It’s something that has been done sporadically over the years. Big league organizations giving highly touted prospects a contract extension before they have actually proven themselves in the majors. Usually this is done after the player has played at least a handful of games in the show, but every now and then, a club will back up the Brinks truck to buy out the player’s future arbitration eligible years, and often some of their first few free agent years, in order to get a discount on a guy that could eventually cost them more. Much more.
At least this is the team’s rationale behind these types of deals. They pay more than the player would make in their first five to six years (depending on service time at the date of the deal) in order to get better value on potential free agent years and even lower their costs in the arbitration years. This all sounds great for the teams, but why would a player take a potentially discounted deal like this? Glad you asked!
They do it for a couple of reasons. First, these players are not free agents and not negotiating with multiple teams. They have little to no leverage. Second, all MLB contracts are fully guaranteed. This means whatever amount you sign for, you will get, regardless of injury or sucking or even getting sent back to the minors. It’s a sure thing. Third, just because you were the cock of the walk at triple A doesn’t mean it will translate to the majors. For every Ronald Acuña there is a Rusney Castillo. While the former is tearing it up for the Braves and looking like a future inductee to Cooperstown, the latter is toiling away in Pawtucket smacking gapers on dollar beer night, swiping bags on bobblehead Brock Holt day and taking a much-deserved breather on Mitt Romney souvenir mitt weekend. Which is fine because those checks still clear! Side note, I would absolutely rather be Rusney over Ronald, making millions of dollars with zero pressure, zero expectations and relative anonymity. It’s the life I dream about every night before I fall asleep.
This year alone we have seen the aforementioned Acuña, Eloy Jimenez, Blake Snell, Brandon Lowe, Ozzie Albies, Aaron Nola, Luis Severino and Max Kepler receive extensions. All of these players have varying degrees of service time with Kepler sitting on multiple years and Eloy never even making a major league plate appearance. I personally love the move from both perspectives. If you have done your scouting and trust your baseball guys you should have a pretty good projection of what you are buying here and, as I mentioned before, the player gets life changing money and security for himself and his family. With all the flaws in the current MLB collective bargaining agreement, most notably the potential for service time manipulation which has become a giant joke of a ruse, this type of thing helps to correct some of the dumbassery that the players union so ineptly agreed to years ago. This should make 2021 extra interesting as the current collective bargaining agreement expires and we are looking at a very real potential lockout/strike. But that’s a future us problem and who cares about those guys.