It’s not unlike what the Rays to lock up their best young players long term, as they have done with Chris Archer, Matt Moore, James Shields, Wade Davis, and position players like Ben Zobrist, Logan Forsythe, or the first Evan Longoria contract. Identify the candidates early in their major league careers, offer the sweet scent of guaranteed money up front and over the life of their rookie contract, and then ask for an extra year or three at the end of that contract in return.
Considering the cost of one win on the free agent market is in the $9M range, getting a good young player to commit to extra years with the Rays is a low-risk high-reward move they almost certainly try to make with every good player that comes through. So who today are the Rays likely targeting?
Recently, Joe Saunders over at Rays Colored Glasses made the case for a Kevin Kiermaier contract extension in the realm of $33M over 5 years. It essentially buys out his four remaining arbitration years for roughly $20M (2/4/6/8), and locks KK into an extra year with the Rays for the remaining $13M.
I like the deal, but I would prefer that extra year to be an option. Kiermaier is one of my favorite players, but most of his value comes from his reckless abandon style defense that has already cost him 2 months of the 2016 season from a broken wrist. Kiermaier probably doesn’t agree to this deal if the extra year is a team option, so including a high buyout cost like Longoria’s first option at $3M could be enough to get it done.
This is the next player that immediately comes to mind. There were whispers of the Rays trying to lock Snell into an extension before he played a single game in the majors. I doubt those attempts have stopped after his strong rookie performance. The Rays would be looking to add at least an extra year of control after the six years of his rookie contract, just like what they did with so many good pitchers before him, and they are probably trying to get it done for a similar price. The going rate seems to be around the $10M range for those free agent years in these kinds of deal. Would Blake Snell go for it? He was the 52nd overall pick in his draft, so that bonus money in his bank account could convince him to hold out for a better deal, if he hasn’t spent it all on his shoe collection already.
What manager or coach doesn’t want a guy that is willing to do literally whatever you ask of him? He starts games and gets it done. He comes out of the bullpen for long relief and high leverage situations and gets it done. He was even stretched between bullpen outings for an incredible 6 IP shutdown start. He brings a great attitude and smile to the ballpark every day. The Rays probably see him as a great extension candidate.
Another swingman type pitcher the Rays could look to target as a contract extension candidate is Matt Andriese. He showed flashes of an ability to become a great starter last year, but he was even better out of the bullpen. Both Steamer and ZiPS projection system love him, and I imagine the Rays have big plans for him this year. Could the Rays get another year or two of control for a relatively cheap price here?
Here’s my curve ball. The #1 prospect in the Rays organization and probable impact bat in their lineup for the next 6 years, Willy Adames doesn’t have a day of MLB service time but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rays were already thinking about a contract extension with him. Would he go for a Jon Singleton-type contract where the Rays pay Adames more money up front in order to lock in additional free agent years with team options?
It would be a risky play for the Rays, but something they would do if they were confident in Adames’ ability to perform at the next level. The kid has consistently excelled against older players in advanced leagues for his age, a good indication that he will adjust well to the majors when he arrives in the near future. A team-friendly contract extension this year would lock down a few extra years of a potential All-Star.
Who would you like to see extended?