Could the Pirates follow the Braves’ extension model?

Starling Marte Andrew McCutchen

This month, the Atlanta Braves have locked up four of their core players with long-term contract extensions: Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrelton Simmons. It’s a pretty sound strategy to keep the Braves together and in contention for the near future.

It might be time for the Pirates to explore some similar options. They signed Andrew McCutchen in March of 2012 (6 years, $51.5 million – absolute steal) and just locked up Charlie Morton (3 years, $21 million) this past December. There could be extension talks this spring, like with Cutch two years ago. They could also wait until the next offseason before some of these guys get to arbitration. Keep in mind that there will be a lot of money coming off the books next winter – Francisco Liriano, Russell Martin, Jason Grilli, Wandy Rodriguez, etc. due for free agency. The team’s revenue should continue to grow as well, with the new TV deals and record attendance expected at PNC Park in 2014.

Ownership has been getting a lot of heat for not spending money this offseason. Bob Nutting¬†reinforced yesterday¬†the importance of internal development. Well, here’s a way to spend money and keep your young, home-grown players around for quite some time. Let’s see if the Pirates can extend any of these guys…

Pedro Alvarez

Age: 27
Service Time: 3.085

A Scott Boras client, Alvarez will be tough to extend. He’s had two powerful seasons in a row, including a league-leading 36 homers and Silver Slugger award in 2013. Will he get any better than he is now? Problem is, there’s nothing behind him in the minor league system with no immediate internal replacements on the way.

He’s under team control through the 2016 season, so the Pirates could take him to arbitration the next two years and hope he doesn’t get too expensive. Or, they could try something like a four-year deal – buying out the two arb. years + two free agent years – keeping him here through his age-31 season.

Comparable extensions at 3B:
Pablo Sandoval, 2012, 3 years/$17.15 million, 3.047 years of service [Link]
Ryan Zimmerman, 2009, 5 years/$45 million, 3.051 years of service [Link]

Neil Walker

Age: 28
Service Time: 3.166

Walker has said that he wants to keep his career going here in his hometown. Like Alvarez, he won’t be a free agent until after the 2016 season. Unlike Alvarez, there might be a replacement within the system: Alen Hanson could come up in a few years, though it’s unclear if he’ll turn out to be a shortstop or second baseman.

The Pittsburgh Kid got a nice salary boost up to $5.75 million for 2014. Looking at Phillips’ first extension posted below, could Walker take something in the neighborhood of $30 million – broken down $6 M, $7 M, $8 M, $9 M for four seasons?

Comparable extension at 2B:
Brandon Phillips, 2008, 4 years/$27 million, 3.022 years of service [Link]

Starling Marte

Age: 25
Service Time: 1.070

Marte is probably the most intriguing option here, and maybe the easiest to lock up. He’s not arb. eligible until after 2015, but it may make sense to extend him as soon as possible. If Marte keeps posting 4+ WAR seasons, he’ll get expensive really quickly. As Charlie wrote at Bucs Dugout today, the Simmons-Braves deal shows that there is value in defense; Marte has that, and pairs it with a better bat. It’d be great to keep him in an outfield with McCutchen for a long time.

Comparable extensions OF:
Ryan Braun, 2008, 8 years/$45 million, 1.008 years of service [Link]
Chris Young, 2008, 5 years/$28 million, 1.059 years of service [Link]

Gerrit Cole

Age: 23
Service Time: 0.111

As a Boras client with an absurd amount of talent, Cole will be tough to sign whether it’s tomorrow, next year, or five years down the line. If Cole turns into the pitcher that people think he will, then he’ll have plenty of cash waiting for him in the future. When you see guys like Homer Bailey get six-years, $105 million, you can only imagine what Cole would command if he pans out. You could give him a deal he can’t deny right now, but even that may not get it done.

Who would you like to see signed to a long-term deal? Let us know.

Go Bucs

Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty

2 thoughts on “Could the Pirates follow the Braves’ extension model?”

Leave a Reply

From Forbes to Federal is not affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates or Major League Baseball.