Toronto Blue Jays: Could Cristian Javier’s extension be a template for Manoah deal?
The defending World Series champion Astros have had a steady offseason, adding 2020 AL MVP José Abreu while resigning their own free agents in Michael Brantley and Rafael Montero.
The Astros have also been busy working on locking up their younger stars to extensions after hiring former Braves VP of scouting Dana Brown as their new GM last month. Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and pre-arbitration eligible Jeremy Peña are all potential extension candidates, as are starters Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia and Hunter Brown.
They have already extended 25-year-old starter Cristian Javier to a five-year, $64M contract ($12.8M AAV) that buys out all three of his arbitration eligible years, plus his first two would-be free agent seasons. As per MLBTR, Houston’s $21M annual payments for Javier’s two would-be free agent years “mark a step up in this service bracket” for starters with between three and four years of MLB service time. And without giving up any club options at the contract’s end, Javier sets himself up for an even bigger free agent contract after his age-30 season, when he’ll still be young enough to sign another lucrative multi-year deal.
Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara signed a five-year, $56M contract extension ($11.2M AAV) last winter, which at the time was the largest ever deal for a pitcher with between three and four years of MLB service time. It paid off in the first season, with Alcantara winning the 2022 NL Cy Young, but he also agreed to a $21M club option for a sixth season, which means he won’t be able to test free agency until after his age-31 season if the club option is exercised.
Template for an Alek Manoah deal?
There are certainly some similarities that would point to the Javier deal being a template for an Alek Manoah extension. Both are 25-years-old and have over 300 MLB innings pitched under their respective belts, with Javier putting up a cumulative 6.3 bWAR in his first three MLB seasons and Manoah adding 8.7 bWAR in his first two years.
Javier is also proving to be a big game pitcher, outdueling Phillies starter Aaron Nola in Game 4 of the 2022 World Series over six innings of no-hit ball and combining with three relievers on a no-hitter to tie the series at 2-2. That followed a one hit gem over 5.1 innings in a 5-0 shutout win to give the Astros a 3-0 series lead over the Yankees in the ALCS.
We certainly know what Manoah is capable of after he finished third in the AL Cy Young race in 2022 in only his second year in the majors, earning All-Star and All-MLB nods along the way.
Manoah should qualify for “Super Two” status after the 2023 season to be eligible for salary arbitration before reaching the typical three years of service time. He’ll do that assuming his 2.130 years of service time would rank him in the top 22% of service time for players who have spent between two and three years on a 26-man roster or the major league injured list (IL).
So would a five-year, $65-70M ($13-14M AAV) or six-year, $86-91M ($14.3-15.2M AAV) contract extension kicking in from the 2024 season make sense? That would buy out his four years of arbitration eligibility assuming he reaches “Super Two” status, as well as his first one or two years of would-be free agency through the 2028 or 2029 seasons. And it would be a record for a starting pitcher with between two and three years of MLB service time. More importantly for Manoah, that would still allow him to test free agency after his age 30 or 31 seasons, just like Alcantara and Javier could potentially do after their contracts expire.
As pitchers and catchers officially report to Dunedin on Monday, it would be great to see the Blue Jays start locking up more young, homegrown stars to longer-term contract extensions buying out some of their potential free agent years in the current competitive window. Given the competitive balance tax threshold no longer appears to be a concern for Blue Jays ownership, why not? Let’s go Blue Jays!