It seems like only yesterday when a slew of players in Major League Baseball was crying into their pine tar about how terribly they were being treated in free agency.
Their assumption was ownership was suddenly colluding to deprive free agents the opportunity to cash in.
In fact, the anger was bubbling so wildly, there was talk of the players union taking its grievances to the bargaining table during sit-downs with ownership to bang out a new collective bargaining agreement prior to the end of the 2021 season.
Well, now we know the players were incorrect, that they seriously miscalculated the intent of ownership. The owners were not locking the safe, they were only giving more thought to who they wanted to pay and how much they wanted to pay them.
Not only has ownership inked a barrage of monumental contracts, signing Nolan Arenado ($260 million), Manny Machado ($300 million), Bryce Harper ($330 million) and Mike Trout ($430 million) to record-setting deals, they have acted proactively to reward others long before they were scheduled to go to arbitration or become free agents.
For example, the Rockies locked up Arenado for eight years before he was scheduled to become a free agent following this season. Likewise, the Angels secured Trout for 12 years before he hit free agency following the 2020 season.
Arenado and Trout aren’t the only examples of players getting long-term deals before hitting free agency. Let’s take a look at four others that have happened within the last week.
After the Cardinals acquired the All-Star first baseman from the Diamondbacks in the offseason, it was generally assumed he would play just one season in St. Louis before becoming a free agent following the 2019 season.
That will not happen. Goldschmidt, who is making $15.5 million this season, and the Cardinals are in the final stages of a five-year, $130 million extension that will keep him in town through the 2024 season.
This is a great move for both the Cardinals and Goldschmidt, who has been one of the best players in the National League for a long time. He’s a six-time All-Star who hit .290 with 33 home runs, 83 RBIs, 35 doubles and 90 walks in 2018 in Arizona. He has also won four Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves and has a .297 career batting average with 710 RBIs.
It will also make Goldschmidt the highest paid player in team history, surpassing soon to be Hall of Fame catcher Yadier Molina (three years, $60 million in 2017).
The traditionally penurious Tampa Bay Rays, who favor incubating stars on the cheap and then allow them to become free agents, dug very deep to sign Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell to a five-year, $50 million extension.
Snell has less than three years of Major League service time and wasn’t even eligible for arbitration, which means the Rays were under no obligation to offer him this kind of cash.
His salary for the 2019 season would have been only $573,700. But now Snell’s deal is the largest in value give to any player with his seniority, exceeding the deal the New York Yankees gave Luis Severino (four years, $40 million) earlier this spring.
Snell, 26, accrued a 21-5 record with 221 strikeouts and a 1.89 ERA in 2018, the lowest ERA for an AL starter since Pedro Martinez in 2000. Over his final 16 starts, he pitched to a 1.25 ERA over 93⅓ innings. Opponents hit only .178 against him.
Consider this: The White Sox top prospect has not played an inning in the Majors, but the team signed him to a six-year, $43 million deal this week. This is the kind of contract the Oakland A’s likely would have dangled until Kyler Murray’s nose in order to keep the Heisman Trophy winner away from playing football.
What’s more, there are options in the deal that would grow the contract to as much as $77 million. Remember that Jimenez won’t even become a free agent until after the 2025 season, at the earliest.
Jimenez is only 22 and is expected to start the season in Triple A, but the White Sox wanted to keep him happy and did just that by giving him his money long before they were obligated to do so.
Previous to Jimenez, only Jon Singleton of the Astros ($10 million) and Scott Kingery of the Phillies (six years, $24 million) had ever been signed to big deals before playing in the Majors. Singleton was released in 2018.
In his first 408 Minor League games, Jimenez has hit .311 with 65 home runs and 281 RBIs.
The Astros tied up one of their best young players with a six-year, $100 million deal and are expected to try to do the same with centerfielder George Springer. Bregman was three years away from free agency.
Bregman, 24, was in the top five in the American League in 2018 in total bases, on-base percentage, extra base hits and RBIs. He was an All-Star last year when he hit 31 homers with 103 RBIs.
Just last season, the Astros locked up Jose Altuve with a five-year, $151 million extension.