This past year was the first under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, which, among many other things, dramatically restricts teams’ abilities to spend on the amateur side. That has had a number of effects, including a shifting of dollars to the big league side, and a rush to extend young franchise players (because they’re now harder to get by simply “buying” them). We saw it with a number of pitchers this past year, most notably Matt Cain and Cole Hamels, each of whom signed healthy extensions just before reaching free agency. You also had Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Andrew McCutchen, and others.
But the extension story may only be beginning.
Today, the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they’ve extended start third baseman Evan Longoria … through 2022. The 27-year-old third baseman was already under contract through 2016, on the one of the most team-friendly deals in baseball history. Now he’ll get an additional $100 million from 2017 through 2022, and the Rays will get a 2023 option, too (when he’s 38). It’s a team-friendly deal by most standards, but you’ve got to consider: that additional $100 million doesn’t kick in for another four years (during which he was already under cheap control) – a lot can happen in those four years. The deal is being heralded as a great one for the Rays, but I’m not so sure it isn’t just as risky on their side as it is on Longoria’s.
The deal is obviously a huge bet on (1) Longoria’s longevity and productivity well into his 30s, (2) the Rays’ long-term viability with a public face like Longoria, and (3) the escalating salaries of baseball’s top players.
It’s also a bet, as the outset referenced, that these kinds of players are going to be harder to get and secure long-term. It remains a story to watch and consider as we talk about which free agents the Cubs should try and sign, and for how long.