This past offseason, the landscape of baseball seemingly changed with two big names going to franchises that weren’t necessarily linked heavily to them in the first place. Following the initial shockwave of the signings, teams started to look at their young talent and access who should be brought back.
The first domino to fall came from Colorado when the Rockies resigned third baseman Nolan Arenado to an eight-year deal worth $260 million. While it wasn’t the largest contract at the time, the arms race was just starting.
Following the Bryce Harper signing for the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout agreed to the largest contract in American sports history; ten-years, $430 million.
It was quickly followed up by extensions for perennial Most Valuable Player and Cy Young candidates Tampa Bay Ray Chris Snell, Boston Red Sox’s Chris Sale, St. Louis Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt, Houston Astros’ Justin Verlander and New York Mets’ Jacob deGrom. However, once spring training ends, usually so does the pay days….until this year.
Once the calendar flipped to April, four young players were given extensions. It started with Red Sox’s shortstop Xander Bogaerts getting a six-year, $132 million deal.
A day later, Toronto Blue Jays’ outfielder Randal Grichuk received a five-year deal worth $52 million. That same day, Rockies’ pitcher German Marquez extended for five years as well for $43 million. The final early extension would be Ronald Acuña Jr. signing for eight-years with the Atlanta Braves, $100 million.
Following last year’s free agency debacle, most smaller market teams are going to attempt to resign their young studs. Seeing both third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado (left the Los Angeles Dodgers for the San Diego Padres) and outfielder Bryce Harper (left the Washington Nationals for the Philadelphia Phillies) leave for teams that are division rivals is a sight no team wants to see.
With few teams left incorporating baseball’s “money ball” strategy, the idea of spending big on one young player and building around them is becoming more prevalent.
Time will tell if we’ll see major free agents come into play with the market again, but for now, expect more young players with superstar potential to be locked up early and often.