensions.
Before we go there, however, let’s look at why these contract extensions make sense for both the team and the player, and therefore, why they are fast becoming the rage of baseball.
The Bargaining Agreement Pitfalls
First, the current bargaining agreement between owners and players is stacked in favor of older veteran players and biased against young players (defined as under 30). Presently, a player coming into the league must wait six years, using the vernacular, “to be paid” in free agency.
Until then, he is subject to as many as three years of pay at the minimum salary, or modest year to year raises. Aaron Judge, for example, received a token raise of about $60,000 from the Yankees, bringing Judge to $684,300 for the 2019 season, a steal of epic proportion by the team. But, those are the terms of the agreement, now biting players in the butt.
Then comes three years of arbitration that the players fought hard for, only to regret it now. What happens, and what the Player’s Association didn’t notice – or some say the leaders just didn’t give a hoot about – is that the bulk of players are reaching free agency status when they are as “old” like 28, 29, or even 30 years of age.
Especially with pitchers like these two, albeit accomplished and valued they might be, what is the incentive for a team to offer them a five or six-year deal that will take the player to well beyond their most productive years? Answer – there is none.
The New Solution Rewarding Both Sides
General Managers, equipped now with all sorts of fancy and reliable information, are now saying and believing that it is in the team’s best interest to “lock up” players when their most productive years are ahead of them, and not behind them as we see in the cases of Keuchel and Kimbrel.
In doing so, the team is able to avoid the unpredictability of arbitration (imagine Aaron Judge or Pete Alonso when they get there), and even more significantly, it permits the team to budget based on predictable salaries and payroll.
From the player’s perspective, it’s also an unavoidable enticement. For example, Aaron Hicks is now set for life with a cool $70 million coming his way – guaranteed. He can relax and go about his business of playing the game he loves, with no phone calls from his agent and no questions from the media about his future, with time to think about his next career choice when he (probably) retires from baseball at a very young age of 37.
Winner – winner. And those are the best deals made in baseball or any other sport.
Mets And Yankees – Candidates For Extensions
While both the Mets and Yankees each have several young players with varying upsides, contract extensions should not, and probably will not be offered to all of them. Contract extensions, as it’s used by all teams, are reserved for only the top tier of players with the greatest upside.
At the moment for the Mets and Yankees, only Michael Conforto and Aaron Judge are no-brainers, and no one should be surprised if extensions are announced for both during the 2019 season, or shortly thereafter.
Second-tier players will likely be delayed until the 2019 season is completed, giving the Mets and Yankees a full season to observe and evaluate before they commit a significant, and non-refundable, expenditure of money.
For the Mets, Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Edwin Diaz, Steven Matz, and Jeff McNeil fall into this category of – show me first. In the third tier, offerings are most unlikely for players like Juan Lagares, Travis d’Arnaud, and Jason Vargas, who become eliminated because they’ve crossed the over 30 bar.
Beyond Judge, the Yankees have only second-tier players, all of whom Brian Cashman won’t offer immediate contract extensions, but they definitely fall into that wait and see and “Most Likely To Succeed” category. This group includes Miguel Andujar at the top of the list – if he continues to improve defensively. Estevan Florial, who has yet to have an at-bat with the Yankees is another candidate, pending his ability to stay on the field (injured again).
Jordan Montgomery (remember him?) and Jonathan Loaisiga are pitchers the Yankees are likely to give some consideration. And for the Mets, perhaps pitchers in their farm system like David Peterson and Franklyn Kilome fit into this look into the future.
Mets And Yankees – Play Or Stay
Trends in baseball come and go. Whether it’s the shift, the opener, or adjusting a player’s swing to create “loft”, the monkey see – monkey do strategy of contract extensions is the new wave in baseball.
Whether rules changes imposed by Major League Baseball that are imposed from above or negotiated changes in the collective bargaining agreement set to expire in 2021, free agency, especially, is not working for anyone.
Contract extensions, like the one earned by Mike Trout (12 yr(s) / $426,500,000), are baseball’s answer to the chaos and bias we see in the current bargaining agreement. Mike Trout is the elite player in baseball today – no one comes close. Angel’s ownership made a choice and so did Trout…
Extensions, much like “the shift” need to stand the test of time as to their value, as well attempts by both sides to circumvent or to find “loopholes” to whatever may be agreed to in the near future.
But for the Mets and Yankees, and unlike the shift which continues to exist only because players refuse to “hit the other way”, contract extensions have both immediate and long-range positive effects between the team and the player – both teams should let ‘er rip.