A report last week said the Mets are in no rush to give out long-term contracts to any of their arbitration-eligible players. That’s probably a good idea; history as shown that rushing into contracts is never really a good idea.
Sometimes these early contracts do work out — the Mets signed Jose Reyes and David Wright to multi-year deals at team friendly prices to buy out their arbitration years. They did the same thing with Jonathon Niese. It is when teams sign their players to huge, early contract extensions later in their careers that they run into trouble.
Ryan Howard is a good example of this. The Phillies signed him to a five-year, $125 million extension in April 2010 — two years before his old contract was to expire. When the new contract finally started in 2012, Howard was on the disabled after tearing his Achilles tendon on the final out of the NLDS in 2011. He has been hobbling ever since. What was the rush? Had the Phillies waited, they could have signed him for much less. And if you are going to do this, you should get a hometown discount. $25 million per reason was not a discount.
At least the Brewers got the discount when they signed Ryan Braun to a reasonable five-year, $105 million extension in April 2011. But at the time, Braun was still under contract through 2015. How could they know that Braun would still the same player when the contract was set to begin in five long years? Also at the time, the Brewers did not know Braun was a PED user. Now they are tied to an admitted juicer through the 2020 season.
Now to Joey Votto, who signed a monster 10-year, $225 million extension in April 2012 (Christmas comes in April for baseball players, apparently), two seasons before his contract was due to expire. Votto is very productive now, but will he still be in 2023, when he will be 41 years old and making $25 million? Just like the Phillies, the Reds did not get a discount in signing Votto early.
These contracts have the potential to cripple an organization. If there’s one good thing about Sandy Alderson, it’s that he will not put the Mets in such a position. He does not like big, long-term contracts, especially for players on the wrong side of 30 (David Wright was a special case). Alderson might re-sign players such as Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell before they reach free agency, but it will be on his terms, not insane terms.