I’ve been talking about the game and player-related stuff separately in the Grapefruit Notes posts during spring training, so I’ll keep these posts for more big-picture topics for now.
Earlier this week, we saw two young relief pitchers get locked up to long-term deals, furthering the trend of getting players signed to contracts before their arbitration years begin. Freddy Peralta, a swingman in Milwaukee who wasn’t arb-eligible until after the 2021 season, got a five-year deal worth $15.5 million, while Aaron Bummer, who had a breakout season for the White Sox in 2019, got a five-year deal worth $16 million with two club option years beyond that.
Peralta and Bummer join a growing trend of young players getting locked up to cost-controlled deals in which teams guarantee money upfront in order to save money on free agency years. The two big-name pre-arb signings from earlier this off-season were Luis Robert of the White Sox and Evan White of the Mariners, who received multi-year deals despite still not having played their first game in the Major Leagues yet.
The long-term deals Freddy Peralta and Aaron Bummer signed this week are no anomalies. Teams across baseball are trying to lock up pre-arbitration players to multi-year contracts that buy out free agent years, per sources. There could be a rash of such deals in the coming weeks.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 26, 2020
Jeff Passan reports that we could see a “rash of such deals in the coming weeks” as more and more teams get good, young players locked up. In the case of the Blue Jays, we’ll very soon be talking about getting Bo, Vlad, Cavan Biggio, and even possibly Nate Pearson signed to long-term deals before they’re eligible to go through the arbitration process.
These deals seem like a no-brainer for teams. Take the case of Kris Bryant for the Cubs, who continually sets records year after year in arbitration and compare it to the case of Ronald Acuna Jr. for the Braves, who’s signed until he’s 30 years old and won’t make more than $17 million in a season.
But there’s also the risky side to these deals, like with Yankees pitcher Luis Severino. Around this time last year, the Yankees inked their young ace to a four-year deal worth $40 million. That looked like a steal after he finished third and ninth in Cy Young voting in 2017 and 2018, but now, after an injury-riddled 2019 season and the announcement that he’ll miss 2020 due to Tommy John, it isn’t quite as nice.
Luis Severino signed a 4 year $40M extension with the #Yankees almost exactly a year ago. He’s pitched 12 innings since, & is headed for Tommy John surgery according to GM Brian Cashman. He has $31.25M left on the deal, plus a $15M club option in 2023. https://t.co/b27ISO5Owz
— Spotrac (@spotrac) February 25, 2020
The risk is obviously a lot easier to swallow with position players because they’re simply so much less volatile. So while we’ll likely start to hear talk about Bo, Vlad, and Biggio getting pre-arb extensions throughout the 2020 season and into next winter, I doubt we’ll hear the same for Pearson. Imagine if the Jays had dove into a long-term Aaron Sanchez extension after his brilliant 2016 season?
Anyways, another thing to consider when it comes to locking up pre-arb guys is the impending expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Over in San Diego, people are unsurprisingly talking about getting Fernando Tatis Jr. signed long-term, but Tatis has said himself that there’s nothing happening on that front right now. Dennis Lin, a Padres writer for the Athletic, noted that players could opt to hold off until the new CBA is reached, as it might alter things like control years, arbitration, and free agency.
One of the biggest issues heading into the upcoming CBA war is the reality of service time, as the players believe that the owners are massively limiting their earning power by keeping them away from free agency for so long.
According to a post in USA Today last year, the players could be seeking a change as monumental as granting players free agency after five years and granting them arbitration after two years. It’s fair for MLB players to want to be able to hit free agency sooner, especially when they’re watching guys in the NBA dictate their own futures just a couple of years after being drafted.
So, with all that in mind, why, if you’re Bo, Vlad, or Biggio, would you lock in now? If the players have their way, these guys could end up hitting free agency sooner than expected, meaning a long-term deal signed now would eat up more free agency years than originally planned. If you’ve ever followed one of these sagas (you surely have if you’re an NHL fan because it happens once every few years), the players getting their way isn’t exactly common. That said, apparently, the players are ready for an all-out war.
“Right now, there’s going to be a strike, 100 percent, after 2021” Philadelphia Phillies reliever Pat Neshek told USA TODAY Sports. “I won’t be around, so I don’t have a horse in the race. I don’t want to see a strike.
“(Owners) have a lot more to lose than us, I think. The players have been talking about, for the last couple of years, putting money aside and I think we’re going to be ready for a fight. We’re willing to go multiple years and I don’t know if (owners) are willing to sacrifice.”
Imagine the Blue Jays’ contention window creeping open in 2021 and then slamming shut due to a multi-year lockout! Hoooooly shit, I would probably never watch baseball again! I doubt it actually ends up going that long, but I do believe we’re in for some serious drama. Players really aren’t happy with baseball right now.
Anyways, speaking of pre-arb players, Scott Mitchell of TSN made a very interesting note about Reese McGuire in his most recent 26-man roster prediction post…
Other than McGuire getting in trouble with the law for exposing himself in a parking lot in the days leading up to camp starting, not a lot has changed here.
McGuire is playing in spring games and has a March 16 court date in Clearwater, but the expectation is that he and Jansen will still start the season as the tandem behind the plate.
There is some thought the Jays could try to trade McGuire after the misdemeanour is settled, which would give 33-year-old veteran Caleb Joseph the backup job and Jansen more of a workload as the full-time starter.
The Jays aren’t going to give McGuire away, but the charge didn’t go over well inside the organization.
This isn’t really out of the blue. Mark Shapiro has spoken at length about having good characters within the organization in order to foster a successful environment. I’m not going to go out and say that McGuire rubbing one out in a parking lot makes him a bad person, because we’ve all done some stupid shit before, but Shapiro’s Jays might be a little bit more intense about this kind of thing than others.
Couple that with the fact we heard pretty much all fall and winter about how the Jays were open to possibly moving one of their young backstops in order to fill needs elsewhere and it all kind of adds up. The Jays have this massive logjam of starters in Triple-A Buffalo and there isn’t enough room to get them all playing time. We’ve already speculated that something could budge before the season starts, so maybe packaging McGuire with a young starter could bring back a quality centre fielder.
Who knows. It’s all just speculation at this point, but a move prior to the start of the season wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest.