Early Bird Catches the Worm?
In general, the closer a star player gets to free agency, the more expensive it is to come to terms on a contract extension. The closer they get to free agency, the more likely the player wants to test the market to see what other teams might offer. AL MVP Aaron Judge, 30, comes to mind, earning a record nine-year, $360M free agent contract at an AAV of $40M to return to New York after leveraging competing offers from other teams like the San Francisco Giants.
Younger players will sometimes agree to more team friendly deals to buy out their arbitration years. A player like Ronald Acuña Jr. come to mind. While he’s struggled with injuries the past two seasons since a monster start to his young career, he’s still averaged an OPS+ of 133 and wRC+ of 134 to go with an 18.4 fWAR over his first five seasons. In April 2019, following his 2018 NL Rookie of the Year campaign, he signed an eight-year, $100M contract at an AAV of $12.5M.
Judge’s contract will take him through his age 39 season, whereas Acuña will be 28 when his contract, which includes two more team option years at $17M a season, expires. Injury risk and the increasing likelihood of position players breaking down in their mid-to-late thirties also means paying large sums to older players increases the risk of burdening a team with bad contracts.
The recent Rafael Devers 10-year, $313.5M extension with Boston should serve as a good template for what a potential contract could look like for Guerrero. The six-year, $200M free agent contract Carlos Correa signed to return to the Twins might help give some structure to the Bichette discussions.
For Manoah, Spencer Strider’s six-year, $75M extension with the Braves might make sense, as would an AAV around the $15.175M that Tyler Glasnow agreed to in his $30.35M, two-year extension with the Rays. The Tony Gonsolin arbitration hearing (asking for $3.4M from the Dodgers versus their offer of $3M in his ARB1 year) will also be instructive for next year, when Manoah should qualify for arbitration via ‘Super Two’ status for players in the top 22% of service time for those with between 2~3 years of MLB service time.