On Tuesday Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan reported the Pittsburgh Pirates offered outfield prospect Gregory Polanco a seven-year deal, worth a little south of $25 Million in spring training. The long-term extension featured three options at the end of the deal, which CBS’ Sports Jon Heyman reported could have brought the deal’s total value up to $50-60 Million.
It has become commonplace for teams to safeguard talented prospects by extending them promptly so they are controlled under a team-friendly contract. The upside is conspicuous. You are getting production parallel to a player worth infinitely more on a lengthy, paltry pact. There is a risk involved, though, because if the player turns out to be a bust, you are stuck with him for a while. That said, the benefits patently outweigh the detriments. Worse comes to worst, the player makes a meager amount annually opposed to risking handing out a lavish, multi-year deal t0 a “proven” veteran on the free agent market ( i.e. Albert Pujols, Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton, Carl Pavano).
Extending novices at the inception of their big league career is actually a relatively new strategy. However, the success rate is close to unblemished and it is hard to recollect a time it has not worked out for the team. Take these examples into consideration:
- Evan Longoria (22 years old): In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays locked Evan Longoria up on a six-year, $17.5 Million contract. In those six years, Fangraphs estimates he was worth $161.9 Million based on WAR and the given market. That’s nearly $27 Million annually — he made, in actuality, roughly $3 Million per year.
- Paul Goldschmidt (25 years old): Goldschmidt signed a five-year, $32 Million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks in March of 2013. His minor-league track record indicated a star in the making and he showed flashes of a future All-Star the year before he signed the long-term deal. Well, saying Goldschmidt was an All-Star in 2013 would be an understatement, leading the league in OPS and SLG, winning a Gold Glove, and leading first basemen in stolen bases. According to Fangraphs, he was worth $31.9 Million last season.
- Dustin Pedroia (25 years old): Following an MVP season, the Boston Red Sox extended the small in stature second basemen to a six-year pact, worth $40.5 Million. Meaning, Pedroia’s average annual value was $6.75 Million. This extension enters its pinnacle this year, but as of now, Pedroia’s been worth a little over $22.9 million per year.
The following are just a few examples of teams getting out ahead and locking their young players to long-term deals. Reflecting back, it is evident they were tremendous steals for their respective team. Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Madison Bumgarner, Salvador Perez are other paradigms who were victimized by this brilliant strategy.
Gregory Polanco did not follow suit, comprehending his aptitude and the current market, he showed he will not be duped by the immediate cash. His talent is irrefutable and pending an unforeseen injury (like Tony Conigliaro), Polanco may set a precedent for young players, like himself, to resist the temptation and make the wise decision.