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Projecting What MLB's Young Superstars Will Be Paid in First Multi-Year Deals

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2013

Projecting What MLB's Young Superstars Will Be Paid in First Multi-Year Deals

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    Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

    More and more these days in the MLB, teams are opting to give their young stars multi-year deals to buy out their arbitration years before negotiating mega deals prior to their hitting free agency.

    Last offseason saw Paul Goldschmidt (five-year, $32 million), Allen Craig (five-year, $31 million) and Chris Sale (five-year, $32.5 million) sign long-term deals prior to hitting arbitration. Similar deals could be on the way this winter and in the years to come.

    This year's crop of rookies was one of the best in recent memory, while young stars like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Freddie Freeman and Matt Harvey took another step forward in establishing themselves as some of the best players in the game.

    What follows is my attempt to predict what 15 of the game's top young superstars will make when they receive their first multi-year deals. Keep in mind, young talent under team control comes far cheaper than free agents, so don't expect a ton of $100 million-plus deals ahead.

2B/3B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSBfWARrWAR
    278.306/.381/.470287781217124170 4  8.3  7.5

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2015

    Free Agent Eligible: 2018

     

    Player Overview

    An every day player for the first time last year at the age of 27, Matt Carpenter exceeded even the wildest of expectations in 2013, leading all of baseball in hits (199), runs (126) and doubles (55) to finish fourth in NL MVP voting.

    He'll likely slide over to third base this coming season, where his offensive production won't be quite as valuable compared to the rest of the league, but he'll still be counted on as a catalyst atop the lineup and will be in for a solid payday.

    He could land somewhere between the deal Brian Roberts got back in 2009 (four-year, $40 million) and the deal the Braves gave Dan Uggla (five-year, $65 million) whenever he gets a long-term deal. My guess is that the Cardinals will find a way to lock him up for less, though.

     

    Predicted Contract: four-year, $32 million

SP Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPHBBKIPfWARrWAR
    19/1910-73.221.16810928100117.1  2.3  1.3

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2017

    Free Agent Eligible: 2020

     

    Player Overview

    Taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, Gerrit Cole needed just 38 minor league starts before reaching the big leagues, and he made a huge impact for Pittsburgh down the stretch in their push to the postseason.

    He certainly looks the part of a workhorse staff ace at 6'4" and 235 pounds, and with a fastball that can touch triple digits and a solid slider/changeup combination to compliment that, he could anchor the Pirates rotation for the next decade.

    Expect Pittsburgh to pursue a deal to buy out out his pre-arbitration and arbitration years and something similar to the five-year, $32.5 million deal the White Sox gave Chris Sale last year, though his agent Scott Boras will likely look for a little more.

     

    Predicted Contract: five-year, $35 million

SP Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPHBBKIPfWARrWAR
    28/2812-62.190.97911158187172.2  4.2  6.3

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2016

    Free Agent Eligible: 2019

     

    Player Overview

    Jose Fernandez didn't turn 21 until July 31 this past season, but had already established himself as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball by that time, and looks to be on his way to a brilliant career atop the Marlins staff.

    Considering that he had not pitched above the High-A level entering the 2013 season, his breakout was something of a surprise, but he has been a highly-regarded prospect since the Marlins selected him, and there's no reason he should not continue to rank among the game's best in the years to come.

    He'll be an interesting case, as the Marlins will likely try to buy out his arbitration years at some point. But, it will cost them more than most pre-free agency signings. Clayton Kershaw got a two-year, $19 million deal from the Dodgers to buy out two of his arbitration years, and Fernandez should be able to eclipse that. Expect him to get a four-year deal at the end of 2015, buying out his arbitration years and first year of free agency.

     

    Predicted Contract: four-year, $42 million

1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSBfWARrWAR
    471.285/.358/.46648193 468280250 7  7.1  9.3

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2014

    Free Agent Eligible: 2017

     

    Player Overview

    Handed the Braves starting first baseman job as a 21-year-old back in 2011, Freddie Freeman has improved in each of his three big league seasons, and he took a big step forward this past year.

    The first baseman hit .319/.396/.501 with 23 home runs and 109 RBI as the Braves' most consistent hitter, finishing fifth in NL MVP voting and helping the team to an NL East title, and he still has room to improve moving forward.

    Last offseason, Allen Craig (five-year, $31 million) and Paul Goldschmidt (five-year, $32 million) both signed extensions with their respective clubs. Freeman could get something similar from the Braves in the months ahead.

     

    Predicted Contract: five-year, $35 million

LF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSBfWARrWAR
    257.272/.353/.48126050124211716929  8.3  9.0

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2016

    Free Agent Eligible: 2019

     

    Player Overview

    After winning NL Rookie of the Year in 2012, Bryce Harper dealt with some injuries this past season, playing in just 118 games. His value to the team was clear though, as they were 65-53 with him in the lineup and just 21-23 without him.

    The 21-year-old signed a five-year, $9.9 million deal after the Nationals selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, $6.25 million of which was his signing bonus. Still, he's already making more money than most players his age, at $2.15 million this coming season and $2.25 million in 2015.

