I’m gonna get to the Bullets eventually, right?
This morning, the White Sox and shortstop Tim Anderson have reportedly agreed to a six-year extension, with two team option years thereafter. Anderson, 23, doesn’t even yet have one full year of service time, so the deal buys out his pre-arb years, his arbitration years, and then gives the White Sox two option years in what would have been Anderson’s first two years of free agency.
The deal is reportedly coming with a $25 million guarantee, and then a price tag of about $26 million for the two option years.
It’s an especially interesting contract, given how little service time Anderson has, and he’s now guaranteed himself life-changing money in exchange for reduced upside in arbitration, and two inexpensive free agent years if he breaks out. For the White Sox, they get years of cost certainty, plus the two inexpensive team options to control Anderson into his early 30s. Their risk here is not zero, but it’s also fairly limited – if Anderson is a total bust, eating $25 million spread over six years is not terribly painful.
For context, the deal is vaguely reminiscent of the ones the Cubs signed with Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro four years ago, as both were pre-arbitration players who gave up potential free agent years in exchange for a significant guarantee up front (Rizzo was guaranteed $41 million (though that’s increased quite a bit since then, and will exceed $70 million when the options are ultimately exercised), and Castro was guaranteed $60 million). As you no doubt are noting in your mind right now, sometimes these deals are fantastic for the team, and sometimes they wind up being better for the player. Rizzo and Castro are perfect examples.
Anderson had a nice debut for the White Sox in 2016, playing good defense at short, and hitting .283/.306/.432 (albeit with some alarming peripherals). From a value standpoint, the deal probably makes sense for both sides.
As has been the case with these types of extensions all offseason long, although there is not a perfect parallel on the Cubs, the deal does not appear to be a dramatic market-mover. Although extensions of this size for players with so little service time are rare, this one does not strike me as over-the-top.
Hopefully, discussions with the many possible extension candidates on the Cubs continue. With so many talented players all arriving into and through arbitration at the same time, we’re only a couple years away from the Cubs’ in-house payroll obligations potentially escalating rapidly, with no changes to the roster. Locking in a few extensions could provide some cost certainty, and also could generate some AAV-related luxury tax benefits.