There’s been a recent trend around the league to sign young talent to long-term deals. Teams are showing a willingness to overpay during arbitration years and buying out a year or two of free agency. These deals aren’t breaking the bank, as they actually seem to be team friendly and make good economical sense. However, signing these guys to team friendly deals isn’t the only reason to approach your young talent with long-term deals. Something has to be said for avoiding the arbitration process, which can permanently damage the relationship between a player and team management.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been doing it for years by resigning Evan Longoria ($100 million over 6 years), Matt Moore ($14 million over 5 years, with options to make it $37.5 million over 8 years), and more recently Chris Archer ($25.5 million over 6 years, with options to make it $43.75 over 8 years). They have allowed a number of high profile players like B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, and Rafael Soriano to sign elsewhere via free agency. They have traded players that could be replaced by younger major league ready talent or Rays management felt they couldn’t resign (Keep an eye on David Price). These trades have allowed the Rays to restock their farm system with players such as Chris Archer, who they got from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade.
Matt Moore was the first pitcher to receive such a precedent-setting contract at 22 years old in 2011. With Matt Moore’s recent elbow injury the Rays might be second guessing this decision. Like Matt Moore, Chris Archer only had one full season under his belt when the Rays extended him. The Blue Jays have a young guy in their rotation that could be an extension candidate.
Should the Toronto Blue Jays extend Drew Hutchison to a similar contract that Chris Archer received at the beginning of the month? What would be the pros and what would be the cons?
Hutch has a grand total of 14 games pitched in his major league career. Hutch was called up at age 21, but pitched beyond his years. He had composure of a 10 year vet on the mound and was very impressive as a 21 year old going 5-3 in 11 games before his injury. He is 1-1 in his first 3 starts of 2014, averaging over 9 K/9. Through 14 starts, Hutchison own a 4.42 ERA, 64 SO, 28 BB, and 1.36 WHIP. He looks like he will develop into a control pitcher that pounds the bottom of the strike zone with his fastball, slider, and change-up. For more on how Hutch uses his fastball read ‘Blue Jays Starter Drew Hutchison Finding Success With Fastball’ by Jays Journal’s Travis Bateman.
The pros to signing Drew Hutchison to a long term contract now is to avoid potentially harmful arbitration years and buying a year or two of Hutch’s free agent years. This allows the Blue Jays to retain a quality arms at a reasonable price for two extra years. I also believe that paying Hutchison more during his arbitration years gives the team cost certainty, which is useful when working with a fixed payroll that the Blue Jays seem to have.
The cons of giving Hutch an extension at this point in time can be summed up in one word, ‘uncertainty’. He is a pitcher that has only made 14 major league starts, hasn’t pitched more than 160 innings in a year, and just spent all of 2013 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The Toronto Blue Jays might be hesitant to extend Hutch because the last extension they handed out to a young 25 year old pitcher with only two year of experience hasn’t worked out too well. That pitcher is Ricky Romero, who was signed to a 5 year $30 million contract back in 2010, after amassing a 27-18 record as a 23 and 24 year old. With Romero making $7.5 million to walk triple-A batters and seemingly destined to stay there, you can appreciate Alex Anthopoulus’ hesitation.
I wouldn’t sign Hutchison to an extension today. If Hutchison stays healthy for the entire season and consistently demonstrates the attributes that won his spot in the rotation out of spring training, then I would approach Hutch with an ‘Archer’ type deal.
Sportnet’s Barry Davis interview Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek on their rehab.