    That already high salary, combined with the fact that he's undoubtedly the face of the franchise and one of the most marketable players in the game, will likely mean a monster payday when he gets his first long-term deal. There's a good chance it comes at the end of the 2015 season, as the two sides look to avoid the arbitration process.

     

    Predicted Contract: Six-year, $100 million

SP Matt Harvey, New York Mets

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPHBBKIPfWARrWAR
    36/3612-102.390.98517757261237.2  7.2  6.9

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2016

    Free Agent Eligible: 2019

     

    Player Overview

    The No. 7 pick in the 2010 draft, Matt Harvey made a splash in the second half of the 2012 season, starting 10 games and posting a 2.73 ERA and 10.6 K/9 as a 23-year-old rookie.

    He was even better this past year, going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts before his season abruptly ended with an arm injury and eventually Tommy John surgery. Despite not pitching after August 24, he still finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting.

    He'll likely miss all of the 2014 season rehabbing, but he remains one of the elite young arms in the game, provided he can return to form an avoid further injury. The Mets likely won't be in any hurry to lock him up, as he's under team control through 2018, so they have some time to make sure he's back to 100 percent. An extension after the 2016 season seems like the most likely scenario at this point, and if he's healthy, the six-year, $127.5 million contract that Matt Cain got from the Giants seems like a decent comparison, at least on annual value.

     

    Predicted Contract: five-year, $110 million (provided he's back to 100 percent in 2016)

1B Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSBfWARrWAR
    439.277/.332/.42546583 85021721738  2.8  4.9

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2014

    Free Agent Eligible: 2018

     

    Player Overview

    The 2014 season will be an important one for Eric Hosmer, as he looks to solidify his place as a star in this league and prove that his 2012 season was nothing more than a fluke.

    After a terrific rookie season in 2011 that saw him hit .293/.334/.465 and finish third in AL Rookie of the Year voting, Hosmer's numbers fell to .232/.304/.359 in 2012, and his star had faded a bit heading into 2013.

    He bounced back in a big way though, hitting .302/.353/.448 with 17 home runs and 79 RBI, also winning his first Gold Glove award. The Royals will likely wait until at least next offseason to extend him, at which time he will have three years of arbitration left, so a four-year deal in line with the Allen Craig and Paul Goldschmidt deals mentioned earlier would make sense.

     

    Predicted Contract: four-year, $30 million

RP Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    GW-LSavesERAWHIPBB/9K/9fWARrWAR
    21612-762-of-742.100.918  3.314.0  6.3  6.7

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2014

    Free Agent Eligible: 2017

     

    Player Overview

    He may not get the attention that some of the other guys on this list, but make no mistake, Kenley Jansen is a bona fide star at the back of the Dodgers bullpen and is easily one of the best relievers in the game.

    He's struck out a ridiculous 306 hitters in 195.1 innings of work over the past three years, saving 58 games and posting a 2.30 ERA over that span. However, a heart condition that sidelined him at the end of the 2012 season was reason enough for the Dodgers to sign Brandon League last winter.

    The 26-year-old underwent surgery to correct the irregular heartbeat last offseason, and it was not an issue in 2013, so that should not effect negotiations moving forward. Locking up Clayton Kershaw is priority No. 1 in LA, but Jansen could be close behind with an extension of his own.

     

    Predicted Contract: three-year, $24 million

RP Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

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    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    GW-LSavesERAWHIPBB/9K/9fWARrWAR
    23115-7139-of-1541.390.902  3.215.1  9.2  9.7

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2014

    Free Agent Eligible: 2017

     

    Player Overview

    Koji Uehara may have been the best reliever in baseball in 2013, but most would agree that Craig Kimbrel is the game's premier reliever moving forward, as he's enjoyed a phenomenal start to his career.

    Over the past three seasons, the 25-year-old has saved 138 games, leading the NL each year. He's also struck out a whopping 341 batters in 206.2 innings and posted a 1.48 ERA and 0.871 WHIP. He's finished in the top five in NL Cy Young voting the past two years, and has just been overpowering in every sense of the word.

    The $15 million annual salary that Mariano Rivera made from 2008-2012 is the highest ever by a reliever, with Rafael Soriano ($14 million) and Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million) right behind him, and Kimbrel has every reason to expect something right in line with those figures. He may have to wait until he gets closer to free agency to get an extension though, as the Braves have a number of players they need to lock up long-term.

     

    Predicted Contract: four-year, $50 million

2B Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSBfWARrWAR
    337.270/.349/.42434967 93817919666  8.4 11.0

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2015

    Free Agent Eligible: 2018

     

    Player Overview

    The Indians turned second base over to Jason Kipnis to start the 2012 season, and he responded with a monster first half, hitting .277/.345/.419 with 11 home runs and 20 steals at the break. The second half was a different story though, as he hit just .233/.322/.328 with three home runs and 11 steals.

    It was more of the same in 2013, as he was a legitimate MVP candidate at the break with a .301/.383/.514 line to go along with 13 home runs and 21 steals. That dropped to .261/.343/.371 in the second half with just four home runs and nine steals.

