Mets: Now is the perfect time to offer Amed Rosario an extension

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 10: Amed Rosario #1 of the New York Mets makes an out at first against the Minnesota Twins at Citi Field on April 10, 2019 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 10: Amed Rosario #1 of the New York Mets makes an out at first against the Minnesota Twins at Citi Field on April 10, 2019 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images) /

Early extensions are a trend across baseball and it’s time the New York Mets lock up a member of their young core off to a fine start: Amed Rosario.

The major theme that describes this past offseason, besides it being slow and tedious, was that so many extensions agreed upon. As expected, most extensions were given to “superstars”, but a few pre-arbitration players also received them. The New York Mets handed out only one to star pitcher Jacob deGrom.

Meanwhile, Ronald Acuna Jr., a superstar about to be in his second pre-arb season, was set to make the MLB minimum of $555,000 before signing a deal that could keep him in an Atlanta Braves uniform for a maximum of 10 years and $124 million. This deal covers all of his arbitration years, which would have paid him a likely $45-55M during those four years, as well as covering 2-4 of his free agent seasons (depending on if his options will be picked up for $17M a year). It’s a deal that gives Acuna financial security for life and the Braves a unique opportunity to lock up a top five player in his prime at a major discount compared to what other stars receive on the open market.

Another potential benefit of signing a player that a team has confidence can be the effect it has on future luxury tax payroll. According to Spotrac, the Mets have almost $12M of luxury tax space remaining for 2019. When a team signs a player to an extension, the average annual salary of that player is equivalent to the luxury tax hit.

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For instance, if a player signs a 7 year, $35M extension, the annual luxury tax hit will be $5M regardless of how that money is actually allocated over the 7 years. By signing someone to an extension this season, they will have more flexibility in teams of avoiding the luxury tax threshold from 2021-the end of the extension.

Baseball is a zero sum sport. What helps one team in a division hurts the other four, as well as the rest of the league to a lesser degree.

That bodes the question: Do the Mets have any enticing pre-arbitration extension candidates? The player that most stands out to me is Amed Rosario.

Rosario has yet to have a productive season in the Major Leagues. That raises the risk if the Mets give him an extension, but it also will give them more value on the deal. What is important now is how Rosario will perform in the present and in the future, not what he has done in the past.

Now is the perfect time to engage in extension talks with Rosario for a multitude of reasons. First, Rosario makes near the MLB minimum. While the MLB minimum affords players a comfortable living, it is not enough to live lavishly. Rosario is incentivized to sign an extension because his quality of life over the next two season would improve significantly.

Additionally, Rosario has made significant strides in his play toward the end of last season and early this season. His results haven’t been great yet, which is another reason why he would likely sign at a discounted price. Rosario’s biggest concern so far in his young career has been his plate discipline. Sandy Anderson expressed this in his exit meeting after the 2017 season. Rosario was giving away too many strikes and at bats by swinging at pitches that he has a low probability of success on.

Thus far in 2019, his plate discipline has shown some maturity. Overall, he is swinging at around 50.5% of all pitches which is down from last year’s 53.8%. Although looking at this statistic in a vacuum may look like he has become more disciplined at the plate, it is likely because he is seeing fewer pitches in the zone (47.8% in 2019 vs 51.1% in 2018).

The area he has undoubtably been making strides in is avoiding chases out of the zone. His chase percentage this season is already down from the 37.4% last season. His knowledge of the strike zone and resistance to swinging at tough pitches out of the zone has improved.

Last year, he drew his fifth walk on May 26th. He has already drawn his fifth this season. He is well on pace to surpass his 29 unintentional walks from last season. While he is striking out more this season, it is fair to attribute some of that to facing Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin two times each in the early going.

Although the 2019 season is just two weeks in, Rosario is hitting the ball harder in April than he has during any month in his major league career. His average exit velocity thus far is 91.1 MPH. He had not bested 89.1 MPH in any other month of his MLB career.

Utilizing the eye test, Rosario also looks like a much more mature player on both sides of the field. At the plate, he looks more comfortable and confident in his abilities. He is clearly going into his at bats with a sound plan. In the field, Rosario is making quicker reads off the bat and utilizing improved footwork.

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In a time where Rosario is seeing other young players receiving pre-arbitration extensions, it would be smart of the Mets to see if they can come to an agreement with him before his price inevitably increases.