Charlie Blackmon's contract extension with the Rockies secured his place in Colorado for at least the next four seasons, leaving him in control of his own future through 2023.So while next winter's free-agent market is down one premier player, a larger question presents itself: Was Blackmon's extension an anomaly or
Charlie Blackmon's contract extension with the Rockies secured his place in Colorado for at least the next four seasons, leaving him in control of his own future through 2023.
So while next winter's free-agent market is down one premier player, a larger question presents itself: Was Blackmon's extension an anomaly or the beginning of a new trend?
Following a winter that saw the free-agent market move as slowly as any in recent history, it has been widely assumed that next offseason's collection of available players will spark bidding wars across baseball.
Among those slated to become free agents are Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson and Dallas Keuchel. That's just the cream of a very impressive crop, and we haven't even mentioned Clayton Kershaw, who can opt out of the final two years of his deal with the Dodgers to join the free-agent frenzy.
Blackmon's deal, which guarantees him $108 million through 2023 and could be worth up to $116 million, was generally viewed as a good one given his age (he'll turn 32 in July), the Coors Field factor, and the pair of player options that allow him to become a free agent again after '21 or '22 if he so chooses.
Blackmon's numbers in Colorado dwarf his stats away from home, and by signing an extension, the outfielder won't have to worry about looking for a new contract with Draft-pick compensation attached to him. Had he gone to free agency, Blackmon almost certainly would have been extended a qualifying offer by the Rockies, which may have muddled his appeal to other teams. This past offseason we saw a few players with qualifying offers attached to them have a hard time finding suitors, notably Mike Moustakas and Lance Lynn, both of whom ended up signing one-year deals.
"It was a solid deal for Blackmon," one American League general manager said. "I would guess a lot of players would strongly consider [an extension] if it's presented."
One agent who liked the deal believes similar extensions will become a fixture in the game.
"After the past few markets, there's no question this is going to become a trend," the agent said. "You will see clubs look to sign players very young."
Another agent wasn't as keen on Blackmon's deal, noting that he would have been the No. 2 outfielder on next year's market behind Harper, who is expected to land a deal worth far more than the one Blackmon signed.
"There was no reason for him to do that deal right now," the second agent said. "He should have waited for Harper to get done and he would have benefited from that deal. A lot more teams would have been on Blackmon than Harper because of the price tags."
Blackmon's agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, have a history of getting their clients nine-figure extensions, so Blackmon's deal fell in line with that pattern.
David Wright signed a six-year, $55 million extension with the Mets after just two years in the Majors, then inked another extension worth $138 million over eight years in December 2012 as he approached the final year of that contract.
Earlier in 2012, Brandon Phillips signed a six-year, $72.5 million extension with the Reds only months before he was slated to become a free agent.
In December 2008, Dustin Pedroia signed a six-year, $40.5 million extension with the Red Sox after winning the AL MVP Award during his second full season in the Majors. He then signed a second extension for eight years and $110 million in July 2013, though he still had another full year plus a club option remaining on the first deal.
Neither Pedroia nor Wright had played their age-30 seasons when they signed their big extensions, though Phillips was 31 when he was extended.
Since the end of the 2014 season, only two other players have signed extensions worth $100 million or more before being eligible for free agency: Kyle Seager's seven-year, $100 million pact with the Mariners in December 2014 and Jose Altuve's five-year, $151 million deal, which he signed this spring, two full seasons before he could have become a free agent. In both cases, the team locked up a player in his late 20s.
There have been 35 players in history to sign extensions worth $100 million or more, but Blackmon is the oldest ever to do so. He's only the second to do so at age 31 or older, joining Carsten Sabathia, who agreed to a five-year, $122 million extension with the Yankees after the 2011 season at the age of 31. Ryan Howard signed his five-year, $125 million extension with the Phillies in '10 at the age of 30, though the deal didn't kick in until his age-32 season.
So while we've seen teams get more aggressive when it comes to buying out arbitration years (and in some cases, free-agent years, as well), the Blackmon deal is another type altogether. Could soon-to-be free agents in their early 30s be more willing to sign extensions rather than test a market that saw only one player age 31 or older land a nine-figure deal in each of the past two offseasons (Yoenis Cespedes' four-year, $110 million contract in 2016-17 and Yu Darvish's five-year, $126 million pact this past winter)?
"It's way too early for anyone to read too much into this past offseason or a couple extensions," one National League general manager cautioned.
Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.