Following his most successful season in the big leagues and a World Series title, the Kansas City Royals have rewarded outfielder Lorenzo Cain with a two-year contract extension to avoid arbitration.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported Cain and the Royals were nearing an agreement on a deal that will pay the All-Star $17.5 million through 2017. ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick confirmed the agreement.
Cain's deal covers his final two years of arbitration, so the center fielder is still on track to become a free agent when he is 31 years old.
Passan added that Cain had been seeking a six-year deal, but Kansas City officials "balked" at the proposal, noting the Royals likely couldn't have sustained their success with two outfielders signed into their late 30s—Alex Gordon will play the final year of his new four-year deal at 36 years old.
While Cain's long-term future is unclear, the Royals should be thrilled to get one of the American League's best players under contract without having to worry about arbitration. He had a breakout season in 2014 and followed it up by finishing third in AL MVP voting last year.
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Defense has always been Cain's calling card, but his offensive surge last season, with a career-high 16 home runs, helped bolster a lineup that finished seventh in Major League Baseball in runs scored. He's still in his prime years, so his rising performance should continue over the next two years.
Despite their World Series victory in October, the Royals still have to be smart about spending money. They are a small-market franchise that doesn't have the luxury of an open pocketbook, and Cain's extension is a reflection of how they are still operating.
Cain may have wanted a deal with more long-term security, but given how his career has gone to this point, he's still going to be in line for a payday in two years. The Royals will happily accept that trade-off if he helps them continue to make deep runs in October, as he has over the past two seasons.