Friday, April 22, 2011

Recent Extensions Worth the Risk?

You have probably already heard the news that Ryan Braun signed a five-year extension with the Brewers this week for $105 million. The interesting thing about the deal is that the Brewers already had Braun locked up through 2015, so this extension does not kick in until after 2015.

You probably also know that Troy Tulowitzki signed a lucrative contract this winter that extends him through 2020. Like Braun, Tulowitzki was already locked up for a number of years, so his extension will not kick in for a while.

It is clear that Tulowitzki and Braun are excellent players and certainly good players to have as cornerstones of your organization, but the question I'm asking here is whether or not it's worth extending these guys in this way. Specifically, I'm asking if it's a wise investment to decide to extend players who are already locked up for a number of years.

On the surface it seems fairly wise, especially given the production these two have put up early in their careers. They will also only be in their mid-30s by the time the contract ends, so both the Brewers and the Rockies will be getting the best part of these players' careers. However, that kind of assumption implies that the two are going to continue to be productive, and it also assumes that they are going to stay completely healthy, which is a much more dangerous assumption.

There have been many players who have been spectacular early in their careers but were then de-railed by freak injuries. Mark Prior is the first that comes to mind for me, but there are countless others. I'm not saying that Braun or Tulowitzki are any more likely than any other player to suffer one of these injuries (though Tulowitzki has proven to be injury prone early in his career), only that the risk is certainly there. The problem in giving one of these pre-mature extensions is that the player being extended receives this injury while still playing under the pre-extension contract. These two teams will still be on the hook for a massive amount of money.

Typically extensions are performed by teams who realize that a player is very likely to achieve their ceiling, but has not quite gotten their, so they may as well lock them up before they get to that level and demand even more money (see: Evan Longoria, Josh Johnson, Jon Lester, etc.,). It seems fairly unlikely that Ryan Braun and Tulowitzki have much higher to reach -- and in fact Braun seems to be on a modest decline.

So really, my conclusion here is that I simply don't understand what the benefit is of extending these players while they are still on multi-year contracts. It's entirely possible and in fact probable than Tulowitzki and Braun perform well over the course of their extremely long deals, but there is no reason that these extension deals should not have been delayed until Tulowitzki and Braun were much closer to the end of their respective contract.

What do you think? Do these contracts make sense?

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Player price keeps going up, and they want to extend these players before their price gets too out of hand. That is the only line of logic I can think of for justifying these deals, and depending on how things turn out, it may have been a wise move. Also, extending players before they get too inflated an idea of what they might be worth on the free agent market isn't a terrible idea, but I don't think it offsets the drawbacks enough. Simply put, it's a gamble. It could pay off.