While the Los Angeles Dodgers were dishing out a $700 million deal to Shohei Ohtani, a bit of positive New York Mets news dropped relating to the future of their young catcher Francisco Alvarez. Both he and President of Baseball Operations David Stearns are open to the idea of a long-term match.
An early buyout of those rookie minimum and arbitration years has become a trend around the league for young superstars. Alvarez hasn’t quite reached the status of some of the others, however, Stearns’ ex-employer has already given their top prospect Jackson Chourio an 8-year deal worth $82 million before ever playing a big league game. The 19-year-old is one of the best prospects in baseball. This was a title Alvarez knows something about.
What could a Francisco Alvarez contract extension look like?
One other recent example, maybe better than Chourio, of a young player getting a big fat contract early in his career is the one dulled out by the Washington Nationals to their catcher Keibert Ruiz. He signed for 8-years and $50 million guaranteed. At the backend of the contract are two team options worth $12 million in 2031 and another $14 million in 2032.
The total comes out to $76 million over 10 years which, if Ruiz becomes a stud, seems team-friendly for an AAV of $7.6 million. The guaranteed years carry him through his age 31 season.
An important difference between the two is the difference in age. Ruiz signed his extension prior to the 2023 season when he played in his age 24 campaign. Alvarez is two baseball years younger than him. An extra year or two of guaranteed money isn’t outrageous. Some may even argue Alvarez has outperformed Ruiz already in his career despite playing only one season compared to Ruiz’s two full years. It’s a matter of subjectivity.
Either way, the rising price of players of all ages and abilities will have the Mets paying more than the $50 million guaranteed if they want to have Alvarez around. It seems like chump change after what the Brewers gave to their rising star.
The one important aspect of any Alvarez contract is to not have it last too long. As a catcher, he’ll be at risk of injury far more than some other positions. Luckily, youth is on his side and a deal lasting through his age 30 season is probably as far as Stearns would go anyway if he plans to remain responsible with money.
As of right now, Alvarez would probably make just a little more than Ruiz did with his extension because of how unproven he remains and the position he plays. Wait a little bit longer and the AAV could get closer to some of those deals the Atlanta Braves players have signed early in their career that are unfathomably team-friendly. NL MVP Ronald Acuna is taking an average of $12.5 million per season as is Cy Young contender Spencer Strider. Blink twice if you need help, guys.
Matching the Braves contracts, as low as they may seem for the talent, is a high bar for Alvarez to seek. An AAV somewhere between $8-9 million is a more realistic fit. An eight-year deal would make something around $64 million guaranteed a realistic possibility. Add on a $15 million team option to the back of it and he probably can't grab a pen quick enough.
There is reportedly no pressure for either side to agree to an extension. Given how closely Stearns appears to be monitoring the team’s salary for the coming year, we shouldn’t expect him to pay anyone too early right away. There’s no harm in waiting. But the next time a young player, particularly a catcher, signs a long-term deal, look for any future contract demands to go up another fistful.