The 10 best contracts in baseball: 2016

The 10 best contracts in baseball: 2016

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Kleps, Kevin. "The 10 best contracts in baseball: 2016." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2016, thoughtco.com/best-contracts-in-baseball-4048359. Kleps, Kevin. (2016, August 25). The 10 best contracts in baseball: 2016. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-contracts-in-baseball-4048359 Kleps, Kevin. "The 10 best contracts in baseball: 2016." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-contracts-in-baseball-4048359 (accessed October 19, 2017).
Mike-Trout-2.jpg
Mike Trout's batting average and stolen bases are down, but his power numbers are up. Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

In the last two offseasons, the Chicago Cubs have shelled out contracts that averaged at least $14 million a year to Jason Heyward, Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey.

It’s helped to transform the lovable losers into a powerhouse, but it’s another contract – a seven-year deal the Cubs gave to a then-23-year-old Anthony Rizzo in 2013 – that seems to be one of the best moves any club has made.

Rizzo’s contract, you might have guessed, tops our third annual look at the best contracts in MLB.

We made one significant change this time: We’re only counting guys who have defined contract values, not those who aren’t yet even eligible for arbitration. It’s beyond obvious that having Carlos Correa or Francisco Lindor under team control through 2021 is a good thing.

It’s the less-obvious moves – locking up young stars and taking away a couple free-agent years – that we want to focus on here. Our top 10 is as follows, and you can click here for our 2015 analysis of the best deals in MLB.

1. Anthony Rizzo, SP, Chicago Cubs (age 26)

Contract: Seven years, $41 million (2013-19)

Why that’s a good thing: Rizzo, who finished fourth in the 2015 National League MVP race, entered 2016 with four years and $30 million left on his contract. If the Cubs pick up $14.5 million options (both of which have $2 million buyouts) for 2020 and ’21, however, they can pay one of the game’s best sluggers $59 million for the final six seasons of his deal.

That’s a pretty great price for a player who had bWARs of 5.2 and 6.2, respectively, in 2014 and ’15.

2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks (age 28)

Contract: Five years, $32.05 million (2014-18)

Why that’s a good thing: Goldschmidt was the runner-up for NL MVP in 2013 and ’15, when he had a bWAR of 7.1 and 8.8.

If the Diamondbacks exercise his $14.5 million option for 2019, as expected, they will owe Goldschmidt a combined $40 million from 2016-19. Imagine what a player with 162-game career averages of 30 homers, 106 RBI, 18 steals, a .295 average and .925 OPS could get on the open market.

3. Adam Eaton, OF, Chicago White Sox (age 27)

Contract: Five years, $23.5 million (2015-19)

Why that’s a good thing: Eaton isn’t a household name, but he had 14 homers, 56 RBI, 18 steals and scored 98 runs in 2015. He’s good in center field, and he racked up a 3.0 WAR in the first quarter of the 2016 season. The White Sox, if they pick up his $9.5 million and $10.5 million options for 2020 and ’21, could have him for seven years and $42 million.

4. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros (age 26)

Contract: Three years, $10.5 million (2015-17)

Why that’s a good thing: The Astros also have ridiculously reasonable team options of $6 million and $6.5 million on Altuve for 2018 and ’19, so this is essentially a five-year, $23 million deal. In 2014 and ’15, Altuve led the AL in steals (56 and 38) and hits (225 and 200), and he won the 2014 batting crown with a .341 average. He even hit for a little power in 2015, finishing with 15 homers.

5. Chris Sale, SP, White Sox (age 27)

Contract: Five years, $32.5 million (2013-17)

Why that’s a good thing: Sale drops from third to fifth on this list only because his contract is finally reaching the eight-figure-a-year range for the next four years. Sale will make a combined $21.15 million for 2016 and ’17, and will get about $46.15 million from 2016-19 if the Sox pick up what appear to be no-brainer options of $12.5 million and $13.5 million for the final two years. Sale couldn’t have been much better in his first nine starts of 2016, going 9-0 with a 1.58 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and a norm of 6.2 Ks per walk.

6. Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants (age 26)

Contract: Six years, $35.6 million (2013-17)

Why that’s a good thing: Bumgarner topped this list in 2015, and, like Sale, he drops because of the declining number of years left on his deal, and the increasing number of dollars owed per season.

He’s due a combined $21.25 million in 2016 and ’17, and will make $45.25 million from 2016-19 if the Giants pick up $12 million options for the last two years. All Bumgarner did in 2014 and ’15 is go 36-19 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, and finish fourth and sixth in the NL Cy Young race. (Translation: He’s still a bargain.)

7. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (age 27)

Contract: Six years, $31 million (2014-19)

Why that’s a good thing: If Marte plays well enough to get his 2020 and ’21 options exercised, he’ll have an eight-year, $53 million deal. He posted a bWAR of 5.1 or higher in both 2014 and ’15. In the latter season, he had 19 homers, 81 RBI, 30 steals and won a Gold Glove.

8. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates (age 24)

Contract: Six years, $35.5 million (2016-21)

Why that’s a good thing: Breaking news: The Pirates are pretty smart. They locked up another promising outfielder, giving Polanco a deal that could run through 2023, when it would be worth a total of $58.5 million with a pair of team options. At that point, Polanco will be only 31. In 2015, his first full year in the big leagues, he had 27 steals and 83 runs. In his first 40 games of 2016, he hit .308 with a .953 OPS.

9. Jose Quintana, SP, White Sox (age 27)

Contract: Five years, $26.5 million (2014-18)

Why that’s a good thing: The White Sox have $10.5 million and $11.5 million options that could extend the deal through 2021 and make it worth $47.5 million. From 2013-15, Quintana started at least 32 games each year. Quintana had a FIP of 2.81 and 3.18 in 2014 and ’15, respectively, and he was sensational in the first quarter of 2016.

10. Chris Archer, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (age 27)

Contract: Six years, $25.5 million (2014-19)

Why that’s a good thing: The Rays could extend the contract through 2021, when Archer will be 32, by picking up a pair of team options. That would pay Archer $41.9 million for six years, which is beyond reasonable for a pitcher who was fifth in the AL Cy Young race in 2015. Archer struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings that season.

Honorable mention

Yordano Ventura, SP, Kansas City Royals (age 24): Ventura’s five-year, $23 million deal runs through 2019, and K.C. has $12 million options for 2020 and ’21 that could make it a seven-year, $46 million contract.

Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins (24): Having a promising young outfielder on the books for seven years and $49.5 million through 2021 seems like a good thing to us.

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates (29): If the Pirates pick up McCutchen’s $14.75 million option for 2018, they will be paying him “only” $41.75 million from 2016-18.

Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays (30): The Jays gave the 2015 AL MVP a two-year, $28.65 million contract for 2016 and ’17, and Donaldson will still be eligible for arbitration in 2018. So pencil one of the top players in MLB for three years and, say, $50 million.

Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (24): He has five years and $138.4 million left on a contract that runs through 2020, but that’s a heck of a deal for the best player in the game.Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians (30): The 2014 AL Cy Young winner has four years and $35.5 million remaining on his contract, and the Tribe has $13.5 million and $14.5 million club options that will seem reasonable if Kluber continues his current production.

Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox (29): One of the game’s top sluggers has four years and $51.33 million left on his contract.

Kenta Maeda, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (28): The Dodgers signed the Japanese right-hander for eight years and $25 million, and Maeda looked like a steal in the first two months of his deal.