CINCINNATI -- “I’m open for business,” said Travis Shaw.
“I can’t wait to see that in a headline,” said Christian Yelich from a few lockers over.
And Josh Hader?
“For the time being, the business for me is playing baseball,” Hader said.
It’s extension season for young stars across Major League Baseball, which was obvious once again on Tuesday with clubhouse televisions broadcasting news of Ronald Acuna Jr.’s eight-year, $100 million agreement with the Braves. It came a day after the Red Sox and Xander Bogaerts agreed to a six-year, $120 million deal, and one week after the Mets and ace Jacob deGrom agreed at five years and $137.5 million. According to MLB Trade Rumors, 27 players have inked extensions since the end of last season, including 10 deals for players who had yet to reach salary arbitration.
Obviously, Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns is tracking the trend. And while the Brewers are not currently in talks with any of their players regarding contract extensions, Stearns said he is not wholly against the idea.
“We’re always open to keeping good players. That’s certainly part of the strategy,” said Stearns. “It has to make sense for both sides, and I think in certain cases we’ve been able to find deals that have made sense for both sides, and in other cases we haven’t. But we’re always open to exploring.”
Is he open to exploring during the season?
“I think it is challenging to do these in-season,” Stearns said. “It is not impossible. I’ve been around deals that have been done in-season. But I think there is a reason most of them get done before Opening Day.”
So, if down the road the Brewers were to shore up some of their young talent, who might make sense?
Here is an incomplete list:
As eager as fans may be at the moment to lock up the reigning National League Most Valuable Player for as long as possible, this may be a matter for a later date. Yelich signed his first long-term contract four years ago -- a seven-year, $49.57 million extension in March 2015 that runs through '21, with a $15 million club option for '22. Today the contract looks club friendly, but it’s worth remembering that when he signed it, Yelich had only one full big league season in the books, in which he won a Rawlings Gold Glove Award while hitting .284 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs.
It probably makes business sense for the Brewers to be patient here. Yelich, 27, is controllable for the next four years including this season.
The left-hander got his first taste of the business of baseball when his representatives and the Brewers couldn’t agree on a 2019 salary, and the club renewed the contract at $687,600. Hader, who turns 25 on Sunday, set the all-time record for strikeouts by a left-handed relief pitcher last season. He has this season and next season before reaching what would be a fascinating few years of arbitration.
The way the Brewers like to use Hader, he may not rack up the sort of save totals that typically pay off for relievers in arbitration. But the way he has performed, he is proving extremely valuable.
“My job is to play baseball,” Hader said. “If they feel they want to do an extension, then that’s the business side of it. They control that. The way I look at it, I can only control what I can control, and that’s playing baseball.”
What did he think when he saw the Acuna news?
“Eight years, $100 [million] -- what more do you need?” Hader said. “Probably in about four years, if he didn’t sign, he could make a $400 million contract. But people look at money in a different way. Everybody is different. Everybody has a different way of running their own business.”
The 28-year-old third baseman got a raise to $4.675 million in his first year of arbitration, and has two more years of club control before reaching free agency following the 2021 season. Shaw hit 63 home runs in his first two seasons with the Brewers. The sides did not discuss a multiyear deal before he signed for this season.
Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta or Brandon Woodruff
All three starting pitchers entered this season shy of a full year of Major League service, though Woodruff, 26, projects as a Super Two player following next season if he sticks in the big leagues throughout this year and next. Burnes, 24, and Peralta, 22, wouldn’t reach arbitration until after the 2021 season. So while it is probably too early to talk extensions, it is worth tracking all three.