Amongst the many interesting things to come up during Jonah Keri’s interview with Darren Smith this past week (which you can listen to here), there was one item that created a bit of buzz amongst Padres fans; locking up Jedd Gyorko long-term. Now.
Specifically, he said he would call up Gyorko’s agent and buy him out until age 31. That’s buying out the next seven years, which would be his control years +1. What Keri is getting at is teams with limited revenue streams scouting their own system and rolling the dice on young players becoming productive players, even stars. This past offseason, the market rate was hovering around $6 million per wins above replacement. If we look at recent contract extensions given out by Josh Byrnes (Maybin $25M/5, Luebke $12m/4 with two additional option years, Hundley $9m/3 w/ option year), we see that the Padres are paying below market value per WAR. Every one buys out the arbitration years and keeps them on board through ages 30-32, respectively.
I know Cameron Maybin is just the worst because he struggled with a wrist injury, and Hundley was the worst last year as he struggled through a knee injury (and this year, depending on the day. His mouth, not withstanding…), and Luebke is recovering from Tommy John surgery…but, these are team-friendly deals. Even more so if the players continue to produce as they have when healthy. That’s the idea! By coincidence, the Chicago Cubs yesterday signed Anthony Rizzo to a 7 year, $41 million contract, with two additional option years moving that to 9 years and $70 million. You can see the breakdown of that contract here.
Now, because Keri is commenting on locking up a player 35 games into his career, the inevitable comparison to Evan Longoria’s extension came along. The Rays signed Longoria to a 6-year, $17.5M contract (with an additional 3 option years) 6 days into his career. The contract broke down as such (via Cot’s): 08:$0.5M, 09:$0.55M, 10:$0.95M, 11:$2M, 12:$4.5M, 13:$6M, 14:$7.5M club option ($3M buyout), 15:$11M club option, 16:$11.5M club option
It’s 5 years later, so those numbers will change…but that’s not an objectionable gamble, is it?
Comments I’ve seen from a few Padres fans and media types are that Gyorko and Longoria were completely different hitters in the minors and college, and as such it’s absurd to consider a Gyorko contract so soon. Keeping in mind that Gyorko was 1 year older than Longoria at every level, let’s see how different they actually were:
Minor league numbers, both over 3 seasons
Gyorko: .319 BA, 62 HR, 255 RBI, .913 OPS, 143 BB, 266 K in 1,343 ABs
Longoria: .301 BA, 44 HR, 154 RBI, .902 OPS, 96 BB, 159 K in 758 ABs
Both Longoria and Gyorko played three seasons in college.
Gyorko: .403 BA, 35 HR, 178 RBI, 1.129 OPS, 92 BB, 75 K in 696 AB (all at West Virginia)
Longoria: .359 BA, 23 HR, 112 RBI, .958 OPS, 69 BB, 83 K in 571 ABs (first season at Rio Hondo Community College, last two at Long Beach State)
I’m not saying Gyorko is going to be the player Longoria is. I’m just throwing those numbers out for the sake of those who think they’ve been drastically different hitters up until this point. Most project Gyorko to be a productive Major League hitter. It really doesn’t matter if Gyorko is Longoria, he doesn’t have to be to warrant the kind of money it would require to sign him to that kind of deal.
If the Padres agree that he’s a player who will be a productive player for years to come, why not take the low risk/high reward route? Make the player happy/comfortable, foster a positive relationship with your young players, and keep them San Diego Padres throughout their most productive years? It’s not such a crazy idea, after all.