Breaking down six latest contract extensions
Former Rockies GM assesses the value teams got for their investment
Over the past few days, we've seen six exciting young talents receive long-term extensions, with Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison on Wednesday afternoon becoming the latest to get long-term security. Before him, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Rick Porcello, Yordano Ventura and Juan Lagares all received lengthy deals in the span of a week.
Below is my assessment of each contract. They are listed in order of how much value I think the clubs will get in return, relative to where the player is in regards to free agency, though I would classify all of these deals as team-friendly.
Corey Kluber, RHP, Indians
Five years, $38.5 million (plus two team options)
This was an interesting extension, because the Tribe still controlled Kluber for four more years through the arbitration process, which would have had him hitting free agency at age 33. Also, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner is coming off what could easily be his career year.
This deal is a great example of a player understanding his situation, as the Indians are not a club that is in position to hand out nine-figure deals. That said, if the two options are picked up, this deal would be worth $77 million, which is an impressive haul for a pitcher who is so far from free agency.
Even if Kluber takes a step back and performs like a No. 3 starter for the next five years, the Indians are getting a bargain.
Josh Harrison, 3B, Pirates
Four years, $27.3 million (plus 2 club options)
Harrison had a breakout season in 2014, with a slash line of .315/.347/.490 to go with 13 homers and 18 stolen bases. Though his .355 batting average on balls in play suggests some regression is in store, his tremendous versatility makes him more valuable than his raw stats would suggest, particularly for a National League club.
The deal buys out three years of Harrison's free agency (assuming both options are picked up), and could be worth as much as $50 million. The guaranteed dollars are more than what Michael Brantley got from Cleveland last season, but the Pirates got a second team option here.
I see Harrison as a late bloomer who will make this contract look good for Pittsburgh.
Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Indians
Four years, $22 million (plus two team options)
There is a lot more risk and reward here for Cleveland than there is with the Kluber deal. Prior to 2014, when he had a lower ERA than Kluber after the All-Star break, Carrasco was seen as a failed prospect. He had lost the '12 season to Tommy John surgery and had a 5.29 ERA in 238 1/3 career innings.
The club is banking on that 1.72 post-All-Star break ERA being a true indicator of his future performance. If it is, the Indians have a bargain, and Carrasco, 28, can earn as much as $38.5 million if those two options get picked up.
He would have gotten more had he been able to have a productive, healthy 2015 season, but given Carrasco's past health problems, it's no wonder he jumped at the financial security.
Rick Porcello, RHP, Red Sox
Four years, $82.5 million
It seems like Porcello has been around forever, but he is just 26 years old. Unlike the other deals on this list, the Red Sox are paying for what would have been free-agent years, which is why the cost is so much higher than the other contracts on this list.
In terms of dollars, the contract is comparable to what Homer Bailey got for what would have been four free-agent years in his six-year deal, and the two pitchers are similar in terms of overall ability.
Porcello has averaged 30 starts per year in his six-year career, and he is coming off a career-best 3.43 ERA. If he can sustain that, he will be in for another huge payday when he hits the market again at age 30.
The Sox now control Porcello, Clay Buchholz, Wade Miley and Joe Kelly through at least 2016, and none are older than 30.
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Royals
Five years, $23 million (plus two team options)
This is another example of a mid-market club locking up a dynamic talent early in the process. Ventrua has just one year of service time, and this deal is a bargain for a pitcher who has already thrown more than 180 innings in a season and posted a 3.20 ERA during both the 2014 regular season and postseason.
Ventura has battled some arm problems in the past, so it's clear why he would want the security. And even if both options are picked up, Ventura will hit the market at age 31 for a second bite of the apple. The Royals, meanwhile, will likely let Ventura's mid-30s be another team's problem.
Juan Lagares, CF, Mets
Four years, $23.5 million (plus one team option)
This deal represents the increased emphasis that clubs are putting on defense, as Lagares leads all center fielders with an Ultimate Zone Rating of 43.1 over the last two seasons, far ahead of No. 2 (Carlos Gomez, 34.5).
If his offense should pick up at all, Lagares could wind up being among the best bargains in the game, with the Mets holding an option for what would have been his first free-agent year at $9.5 million.
The Mets now have the first of what they hope will be a large number of homegrown position players locked up for the future, and that could provide them the cost certainty they might need for an eventual Matt Harvey extension.