Some people let out a bit of a chuckle the other day when the Tampa Bay Rays handed Matt Moore an eight-year, $39.75 million extension. The source of comedy might have been that the 22 year-old only appeared in 9.3 innings for the Rays in 2011, while making just one start. Seems like a lot of money to fork over to a player with under 10 innings of Major League experience, right? Maybe so. But considering the left-handed pitcher absolutely dominated Minor League hitters (1.92 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 4.57 K/BB in 155 IP), held his own in the Majors (2.89 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 5.00 K/BB in 9.3 IP), and even dazzled during the Playoffs (0.90 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, and 2.67 K/BB in 10 IP), it’s possible the Rays know what they’re doing. In fact, it’s even possible that the Rays made the best “signing” of the off-season. In regards to the New York Mets, seeing their own homegrown stud Jose Reyes jet for the Marlins only proves why the Mets should technically be talking to Jonathon Niese and Ike Davis about long-term deals. Like, right now.
The thought process behind securing young players through their arbitration and even a few free-agent years is that these premature contracts will always be cheaper than re-signing them later on. Yes, there’s always the chance the players don’t pan out, but the contracts are so comparatively inexpensive, that it honestly doesn’t matter either way. Take Niese for example. The southpaw pitcher has produced a combined 4.6 fWAR from 2010 and 2011, which is equivalent to $19.5 million. Know how much the Mets paid him for his services during that stint? A measly $854,000. Hypothetically, if the Mets extended Niese to a six-year, $30 million deal, it wouldn’t even matter if the lefty, God forbid, blew out his arm after the first two seasons. He probably will have already earned his contract by then.
The same goes for Ike Davis. Davis earned a combined 4.9 fWAR in 2010 and 2011, which is equivalent to $20.2 million. It’s even possible that his cumulative value would have been in the $40 million-area if he had not succumbed to that freak fielding injury. Granted, it would be nice to see Ike take the field before extending him 5 or 8 years, but if a player could potentially earn 5833% (!) more than his current salary, a team must truly be insane to not at least broach the “extension” subject.
I’m confident that Sandy Alderson has the exact same mindset, and that unfortunately, his bosses don’t even have the coin to sign team-friendly deals for Niese and Davis. But if the Mets want to enjoy many years of success with homegrown players at the helm, they will have to adapt the Rays approach soon. If not, fans will continually see the next “Jose Reyes” exit in his prime.