As Michael noted, there was ANOTHER substantial extension today – Chris Sale and the Red Sox – on the heels of an offseason that has been borderline nutty with really significant extensions: Alex Bregman, Eloy Jimenez, Aaron Nola, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Luis Severino, Nolan Arenado, Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, Miles Mikolas, and Blake Snell. I have no doubt there are more that aren’t immediately popping into my head.
This has gone far, far beyond even a “busy” extension season, and, on the surface, it’s not hard to extrapolate why. Free agents have generally seen a freeze out the last two offseasons, and with ever-increasing uncertainty about how teams are going to spend on older players going forward, and what the impact of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement will be, players are “fearing” themselves into extensions to make sure they get paid.
Maybe that’s the case. It’s perfectly logical, and perfectly explicable of what’s happening. Teams are on board with it. These players are getting life-changing money. Both sides get some protect. It makes sense.
Still, this is just so extreme, and that extremity got me thinking … are there any other possible explanations? Maybe ones that, combined with the fear thing, serve to explain what’s going on?
While showering at the gym – best thinking spot, just sayin’ – I came up with two reasonable “conspiracy” theories to help explain further why we’re seeing teams and star-level players going nuts on extensions:
- We know that the owners have taken the unprecedented step of agreeing to open back up the CBA after this season begins, and renegotiate *economic* elements of the CBA. Knowing that, isn’t it possible that the owners of these teams also know, privately, that some of the economic things on which they will bend could cause contract valuations to change significantly? For example, might they know that the luxury tax limits are about to go up considerably? And if that were the case – hypothetically speaking – that would make the relative price tag on these extensions go down. In a world where the big market teams can spend waaaaay more money and still stay under the luxury tax cap (which, lets be honest, has practically become a salary cap at this point for 95% of the league), spending $26 million in AAV on Paul Goldschmidt might suddenly look like a freaking steal.
- This one is a quite a bit more conspiratorial, but there is some sense in it: look up there at the extensions and note how many of them are for guys who were going to be market-moving, superstar free agents after this season (extensions are also being discussed on Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, who are also set to be free agents). Is it possible that teams are just a touch more willing to sign deals for those guys right now, knowing that in a few weeks they’re going to be negotiating with the Players Association on economic terms? And now they are placating some guys who otherwise might have been fearing a freeze out and would have been some of the most powerful voices in the room? Isn’t it possible that’s a small factor, too?
Interesting stuff to think about in the shower, if nothing else. I’ll be really, really fascinated to see what happens when the sides start negotiating the CBA after the season begins (that’s the current plan).
I’ll also remain fascinated to see if the Cubs continue to zig the market on this front, and eschew extensions for their many controlled stars. Perhaps they are anticipating the world looking differently than the rest of the league?