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These stars are top candidates for extensions

January 23, 2019

The Cardinals announced the obvious over the weekend by confirming they'd like to sign new first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to a contract extension past the 2019 season, when his current deal expires. No player is a more perfect candidate for an extension.Plenty of other stars -- all of whom are headed for

The Cardinals announced the obvious over the weekend by confirming they'd like to sign new first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to a contract extension past the 2019 season, when his current deal expires. No player is a more perfect candidate for an extension.
Plenty of other stars -- all of whom are headed for free agency after the 2019 season -- are also logical candidates for an extension. Whether a deal can be worked out is another matter -- and it makes the decision-making tougher.
Should a player gamble on a bigger payday in free agency in exchange for upfront financial security? And how does the current free-agent market impact decisions? Here are 12 prominent candidates who are eligible to hit the market next year.
LET'S MAKE A DEAL!
Paul Goldschmidt
Goldschmidt has been one of the best bargains in the game in recent seasons, and he will be 32 on Opening Day 2020. So this is a significant decision for Goldschmidt: Would three years at $105 million do it? How about throwing in a big '23 player option? See how easy it is to spend someone else's money?
Anthony Rendon, Nationals
Just as the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg -- and attempted to do with Bryce Harper -- they will try to keep their 28-year-old third baseman from hitting the market. Whatever Manny Machado gets would probably exceed the ceiling for what Rendon could earn as a free agent, so any extension would come in at a bit less than that.

Gerrit Cole, Astros
Cole owns a home in Southern California, so he might prefer to pitch there. But the Astros, even with a system that is rich in pitching, would love to keep him beyond 2019. He'll be 29 on Opening Day, which makes him the ideal candidate for an extension.
Didi Gregorius, Yankees
Gregorius has surpassed every expectation as "the guy who replaced Derek Jeter." Unless Machado shows up in pinstripes in a few weeks, the 28-year-old Gregorius may be the most ideal extension candidate on the planet, though a lot of it depends on how he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Scooter Gennett, Reds
Gennett's 6.7 FanGraphs WAR ranks sixth among all second baseman the past two seasons, and he'll be 30 on Opening Day 2020. With so much of the Reds' core locked in on reasonable deals, Gennett would seem the next logical player to land one. Of course, he's also been mentioned in trade rumors, so it's possible that he'll end up getting flipped at the Trade Deadline if Cincinnati can't keep pace in the deep National League Central.
WE'LL STAY IN TOUCH, OK?
Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
Bogaerts would be an obvious extension candidate in most cases, but the Red Sox have so many prominent players headed for free agency over the next two seasons that it's going to be nearly impossible to keep all of them. Mookie Betts, up after 2020, is No. 1.

Chris Sale, Red Sox
Speaking of Boston … first, Sale has to show the Red Sox that he's healthy. If that happens, then he'll have the leverage, because if Sale isn't the most dominant pitcher in baseball, he's in the conversation. There are so many moving parts that this one seems unlikely to get done before next offseason.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants
Two points: Bumgarner has not already been signed beyond 2019, and the Giants have at least listened to trade offers. Even if he pitches at a high level in the first half of '19, he seems like more a trade candidate than an extension candidate as new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi remakes the roster.

Josh Donaldson, Braves
If Donaldson makes it through the season healthy, the Braves will almost certainly want him back in 2020. There may come a time during the season when an extension is discussed, but this isn't it.
CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS?
Rick Porcello, Red Sox
Betts, Sale and Bogaerts would all appear to be higher priorities. Like Betts, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is up after the 2020 season. Porcello has made 33 starts for three straight seasons and won the American League Cy Young Award in '16, but he seems likely to be pitching elsewhere in '20.
Justin Verlander, Astros
Where does Verlander want to finish his career? On the West Coast? In New York? No player was more responsible for the Astros winning the World Series in 2017 than Verlander. But he'll be 37 on Opening Day '20, and Houston could be pushing its payroll limit by then -- with waves of young pitching on the way.

Cole Hamels, Cubs
The Cubs have so many issues to sort through with Javier Baez, Kristopher Bryant, Kyle Hendricks and others. It seems unlikely Hamels will be signed past 2019 unless he pitches at a very high level and would accept a one-year deal.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.