The one player each team should lock up

January 17th, 2021

Contract extensions aren’t quite as exciting as trades and free-agent acquisitions, but they’re arguably more important -- we’re all still reeling from Mike Trout’s and Mookie Betts’ extensions the last two years.

Thus, today we look at that very thing: Extensions. Who’s the best extension candidate on each team? Whom should each team already be talking to? Here’s our best guess.

American League East

Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B (age 22)
Under club control through: 2025

If they believe in him (and they clearly do), perhaps the best time to wrap him up is before he has the explosion year we all think he’s going to have.

Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C (age 22)
Under club control through: at least 2026

Sure, it’s unlikely, but they wouldn’t be the first team to try to sway a Minor Leaguer to put ink to paper on a long-term Major League contract. In fact, it’s becoming a lot more common.

Rays: Austin Meadows, OF (age 25)
Under club control through: 2024

Extensions aren’t particularly the Rays’ thing, but Meadows is old enough and maybe in that right spot of production where both sides would have to consider it.

Red Sox: Rafael Devers, 3B (age 24)
Under club control through: 2023

If the Red Sox are in position to spend in the next couple of years in the way we have gotten used to Boston spending, isn’t Devers, who is still just 24, the place to start?

Yankees: Gleyber Torres, SS/2B (age 24)
Under club control through: 2024

At some point, the Yankees may have to choose between Torres and Aaron Judge long-term. Considering Judge is five years older, it might not be much of a choice at all.

AL Central

Indians: Amed Rosario, SS (age 25)
Under club control through: 2023

Rosario is better than he was probably given credit for in the Francisco Lindor trade, and he might be the sort of shortstop right in Cleveland’s range of hanging on to. Some might say Shane Bieber, but he’s getting to the point where the cost would be enormous.

Royals: Salvador Perez, C (age 30)
Under club control through: 2021

There are younger players here, but it still wouldn’t feel like the Royals without Sal Perez, who hits free agency after next season.

Tigers: Casey Mize, RHP (age 23)
Under club control through: 2026

He’s the centerpiece of everything the Tigers are going to try to do over the next half-decade or more. Maybe you get him tied to the team while you can.

Twins: Byron Buxton, CF (age 27)
Under club control through: 2022

His counting numbers are never going to reflect his actual value to the organization, so maybe they wrap him up with a contract that shows his true worth to this team.

White Sox: Lucas Giolito, RHP (age 26)
Under club control through: 2023

They actually have a lot of the bats in that lineup wrapped up. It might be time to figure out something with the ace.

AL West

Angels: Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH (age 26)
Under club control through: 2023

Is this a weird idea? He’s only signed for two more years after this one. They haven’t necessarily gotten all they wanted so far, but they certainly don’t want to imagine him leaving, do they?

Related

Athletics: Matt Chapman, 3B (age 27)
Under club control through: 2023

He would have been the pick here each of the last two years. He and Matt Olson will hit free agency at the same time in two years. Who will be the priority?

Astros: Carlos Correa, SS (age 26)
Under club control through: 2021

If they haven’t traded him already, maybe they come around to considering him a core guy moving forward. He only has one year left for them to figure it out.

Mariners: Jarred Kelenic, CF (age 21)
Under club control through: at least 2026

This is the Rutschman idea: Wrap him up before he even gets to the Majors if you’re counting on him as much as you seem to be.

Rangers: Joey Gallo, OF (age 27)
Under club control through: 2022

The Rangers still think he can be a star, so maybe they pay him like he could be one when many think, after last year, he might not be.

National League East

Braves: Freddie Freeman, 1B (age 31)
Under club control through: 2021

After winning an MVP Award and sticking with this franchise as long as he has, they can’t just let him walk away after this year, can they?

Marlins: Sandy Alcantara, RHP (age 25)
Under club control through: 2024

He has already established himself as a steady part of Miami's rotation, and he could remain such for the next five-plus years.

Mets: Francisco Lindor, SS (age 27)
Under club control through: 2021

Fair to say this is atop the priority list.

Phillies: Rhys Hoskins, 1B/LF (age 27)
Under club control through: 2023

He’s still intended to be the center of this lineup, and if the Phillies end up losing him, whomever they bring in to be Bryce’s lineup running mate is going to be a lot more expensive (and probably older).

Nationals: Juan Soto, LF (age 22)
Under club control through: 2024

He’s a free agent after the 2024 season. Start the countdown now, because that’ll be here sooner than you think.

NL Central

Brewers: Josh Hader, LHP (age 26)
Under club control through: 2023

It feels like Hader has been on the trading block so long that the Brewers might as well keep him around at this point.

Cardinals: Jack Flaherty, RHP (age 25)
Under club control through: 2023

There doesn’t seem to have been a lot of talk about Flaherty this offseason, and his value will never be lower than it is right now. (Though it’s not particularly low now.)

Cubs: Ian Happ, INF/OF (age 26)
Under club control through: 2023

Clearly, it’s tough to imagine the Cubs doing a lot of extensions right now, but Happ looks like he’s in for the long haul.

Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B (age 23)
Under club control through: 2026

You know what would be a great way to make Pirates fans stick around during a tough period coming up? Assure them that a terrific player who’s going to be a fan favorite will be here for a long time.

Reds: Luis Castillo, RHP (age 28)
Under club control through: 2023

He hits free agency after the 2023 season, but the Reds have invested plenty of time and effort into him already.

NL West

D-backs: Carson Kelly, C (age 26)
Under club control through: 2024

Kelly, it’s now clear, was the gem of the Paul Goldschmidt trade and could be the catcher for this team for a long time.

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, LHP (age 32)
Under club control through: 2021

There are more free agents coming down the pipe (Kenley Jansen, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager), but Kershaw comes first. He essentially has to retire a Dodger now.

Giants: Joey Bart, C (age 24)
Under club control through: 2026

Not a team with a lot of candidates, actually, which is a little surprising and maybe not a great sign?

Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS (age 22)
Under club control through: 2024

There has been some smoke around an extension here, but it’s unclear where things actually stand. Can they get it done this season, or not?

Rockies: Trevor Story, SS (age 28)
Under club control through: 2021

A whole bunch of franchises, not least of all the Rockies themselves, will be altered by whether or not the Rockies can come to some terms with Story or not.