Written by Battling Bucs
The best way to figure out what an extension may cost a team is to look at what comparable players have signed for in the past. Below are the 10 Pirates I believe are most worthy of an extension and a short list of comparable players who have signed extensions and a rough estimate of what would be a fair amount.
Free Agents To Be
When trying to figure out what it may take to extend players who are set to become free agents after the end of the season I think the best comparisons to look at are similar players who just signed free agent deal.
Liriano is coming off a strong 2013 campaign one that if repeated will make him a highly priced commodity on the 2014-15 free agent market. Given his spotty track record though without a repeat performance of last year it seems unlikely he would command top of the rotation money. Instead he would likely have to settle for what the next tiers of pitchers receive. Ubaldo Jimenez is probably his best comp as he too was coming off a strong 2013 with a mixed previous track record. The qualifying offer likely limited his contract but his contract is still a good proxy for Liriano because Liriano would be negotiating with only one team and he too would be a candidate for the qualifying offer. Estimated Extension: 4 years, 50 million
The days of older closers receiving boat loads of money are slowly coming to end. This past offseason the above three closers who are all in their mid to late 30s each signed 2 year deal worth anywhere between 6-8 million a year. At 38 Grilli will be older than any of these guys and the Pirates could likely use the fact that he seems to like it here to get him to accept an offer on the low side of the range. Estimated Extension: 2 years, 12 million
There actually isn’t much of a recent history of multiyear deals for catchers but this offseason actually provided us with three deals of three years of length or longer. Brian McCann is the contract excluded from the list as his offense puts him in a higher bracket than Martin but even so Martin is quite likely better than either of the two catchers listed. It is reasonable to expect him to top their deals. Estimated Extension: 3 years, 30 million
Players who reach arbitration and are open to a contract extension are usually willing to not only sell their remaining arb years but also a year or two of free agency. When looking for comps ideally you will find someone of similar value playing the same position with approximately the same service time but often you need to widen that range.
The first three players on the list signed their deals going into their last year of team control so for this exercise all they really tell us is the approximate value of an above average second baseman’s free agent years. When combined with Phillips the result seems to be those years are worth anywhere from 9-14 million dollars. Walker seems like a good bet to settle in between there at around 12 million per free agent year.
The only real guide for his arbitration years is Brandon Phillips and really that contract is out of date at this point. What is available to use though is the fact that a Super 2 player usually follows a 30/50/70/90 scale. Using that scale we can extrapolate that Walker on the open market would have been worth 11 million last year and 11.5 million so that is fairly consistent with our 12 million evaluations. So lets add 1.6 years of 12 million to his current 5.75 million dollar contract to give us a total value of his arb years of about 25 million. That would mean a 5 year contract for Walker would be worth 49 million but seeing as he is a local kid I think it’s safe to assume a slight discount is in order. Estimated Extension: 5 years, 45 million
Walker and Alvarez are similarly valuable players who both play medium valued defensive infield position (so not 1B or SS) so I am also going to refer to the 2B comps while trying to pin down an extension for Alvarez. Even when factoring the third basemen into the mix it appears the typical rate for the free agency years of an above average third baseman is anywhere between 9-14 million. Now Alvarez’s power will likely put him on the high side of that range so let’s start with the idea of about 13 million per season.
Sandoval a fairly comparable 3B to Alvarez sold his three arb years for a total of 17.15 million but Alvarez is likely to earn a little more. There is really no perfect match here so again let’s fall back on the standard arbitration rules which for a non Super 2 player are 40/60/80. Going into his first arbitration season Alvarez is making 4.25 million which gives him a open market value of 10.625 million. The general rule of thumb would let us believe he’ll make 1.8 market rate years over his 3 arb years so that works out to be roughly 19 million. Boras is obviously giving the Pirate no discount and likely wouldn’t even agree to this market rate extension but it does represent fair value. Estimated Extension: 5 years, 45 million
Non closer relievers rarely sign extensions early on in their arbitration years which gives us essentially nothing to create a potential extension with. The best two comps are probably Ziegler and Casilla neither pitcher was really a closer for their team and each signed a deal in their last arbitration season buying out some free agency time. The approximate price they sold their free agent seasons for was 5 million dollars. At the time each of them signed though it was clear there was a closer in front of them but with Grilli’s contract up at the end of the year that isn’t the case with Melancon. Knowing that it would seem Melancon could probably get a bit more for his free agent years so let’s go with 6 million. Again with no really good comps we will really on the arbitration rule of thumb which puts his three arb years at about 2.6, 4 and 5.5 respectively. I doubt the Pirates would commit long term to a reliever so they would likely only buy one free agent year. Estimated Extension: 4 years, 18 million
Pre Arb Players
Signing pre arb players is all about sharing the risk with the player. Typically the player has shown flashes of a high talent level but comes with a large upside and also a fair amount of risk of falling short of that upside. The history of players signing early on in their pre arb years is limited but as you get closer to their arbitration years the numbers increase.
