We’ve been talking for weeks about how the uncertain free agent market has almost unquestionably pushed certain young players to accept early extensions, and now you wonder whether it’s going to do the same for even the superstars of the market.
Nolan Arenado, one of the would-be headliners of next year’s free agent class, is going to be something of a test case, because he’s reportedly been offered a whopper of an extension (UPDATE: It’s happening, see below):
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 26, 2019
The reported offer is for seven years – it would kick in this season, and run through 2025, when Arenado is 34 – at a record $35 million per year. Thanks to his absolutely otherworldly production at Coors Field, and his middling production elsewhere, the Rockies probably have a unique incentive to lock Arenado up, and Arenado may have a unique incentive to take a monster deal right now from the Rockies, rather than risk free agency.
I really think this is going to get done, and it’ll take a top free agent off of next year’s market. (Remember those rumors that the Cubs were just waiting for future offseasons to spend, because they preferred future classes? Even if that rumor is true, you can never count on future classes looking like you expect.)
Obviously, outside of the league-wide implications, there is a narrower potential impact here, as Arenado – a star third baseman whose arbitration figures set certain benchmarks – was probably always going to be an aspirational comp for Kris Bryant’s free agency. That is to say, if Bryant bounces back this year, it could well be the case that he will eye any Arenado deal as the one to beat in a couple years, and it would probably be a floor for any extension talks.
UPDATE: It’s happening, and it’s actually for eight years after a little more negotiation:
Nolan Arenado’s deal with the Colorado Rockies will run through 2026, though the opt-out clause after the third season would allow him to hit free agency at 30 years old, sources tell ESPN. The eighth year and record-breaking AAV offered by the Rockies got this deal done.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 26, 2019
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 26, 2019
Certainly worth considering this framing of the deal:
Translation: in exchange for agreeing to a 2-year extension (he was already under contract for 2019), Arenado gets a 5-year player option.
Good for him; a player-friendly contract is refreshing in 2019. But that is a crazy giveaway by Colorado for relatively little in return. https://t.co/4e7BBNr18v
— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) February 26, 2019
The two prime years secured are not nothing. It’s just that – as with all deals that feature an early opt-out – the Rockies have given the player all the surprising upside, and locked in all the downside risk. Sometimes that’s what it takes to get a deal done, but of course, the counterargument is to just not do the deal.