We’ve been waiting for this kind of thing to happen, and it’s no surprise that it’s the prospect-laden, forward-thinking Houston Astros that made the move.
Today, the Astros not only reportedly made plans to call up top first base prospect Jonathan Singleton tomorrow, but they also inked him – with no big league experience – to a five-year, $10 million contract extension (Jeff Passan). The Astros get three option years tacked onto the end, which could raise the total value to $35 million. It’s the first time a prospect has been given a long-term extension like this before he actually reached the big leagues.
The deal is extremely team-friendly because, by risking just $10 million, the Astros gain the flexibility to pick up the cheap options on Singleton when he reaches arbitration, or simply go through arbitration (if they feel that will be a better deal in the first couple years of arbitration, because he won’t yet have enough service time for free agency), or let him go altogether. They also get a cheap option year that covers Singleton’s first year of arbitration.
The deal is also not a terrible move for Singleton, who isn’t necessarily a lock for big league success, and who now has a guarantee of $10 million. If he flamed out in any of the next three years, he could have wound up making just a tenth of that.
The relevance to the Cubs here should be pretty obvious, as they, too, are a forward-thinking organization with many top prospects moving toward the big leagues. If these kinds of conversations – in a very general way, at least – haven’t already occurred with guys like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, I’d be surprised. They may not have any interest in such a deal, and they also may not be ready for the big leagues, but, I’m just saying: it’s a conversation to have.
I suspect we’ll see more and more of these kinds of deals in the next few years. Increasingly, teams are will to bet on a player’s younger years, risking a healthy guarantee on someone who hasn’t yet shown big league success … but a much smaller guarantee than you’d have to give once a player is established (or, God forbid, a free agent).
It’s a nice carrot for teams to dangle in front of prospects – especially great ones who don’t much like being held down for service time reasons: if you sign this deal, which guarantees you a nice chunk of cash, we’ll call you up right now.