    He needs to find a way to maintain his performance all season, but considering his first half production, the past two years were better than a full year of most second basemen, he'll likely get paid either way. The Dan Uggla deal (five-year, $56 million) looks like the best comparison, though he may have to settle for a little less.

     

    Predicted Contract: five-year, $48 million

3B Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSBfWARrWAR
    207.279/.309/.43523959 621 97112 8  6.2  8.1

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2016

    Free Agent Eligible: 2019

     

    Player Overview

    The Orioles surprised many when they called a then 20-year-old Manny Machado up in early August of the 2012 season, promoting him straight from Double-A and plugging him in as the everyday third baseman for the team's stretch run.

    He followed that surprise debut up with a terrific all-around first full season, hitting .283/.314/.432 with an AL-high 51 doubles, 14 home runs and 71 RBI. He also won the Gold Glove at third despite being a natural shortstop, and was in fact good enough defensively to capture AL Platinum Glove honors as well.

    A dislocated knee on Sept. 23 ended his season prematurely and required surgery, but he is not expected to miss much, if any, of the 2014 season. Proving he's 100 percent will go a long way in getting him paid, and an eventual move to shortstop when J.J. Hardy hits free agency next offseason could effect his value as well. Something like the six-year, $31 million deal Troy Tulowitzki signed early in his career seems fair.

     

    Predicted Contract: six-year, $36 million

RF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

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    Steve Mitchell/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSBfWARrWAR
    489.265/.354/.535464107 711729426117 13.5 14.8

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2014

    Free Agent Eligible: 2017

     

    Player Overview

    With 117 home runs under his belt through his age-23 season, Giancarlo Stanton ranks 10th all-time in long balls at this point in his career, and he has likely only scratched the surface of his future potential and production.

    Injuries have limited him to 123 and 116 games the past two seasons, but he's still managed 61 total home runs in 874 at-bats, or one home run every 14.3 AB. He has legitimate 50 home run potential with some of the best raw power in the game thanks to a 6'6" and 240-pound frame.

    It remains to be seen if he will wind up signing with the Marlins long-term or wind up traded at some point, but proving he can stay healthy for a full season will certainly help his value wherever he is. For the sake of this, we'll assume he re-ups with the Marlins, as he would likely fetch more on the free agent market in 2017. Carlos Gonzalez contract (seven-year, $80 million), which was signed pre-arbitration could be comparable, even with Stanton likely going through one year of the process.

     

    Predicted Contract: seven-year, $80 million

SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPHBBKIPfWARrWAR
    75/7529-192.961.073343123504434.1 10.8  8.4

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2014

    Free Agent Eligible: 2017

     

    Player Overview

    Viewed as a once-in-a-generation talent coming out of San Diego State, the Nationals took Stephen Strasburg with the first pick in the 2009 draft and signed him to a four-year, $15.1 million deal that included a $7.5 million signing bonus.

    The 25-year-old made $3.9 million in the final year of that deal last year, and is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, as he will likely see a decent sized raise over that figure for 2014.

    Buying out his arbitration years to keep him at a controlled price would certainly make sense, and it would buy the team some time to make sure he stays healthy before shelling out a huge, $100 million-plus deal to lock him up long-term. David Price made $4.35 million in his first year of arbitration and $10.1 million in his second year, and Strasburg could be valued similarly.

     

    Predicted Contract: four-year, $60 million

CF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGH2B3BHRRBIRSBfWARrWAR
    336.314/.404/.54439972176219625886 21.1 20.8

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2015

    Free Agent Eligible: 2018

     

    Player Overview

    Mike Trout followed up a historic rookie season with an equally impressive sophomore campaign, drawing a league-high 110 walks to improve his on-base percentage from .399 to .432 while putting up impressive power and speed numbers once again.

    He's finished second to Miguel Cabrera in MVP voting twice now, but has been the superior player from a sabermetrics standpoint and will no doubt be hoisting that hardware at some point.

    Trout is a rare talent, and it's hard to find a good comparison for him from a contract standpoint. He could approach Alex Rodriguez money once he reaches free agency, but chances are the Angels will wait as long as they can to pay him. A three-year deal to buy out his arbitration years seems likely, though it still won't be cheap.

     

    Predicted Contract: three-year, $50 million

SP Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPHBBKIPfWARrWAR
     15/9 4-12.781.09852196564.2  1.1  1.7

     

    Arbitration Eligible: 2017

    Free Agent Eligible: 2020

     

    Player Overview

    Though he has just 15 regular season appearances and five postseason starts under his belt, Michael Wacha has already shown enough to make many believe he'll be one of the game's elite arms as soon as the 2014 season.

    The 22-year-old joins Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller atop what should be a dynamic Cardinals rotation for years to come. The team has three more seasons before he even reaches arbitration, as he will be one of the best values in the league.

    The Cardinals signed Jaime Garcia to a four-year, $27 million deal before he reached arbitration, and they will likely take a similar approach with Wacha prior to the 2017 season. The two-year, $23 million and two-year, $40.5 million deals that Tim Lincecum signed prior to his most recent contract may wind up being better comparisons.

     

    Predicted Contract: three-year, $36 million

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