Extension Season Watch
With about three weeks to go until Opening Day, there is a good chance that some more extensions will end up happening. Following Christian Yelich’s extension with the Milwaukee Brewers this past week, the Chicago White Sox reportedly locked up a star of their own in third baseman Yoan Moncada. Both Yelich and Moncada represent the prime type of players that teams are looking to lock up.
In both scenarios, the Brewers and White Sox were looking to sign vital pieces of their core to team-friendly deals. With Christian Yelich, the Milwaukee Brewers got a nice discount and saved money compared to what they might have spent two years from now in free agency. Yelich received a seven-year, $188.5 million dollar deal on top of the two-year extension that he received earlier this offseason. According to USA Today, the deal includes a full no-trade clause and $28 million dollars in deferred money.
Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox saw an opportunity to lock up a star of their own with their extension of Yoan Moncada. Moncada figures to play a vital role on the Southside for the foreseeable future. According to CBS Sports, the extension is reportedly worth up to $90 million dollars and comes on the heels of what was a great campaign for Moncada in 2019. Moncada finished last season with a: .315/.367/.548 slash line over 559 plate appearances.
Now that the Brewers and White Sox have made their extensions with Yelich and Moncada official, what other names could receive an extension this spring? Take a look below for five potential extension candidates prior to Opening Day.
1. Pete Alonso (New York Mets)
Compared with some of the other names on this list, first baseman Pete Alonso isn’t as young. However, Alonso is still very talented and a vital piece to the core of the New York Mets. As such, the Mets might decide that now is the time to lock him up on a team-friendly extension. After all, Alonso burst onto the scene last year during his rookie season. Alonso led all of baseball with 53 home runs over 161 games.
Alonso, otherwise known as The Polar Bear, really became a player the Mets entire fanbase embraced. Besides the marketability factor, Alonso is a prime extension candidate because of his power at the plate. That power might only get better as Alonso gets more experience at the major league level. Besides leading baseball in home runs last year, Alonso had an Isolated Power (ISO) value of .323, according to FanGraphs. Furthermore, that translated to a Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) value of 143 and a Hard Hit Rate of 42.2%.
While one season doesn’t dictate a players career, now might be the perfect time for the Mets to extend Alonso. If he puts together another season like 2019 this year, then his value is only going to get higher. For a team that is payroll conscious, it might be a wise decision to make sooner than later.
2. Juan Soto (Washington Nationals)
Last season, outfielder Juan Soto was the life blood of the Washington Nationals in many regards. Soto broke out in a significant way and really solidified his future outlook with the organization. Prior to last season, the Washington Nationals received some backlash for not bringing back outfielder Bryce Harper, who ended up signing with the Philadelphia Phillies. Despite that though, Soto showed baseball why the Nationals made the right decision in the end.
During his age 20 season with the Nationals, Juan Soto had a .401 on-base percentage along with 34 home runs and 110 RBI over 659 plate appearances. While those numbers were impressive, what really stood out was the amount of plate discipline Soto exercised over that span. Soto finished the season with a 16.4% walk rate, according to FanGraphs. That was the highest of his young big league career.
In the bigger picture, Juan Soto gives the Washington Nationals a fearsome middle of the order bat. Furthermore, Soto creates quite a duo in the outfield when paired with centerfielder Victor Robles. Both Soto and Robles are the future of the Nationals and the time to act on an extension for Soto might be now.
3. Fernando Tatis Jr. (San Diego Padres)
Looking ahead to the coming season, the San Diego Padres are in clear win-now mode. The Padres know that they have to turn the corner this season otherwise there could be wholesale changes organizationally leading into the 2021 season. As a result, San Diego could elect to lock up one of their own superstars in shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
Tatis Jr. represents a prime extension candidate because he is coming off a nice age 20 campaign last year. Although Tatis Jr. only played in 84 games with the Padres last season, he still slugged: .317/.379/.590. In that span, Tatis Jr. recorded 22 home runs, 53 RBI, 30 walks, and had a 4.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) value. Given his age and the talent potential that he has, the Padres might want to hedge their bets and lock him up now at an affordable rate.
Over this last offseason, San Diego discussed the idea of putting Fernando Tatis Jr. in centerfield if they were to acquire someone like shortstop Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians. Ultimately, that trade never came to fruition, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t slot Tatis Jr. into their shortstop position for the foreseeable future. Tatis Jr. could make up quite a left side infield duo with third baseman Manny Machado for many years.
4. Trevor Story (Colorado Rockies)
With some of drama surrounding Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado from this past offseason, the Rockies might decide to make Trevor Story the face of the team. After all, Story is a very talented shortstop and in many ways someone the Rockies can use in marketing efforts. Story, who turned 27 last November, is entering his fifth big league season this year.
One of the biggest things to like about Story is his ability to play both sides of the baseball. Story is great at the plate and defensively with his glove as well. At the plate last season over 656 plate appearances last season, Story had a Runs Above Average (RAA) value of 48. Furthermore, from a defensive perspective Story 14 Defensive Runs Saved, according to FanGraphs. In addition, Story had an Ultimate Zone Rating of 8.6.
For the Colorado Rockies, Trevor Story is the next best talented player in the organization besides Nolan Arenado. Story is someone the fans embrace which only helps from a marketing standpoint. In addition, if Arenado remains with the organization, then Colorado will have a nice middle of the order duo for the foreseeable future.
5. George Springer (Houston Astros)
Amid all of the controversy surrounding the Houston Astros this offseason, outfielder George Springer is still a vital part of the Astros core group. Springer, who is entering his age 30 season and final season before free agency, could be someone Houston looks to lock up before Opening Day. Additionally, Springer might welcome an extension with the organization that originally drafted him during the first round of the 2011 Amateur Draft.
Last year alone, Springer was named an All-Star, awarded a Silver Slugger Award, and finished seventh overall in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting. In the bigger picture, Springer is one of the more overlooked parts of the Astros roster. However, last year alone Springer contributed an additional 6 and 1/2 wins to the Astros win total. That alone is indicative of the value he provides the team.
For the Astros having George Springer along with second baseman Jose Altuve and third baseman Alex Bregman is definitely intriguing. Therefore, Houston should make every effort to make an extension happen prior to Opening Day. If it doesn’t, there’s a change Springer could return in free agency. However, the relationship might be murkier than compared to what is now if that were to happen.
In the end, every spring brings about extension season and it’s one where teams try to lock up superstars before they become overly expensive. This spring has already brought about a Christian Yelich and Yoan Moncada extension. Now, the question becomes: who is next in line for one? The five aforementioned names are all good bets.
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