The Chicago Cubs have, by my count, as many as six young, core players under long-term team control but not signed to a long-term deal (Kyle Hendricks, Willson Contreras, Javy Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Kyle Schwarber, roughly speaking). Although the Cubs have most for somewhere between 4-6 years more control, the topic of extensions doesn’t come up too frequently … but it does come up.
Which is why when other teams around the league extend their young, core players on their first multi-year contracts, it’s worth paying attention to what it cost, how many free agent years it bought out, and how long the deal was overall.
To that end, the Phillies have recently made an announcement:
#Phillies announce signing of outfielder Odubel Herrera to five-year extension with club options for 2022 and '23.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 15, 2016
Indeed, the club announced a five-year extension for 24-year-old outfielder Odubel Herrera.
Herrera has been in MLB for two full seasons, not unlike many of the Cubs young starters*, and has been very good for both of them (7.8 total WAR). This most recent year, he hit .286/.361/.420 (110 wRC+) while playing solidly above average defense in center field. So getting him to sign an extension was a savvy move.
Checking in on the reported terms of the deal:
Source: Odubel Herrera’s 5-year contract guarantees him $30.5 million. Options for 2022 and 2023, too. Delays his FA by at least one year.
— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) December 15, 2016
Sources said the Herrera deal is worth $30.5 million. Herrera's 2022 club option is worth $11.5 million. 2023 is worth $12.5 million.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) December 15, 2016
Before signing this extension, Herrera would have been under control through the 2020 season. According to Matt Gelb, his extension will now take him through the 2021 season for sure, with two team options tacked onto the end. In other words, the Phillies have secured a minimum of one free agent year (his age 29 season), and up to two more thereafter (his ages 30 and 31 seasons).
Not bad, but how about the cost?
Setting aside the annual prices for a moment, Herrera has guaranteed himself a nice chunk of change. Without that extension, he was going to get just a bit more than the Major League minimum in 2017, before entering arbitration for three straight years from 2018-2020. In exchange for the large guarantee up front, Herrera gives up the free agent year, and then two extremely reasonably priced option years, assuming he stays healthy and productive. (But, of course, that’s the reason you accept a deal like this in the first place: there’s always a chance that you won’t stay healthy and productive through your arbitration years.)
Given his age and previously remaining years of control, Herrera might actually be a nice proxy for some of the Cubs youngsters, so his is an important contract to keep in mind. With that said, this contract doesn’t really apply to someone like Kris Bryant, who would certainly (and rightfully) demand much more in an extension. Several of the other players, however, arguably might fall into this tier.
There haven’t been any recent rumors or specific indications about any looming extensions with the Cubs, but these types of deals will continue to serve as a baseline for future negotiations that will undoubtedly be occurring as Spring Training approaches. So be aware of it, file it away, and we’ll see if the Cubs extend any of their youngsters any time soon.
*Kyle Hendricks is actually the only one of the players listed above to have accrued the same two years of service time that Herrera has. The rest of the Cubs on the list have over one full year (Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber) or less than one full year (Willson Contreras).
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.