Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner both signed long term contract extensions in 2012
The San Francisco Giants have done a good job of locking up their young pitchers where they felt appropriate. Last year they signed Matt Cain to a six-year, $127.5 million contract extension and Madison Bumgarner to a five-year, $35 million contract extension with options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Teams will discuss contract extensions with players for numerous reasons. Long-term deals give a team financial stability as they don’t have to worry about arbitration cases raising a player’s salary out of their budget range. Long-term contracts also can create a real bargain for a team if they signed a young player to a relatively inexpensive deal at the right time.
Players benefit from long-term contracts for similar reasons. If a player decides to sign a contract, like Bumgarner did, he establishes financial security for himself with a guaranteed contract. If he gets hurt over the length of the contract or his skills or production diminish, he will still be paid the amount that was agreed upon.
There is risk for both parties, of course. A team may be stuck paying an injured or underperforming player a large amount of money. A player may sign a team-friendly contract for the security and then perform at a much higher level. In this case, the contract that he signed would have caused him to leave money on the table.
The Giants have become fairly adept at determining when and how to approach these delicate contract situations. Here are four players that could possibly be looking at contract extensions if they play well in 2013.
Prior to the 2012 season, Pablo Sandoval and the Giants agreed to a three-year, $17.15 million contract that takes him through the 2014 season. With Pablo, there seems to always be the issue of his weight. It is certainly an issue and likely hurt his earning potential in the deal described above.
The issue of weight becomes increasingly worrisome as a player gets older. Pablo will begin the 2013 season at age 26, which is still young. For the most part, players find their stride between the ages of 25 and 30 and then begin to deteriorate between the ages of 30 and 35. The concern is that his weight will stunt his growth through his best years, 25-30, and that he will deteriorate quickly or even early.
Sandoval is an excellent athlete and has proven of late that he can hit and play the field at an exceptionally high level even at his weight. There will always be doubts about how long he can sustain his success and that will always hinder his negotiating power.
If Sandoval can put together a career year in 2013 and avoid the disabled list, the Giants will likely have to consider negotiating an extension after the season that would include his age-28, 29 and 30 seasons. After all, he has no hamate bones left to break, so he shouldn't have to miss time in 2013.
Gregor Blanco is a classic journeyman outfielder. He was signed as a 17-year-old amateur free agent by the Atlanta Braves in 2000. Thirteen years later he has amassed just over two years of major league service time and isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season.
Blanco enjoyed his best season as a professional baseball player in 2013 and signed a one-year, $1.35 million contract after the season. Blanco should get a lot of playing time in 2013 as he will platoon in left field with Andres Torres.
Blanco will be an arbitration case for the Giants for the next four offseasons. If he shows consistency with good on-base numbers, the Giants will look to sign him to a long-term contract for cost-control reasons, if nothing else.
Brandon Belt is a young player with a lot of potential. If he meets that potential any time soon, the Giants will have to consider signing him to a long-term deal even though he isn’t eligible for arbitration until after the 2014 season.
Belt is an interesting case. He made $481,000 in 2012 and will likely have his contract renewed for 2013 at a similar salary. Belt may have found his comfort zone toward the end of the 2012 season and without the constant concern of losing his job hanging over his head, he is primed for a big year in 2013.
For now, he is very cost-effective, but if he starts to hit like the Giants know he can, he will become very expensive when he hits arbitration. The team will want to see him put it all together on a consistent basis, but if he does, he is a classic extension candidate.
Buster Posey will sign a contract extension; the only questions left are when, for how long and for how much money.
Posey and the Giants agreed on a one-year, $8 million deal earlier this offseason, but that should not be looked at as a precursor to whatever long-term contract he will sign, soon.
I examined the Posey contract situation in this article from January 23. After Posey returned from that grotesque injury to lead his team to a second World Series title in three years and win the National League MVP, many fans were clamoring for the team to sign him long term.
Posey and the Giants likely agreed that there was no real rush while the Giants probably would like to see him remain durable for a second straight year. Make no mistakes though, Buster Posey is already a historic baseball player and he will eventually sign a historic baseball contract.