I’ve been thinking about how there was some common wisdom about young players signing extensions right now. That wisdom being … don’t do it. Because of the blowout free agent class after 2018, there has been thinking that young stars under team control would be wise to wait on an extension until after next year’s class moves the market upward.
And, sure, that may very well be the case. With the Dodgers, Yankees, and other large market clubs working to get/stay under the luxury tax cap this offseason (to reset their penalties for next year), it’s not a stretch to project much bigger salaries for the top free agents next offseason when a bunch of teams are suddenly willing to blow out that cap. At the same time, you’ve gotta wonder if this year’s brutal free agent market is giving any of those young players second thoughts about locking in extensions now. Beyond that, teams that have become very luxury tax conscious are probably *more* incentivized now to lock in extensions – even if they only cover arbitration years and are thus not “true” extensions – because of the cost certainty and AAV savings they can provide.
Of course, maybe when the deals finally shake out this offseason, we’ll see that rates have not been held back by the slow market. Just something to think about as the calendar flips and arbitration approaches. Historically, that’s when you see extension negotiations taking place. But, as you know, this year is behaving strangely on the timing of things.
- Speaking of the slow market and the post-2018 free agent class, I found very interesting this response from Rangers beat writer Evan Grant, in response to a question about what the Rangers might do next offseason if they’re taking it easy this offseason on purpose: “Two words: Clayton Kershaw. The Highland Park grad, who doesn’t turn 30 until March, could opt out of his Dodgers contract after this season. Just remember: If he opts out of a deal that would pay him an average of $35 mm in both 2019 and 2020, he’s not doing so for a paycut or because he’s homesick or because of the lack of insurance. If the Rangers want to pursue Kershaw, they better be prepared to pay him more than $30 mm a year for 4 or 5 years.”
- Kershaw, who turns 30 in March, posted his worst ERA in five years in 2017 … but, at 2.31, it was still ridiculous good, and was 44% better than league average, right in line with his recent run of dominance. His peripherals took a slight step back from the absurdity of 2016, but he was still Clayton Kershaw when he was able to take the mound. That’s really your only question with Kershaw – how healthy will he continue to be in the next three, four, ten years? He’s currently under contract for three more seasons at about $35 million per year, but he’s still a very good bet to opt out after this season so long as he stays healthy. I’ve long assumed he would opt out, only to re-sign on a new deal with the Dodgers. They can afford him, they love him, he loves them, etc. But this suggestion from Grant leaves me wondering if there’s a *CHANCE* we could see a real live Kershaw free agency. Even coming amidst the craziness that will already be the post-2018 class, I would REALLY like to see a Kershaw free agency play out.
- My bet is still that Kershaw ultimately gets a few years tacked onto his Dodgers deal (and they probably save AAV in the process, because accounting). But hey, who knows? Maybe Kershaw will want to head out to join a team where he’ll finally have a shot at winning it all.
- If I bury it in a Lukewarm Stove item, will people still freak about a Manny Machado mention? Robert Murray talked to some anonymous baseball execs about whether the Cubs or the Red Sox would be a better fit and better trade partner on a Machado deal, and the thinking seemed to be that the Cubs would have the edge … if they were willing to part with Addison Russell. If the Cubs did, some are thinking they’d be able to get Machado to sign on with their core on a long-term deal. As we’ve discussed, the opportunity to get Machado in your house for a year-long solicitation does have value (I doubt he signs an extension before free agency, but when he gets to free agency, he may well find that, if the offers are all similar, he prefers to stay with the place and players he just came to love). But there are no guarantees. Bonus points to whichever exec was skeptical that the Cubs would offer Russell for Machado, given the four years of control left on Russell (versus just one year, at about $17 million, on Machado).
- While reading a random piece on the Orioles’ offseason, I was struck by the fact that they really do have only two members of the rotation right now: Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. They also have a closer who’ll miss the first half of the year with an Achilles injury, a lineup with plenty of meh, and a brutal top of the AL East to compete with. Why in the world are they not selling off? Maybe they’re trying to (see Machado and Britton) and are just bad at it.
- The reliever market was just about the only area of free agency that went hot and heavy earlier this month, but, like everything else, it has now ground to a halt. A number of the top arms are still on the board, including outgoing Rockies closer Greg Holland, who turned down a qualifying offer from the team, but is still the favorite to return to the team’s closing job, according to Thomas Harding. The Rockies have also been mentioned in connection with Wade Davis and Addison Reed, each of whom are very plausible Cubs targets.