While other teams were busy spending big dollars on free-agents at the Winter Meetings, Tampa Bay Rays General Manager Andrew Friedman locked up left-handed pitching prospect Matt Moore to a five year, $14 million dollar deal. The deal could extend to eight years, $40 million thanks to three club options.
The Rays have become notorious for locking up their young talent (Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, etc.) to long-term, cost-effective deals, buying out arbitration and free-agent eligible seasons and saving a lot of dough.
Moore has only pitched 19.3 big league innings (23 strikeouts, 6 walks), so the Rays are taking a bit of a risk. He’s worked his way up the Rays system in dominant fashion, but he wasn’t a sure-thing by any means, drafted in 8th round of the 2007 draft.
Still, the Rays are trying to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees on a considerably smaller budget, and one way to keep the payroll down and hold onto their star players for as long as possible is to a take calculated risk like this.
That brings us to our San Diego Padres, who are in a similar situation trying to compete with the spending of the Dodgers and Giants (not to mention the D’backs and Rockies). Here’s a look at NL West payrolls, over the last five years (data courtesy of Cots Contracts):
The Padres have planted themselves at the bottom of the division in spending, sitting well back of the Rockies and Diamondbacks, let alone the high-rolling Dodgers and Giants. There are a number of reasons that could explain the gap, but the Padres aren’t going to outspend the rest of this division anytime soon.
To compete the Padres need to be more efficient with their resources. One way to do that would be to sign some Freidman-like extensions. How have the Padres fared in this area?
The Padres did sign Adrian Gonzalez to a four year, $9.5 million deal (plus an option) back in 2007, which likely saved them a large chunk of change and may have increased Gonzalez’s trade value last offseason. The deal didn’t, however, buy out any of Gonzalez’s free-agent years to keep him in San Diego longer.
The Padres got closer when they signed Jake Peavy to an extension in 2005, buying out one of his free-agent years with a club option. They extended his contract in 2007, with a more free-agent-like three year, $52 million deal.
This current version of the Padres have not extended any young players. Chase Headley’s contract has been played year-by-year, and he has three arbitration-eligible seasons remaining (thanks to super-two status) before he becomes a free agent.
Ace righty Mat Latos hasn’t been extended yet, and he’s due to become a free-agent in 2016. Incidentally, Tom Krasovic reports that Latos and Headley may not be in the Padres long-term plans.
There are a number of other young players to consider: Cameron Maybin (Free-agent: 2016), Will Venable (FA: 2016), Nick Hundley (FA: 2015), Clayton Richard (FA: 2015). There are unestablished guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Blanks, too.
Moore, Longoria, Crawford, Pedroia, Lester – all guys who have been signed to these type of long-term deals as young players, giving up the potential to maximize their earnings and hit free-agency sooner for money in the bank. They are all special players, of course, and you could argue that Latos and Headley (among other current Padres) don’t warrant that type of commitment.
It’s all about picking the right guys, of course, and not just handing out extensions to anyone. With a slew of good prospects on the horizon, and young big-league talent like Latos and Maybin, the Padres are going to have some decisions to make.