Just last week, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs asked where are all of the pre-season contract extensions, this Spring?
Although we’ve grown accustom to seeing roughly 3-5 extensions for major players around the league before the season starts, 2016 has been quite different.
In fact, we only saw a couple of extensions – Kolten Wong and Salvador Perez – and they signed all the way back on March 1. Further, they don’t quite match the quality of players who’ve signed Spring extensions in years past (Mike Trout, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Miguel Cabrera, Chris Archer, etc.).
As we know, the Cubs have more than a handful of young, talented players who appear to be ideal candidates for extensions, if they were willing to go to the table. And, if you were using the past three(ish) years as precedent, you’d argue that at least some were very likely to sign such a deal. However, after the void of extensions this spring, the pendulum of extension versus free agency may be swinging back in the other direction.
But we might still get some notable extensions this year yet. Jeff Passan reports that right fielder Gregory Polanco and the Pirates have come to terms on a five-year deal with two club options.
The deal, which begins in 2017, reportedly guarantees five years and $35 million and comes with club options for two additional seasons, as well (bringing the total value up to roughly $60 million (Ken Rosenthal)). With just over one year of service time, Polanco wasn’t going to be eligible for arbitration until 2018 and or for free agency until 2021. So, this deal – which kicks in after this season – effectively buys out his four remaining years of team control, as well as (potentially) three seasons of free agency, if the club options are exercised. When all is said and done, Polanco, now 24, might be a Pirate for the next eight seasons (or, until he’s 32 years old), while earning a hair over $60 million, throughout the process. Not bad.
So, with this deal wrapped up, the Pirates have now locked in their very talented, very young outfield trio of Polanco, Andrew McCutchen (six years, $51.5 million plus a $14.5 million club option) and Starling Marte (six years, $31 million) for the foreseeable future (McCutchen is the first to become a free agent – in 2018 – but rumors of another extension have already been floated).
As far as the deal itself, I find it to be pretty fair for both sides. Polanco hasn’t quite established himself in the majors as much as I’m sure he and the Pirates have hoped, but he has massive potential and is a pretty good player to bet on. In the meantime, he gets to lock down life-changing money, while the Pirates have the potential to score yet another long term, well-under-market deal, if their bet pays off. Rian Watt has a particularly thoughtful take on Polanco’s extension from the Pirates’ point of view, and I strongly urge you to check it out.
To be fair, this wasn’t the first extension the Pirates offered to Polanco. If you recall, the big right fielder rejected a seven-year, $25 million deal including three club options back around his ML debut in June 2014. Now vindicated in that decision, Polanco’s rejection serves to remind you that negotiations, like development, aren’t always a linear process. Sometimes, setbacks occur, but that doesn’t mean something can’t eventually get done. And, as you keep contract extensions for core Cubs players in mind, that’s an important lesson to remember.
But don’t get me wrong, the Cubs will look to extend some of their players, and deals like Polanco’s will continue to serve as precedent. We’ll continue to keep you updated on any extension news, too, because it is one of the biggest peripheral story lines facing the Chicago Cubs.*