There only pitcher with less than one year of service time to ever sign a contract extension is Matt Moore and he really isn’t a good comp here. Of players with less than two years of service time the most notable ones to sign extensions are Teheran and Bumgarner. If we expand and look at all pre arb players the four biggest extensions ever handed out also include Chris Sale and Gio Gonzalez. The typical price that quartet has sold free agency years at is 11-12 million per season. The approximate value of their 3 arb years has been sold at approximately 18-20 million. We have a pretty good idea that a deal for Cole would have to go above and beyond those numbers and we also know that chances are Boras and Cole would only sell at most one free agent season. Also considering no pitcher deal has been longer than 6 years we will assume Cole’s deal will start in 2015 covering 2 pre arb years, his 3 arb years and one free agent year. All of this typically means a 6 year deal should be worth about 33 million but there will have to be a pricy markup here and I’m going to call it 20%.Estimated Extension: 6 years, 40 million*
* I know some of you may think his deal would have to top all pitchers on the above list and you notice it is below Gonzalez’s total number but he sold two free agent years Cole in this exercise is only selling one.
• Jose Altuve: 4 years, 12.5 million (2013)
Some of you may think it is a little too early to worry about signing Mercer to an extension and you are right but if the Pirates really believe in him extended him now could be a big boost. The only comparable player who has signed a recent contract extension is Jose Altuve. Altuve’s contract bought out his last 4 years of team control for 12.5 million dollars while giving the Astros a 6 million dollar option on his first free agency year. Mercer has one less year of service time than Altuve did so any extension for him would either have to start after this season or buy out another pre arb year. It should also be noted that Mercer is a shortstop whereas Altuve is a 2B so his position is more valuable. Estimated Extension: 6 years, 20 million
Signing prospects to extensions has no real track record. The Rays have handed out a few extensions extremely early into player’s careers and there have been some rumors of other teams trying to do the same but in reality figuring out extensions here is just a guessing game.
Longoria is the standard model for signing top prospects with little or experience but seeing as his deal was signed nearly six years ago it Is safe to assume it is a bit out dated. Sometime during this offseason the Astros reportedly offered George Springer a 7 year, 23 million dollar contract which he rejected. This offer and its subsequent rejection essentially set a new price floor for teams trying to sign position players with little to no service time. A fair assumption is that any extension for Polanco would likely have to surpass that of the offer made to Springer but it should also be noted that Polanco also doesn’t receive the kind of bonus Springer did so it may not have to be well pass it. The Pirates control Polanco’s rights for the next 7 years assuming he is called up during this season so any deal would have to last that long likely with a team option or two. Longoria sold his 3 arb years for about 16 million and even if we assume today’s prospects won’t go that low it is safe to assume that an approximate 50% mark up should get the job done. Add in say 4 million for his pre arb years and signing bonus and we have a rough idea of a contract. Estimated Extension: 7 years, 28 million*
* There would also likely be one or two option years for 12-14 million a piece with this deal.
• Matt Moore: 5 years, 14 million (2011)
The only real comp for Taillon is Matt Moore and once again for an extension to really make sense it will have to cover at least 7 years and likely have some options with it. Moore sold his first two arb years for 8 million and the Rays have a 7 million dollar option on his third arb year. So this amounts to 15 million for his arb years. Pitchers come with an inherently larger injury risk so even with the market seemingly adjusting it wouldn’t be accurate to assume it would take a 50% mark up here to get the job done. Something in the range of 25-30% feels more accurate meaning Taillon’s arb years would be worth about 19 million. Add in say 3 million for his pre arb years and signing bonus and we arrive at our number. Estimated Extension: 7 years, 22 million*
* Once again as expect one or two option years tacked on to the end. The increase d injury risk likely limits them to the 10-12 million range.
This article, written by Battling Bucs, is the first to appear on SABERBUCS that was not written by me, Richard Jarzynka, the owner of SABERBUCS.
I appreciate the work that Battling Bucs put into this article. If any of you might have an interest in writing an article that could appear here, let me know. It doesn’t have to be “sabermetric,” but it will need to be well-written and well-researched. Also, it does NOT have to agree with what I might think about the topic.