by Sean Agranov
The last few weeks have been an explosion of long term contract extensions for many top players in baseball. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing these signings as having no relevance to your Fantasy baseball team. Use this news to get a better understanding of the teams involved and how it affects the lineups not just for this year but for the upcoming years.
First stop Cincinnati. Joey Votto signed a historic 10 year, $225 million (on top of his current contract), which includes a club option for 2024 when he will be 41-years old. Every NL-only keeper league owner should make it a priority to go and try to trade for Joey Votto, especially if they can keep him long term. Being able to lock down a power position in your lineup for an extended period of time like that is a no-brainer, and you can also feel secure he won’t be traded to the American league. Mixed league players also should jump at this. One of the few knocks about Joey Votto has been mental make-up. He suffered depression when he lost his father a few years ago. Stability is something that makes Votto thrive, so this long term contract is just what he needs to continue to succeed.
A week later Brandon Phillips signed a six-year, $72.5 million deal. This signing also makes you believe that the All-Star second baseman will continue to be productive and have a starting position for the remainder of his playing career in Cincinnati. No need to worry that he could become a journeyman middle infielder. The other thing I have found enlightening is that in more than one interview since, Phillips has made comments of how he is enjoying working with Zack Cozart. Cozart and Votto can’t get a much better veteran role model. This will help them both. As far as prospects in Cincinnati, consider 3/4 of the infield blocked for the next 5+ years.
Next stop Kansas City. Alcides Escobar signed a four year contract, plus an option, up to $21 million dollar that should keep him in KC until 2017. Why do we care? Because he stole 26 stolen bases in Kansas City last year compared to the 10 he had in 2010 for the Brewers. Also the prospect laden royals have only one high level middle infield prospect in their system in Christian Colon. So even if the weak hitting Escobar needs to be moved to second base by 2015 he still has a place in the lineup while his speed can continue to produce.
They also signed up Salvador Perez for 5 years and up to $26 million. Again, this is a case of no talent in the minors and a good steady player. He should be back from his injured leg by the All-Star Break. I was already targeting Perez in as many keeper leagues as I could prior to the injury, now go grab him on the cheap and stash him until July if you can.
In Pittsburgh the Andrew McCutchen six years and $51 million signing was a no brainer. He is a talented young player who, even if is he doesn’t continue to exceed expectations, has proven he is a 20-20 player with a .280 average. The already fan favorite is the face of the franchise. For your fantasy league play you can now count on him as such. This means though that he won’t be traded to a better lineup like the Yankees where he could exceed 100 RBI, instead he will be stuck in Pittsburgh where he will be lucky to get break the 90 mark.
In Cleveland, the Carlos Santana $21 million five year extension was not surprising either. Santana is a beast and can play at two positions (C, 1B) long term, although he is more valuable at catcher. Their farm system is currently one of the lowest ranked systems in baseball and despite having the potential of a Chen Chun at Double-A and Jake Lowery at Single-A, the likelihood of developing anyone to be better than Santana over the course of the contract at either position is near zero. Additionally, what it does bring, which is barely ever mentioned, is stability at the catching position for four pitchers aged 26-29 in their current rotation and the many younger pitchers that Cleveland has in their system coming up over the next few years. That stability for these pitchers with working with the same catcher for the length of the contract will be extremely helpful.
Pitchers like Derek Holland, Jon Niese, Sergio Santos, Cory Luebke and Matt Moore have been extended and should all be looked upon as given a vote of confidence by their clubs. But, as I will always tell you, beware of making long term deals on acquiring pitchers in your keeper and dynasty teams. You never know if that big pitching contract might turn out to be the next Barry Zito, Chan Ho Park, Dontrelle Willis, Kevin Brown and Mike Hampton.
Whatever the case, the extension by a real major league club normally will mean something good is happening with the player and there is a long-term hole foreseen in the prospect system. Use these as excuses to shore up players for your keeper and dynasty leagues. It is good to have stability in your leagues too.