In each of the last three months, a young National League first baseman signed a contract of five years or longer which covers all of his arbitration years and at least one potential free agent season on the back end.
First up was the most experienced of the three. Allen Craig of the St. Louis Cardinals has roughly one more year of Major League service time than the others. During spring training, the 28-year-old agreed to a five-year, $31 million deal that covers 2013-2017. There is also a club option for 2018.
Next was Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt. The five-year contract for the 25-year-old is for $32 million. Though it covers 2014-2018 in calendar years, in terms of service time, they are the same five career years as Craig – first year prior to arbitration, three arb years and the first free agent-eligible season. There is also a comparable option for a sixth year. Goldschmidt played most of 2012 in the majors, posting an .850 OPS, 20 home runs and 82 RBI in 145 games.
On Sunday, it was disclosed that Cubs first sacker Anthony Rizzo agreed to terms on a seven-year, $71 million contract. It has an additional year at each end in that his 2013 salary was increased and his second year of free agency was bought out, 2019. Further, he was projected to have a fourth arbitration year due to Super Two status. At the end of his deal, Rizzo has two additional option years that could extend the contract to nine years plus incentives that could increase his salary in out years (full contract details here).
Rizzo, 23, received the longest and largest commitment. He is youngest and the least established of the three, but also most highly-touted. In 87 games last year, he logged a good-but-not-great .805 OPS and 15 homers. Rizzo started slowly in 2013. He was batting just .173 on April 26 but that night hit his seventh and eighth home runs of the season and has since raised his average to .280.
Here are their current career MLB stat lines.
|Career thru 5/12/13||G||PA||AB||R||H||2B||3B||HR||RBI||SB||CS||BB||SO||BA||OBP||SLG||OPS||OPS+|
I compare their contracts in the following table. At the left are the minimums and maximums in years and dollars. Next are the yearly salaries. They are aligned in columns by experience year, not calendar year. That way, we can more easily compare.
|Pre-arb||Arb 1||Arb 2||Arb 3||FA1|
|5 yrs/$31MM||$1.75MM||$2.75MM||$5.5MM||$9MM||$11MM||Plus 2018 club option @$13MM or $1MM buyout|
|Pre-arb||Pre-arb||Arb 1||Arb 2||Arb 3||FA1|
|5 yrs/$32MM||$500K bonus||$1MM||$3MM||$5.75MM||$8.75MM||$11MM||Plus 2019 club option @$14.5MM or $2MM buyout|
|Pre-arb||Super two||Arb 2||Arb 3||Arb 4||FA1||FA2|
|7 yrs/$41MM||$500K addl||$3MM||$5MM||$5MM||$7MM||$7MM||$11MM||Plus 2020, 2021 options @$14.5MM or $2MM buyout|
|9 yrs/$68MM||Plus award incentives|
While the Cardinals will pay the least for Craig, he is the oldest of the three. In terms of service time coverage, Goldschmidt’s deal is very similar to his. Rizzo gets more in the early years, but his salary flattens out in the middle seasons such that he will receive less than the others in his final two arb years and first free agent-eligible year. By the seventh year, he catches up to the others.
One might argue the Cardinals helped set the market with Craig, but it appears his deal is in line with Goldschmidt’s and carries considerably less risk than Rizzo’s. Rizzo offers the longest opportunity for his club to benefit – if the player achieves and maintains true star status.