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The price of National League first basemen

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+
Craig 4 Yrs 272 1000 915 137 274 67 2 39 177 7 2 67 181 0.299 0.346 0.505 0.851 132
Goldschmidt 3 Yrs 231 927 805 133 227 59 2 37 138 26 4 103 221 0.282 0.362 0.498 0.860 128
Rizzo 3 Yrs 173 680 608 71 154 33 1 25 85 9 6 61 142 0.253 0.331 0.434 0.765 108

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.

Craig 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
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
6 yrs/$42MM
Goldschmidt 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
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
6 yrs/$44.5MM
Rizzo 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
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.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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13 Responses to “The price of National League first basemen”

  1. blingboy says:

    Lynn going back out for the 7th, pitch count at 107.

    Too bad our offense stinks.

  2. blingboy says:

    MM wheels out the secret weapon to pinch hit for Lynn.

  3. blingboy says:

    Wiggy in scoring position, good call by MM. Lets get Lance a win.

  4. blingboy says:

    Holy cow!!!! Wiggy goes 2nd to home on a shot that didn’t get past the mound.

  5. blingboy says:

    Nice to see Holliday give Wiggy a hand carrying the team.

    Ankiel hasn’t looked too good. Helpless against Rosenthal.

  6. blingboy says:

    Its too bad for the Mets reliever Atchison that his elbow is acting up, causing numbness in his pitching hand. But it should improve our chances of a sweep. They have been working him hard due to the crappy starting pitching and lack of other solid pen arms. We should be able to fatten up some averages, and get Gast off to a good start.

    I don’t wish Ankiel success vs the Cards, but it is painfull watching him swing through strikes and chase balls. On D, he not only had that ball pop out of his glove and took an especially bad route tracking one down later in the game, but his throw from CF to first pulled the 1st baseman well off the bag. It is possible Rick could have a hot streak for the Mets, but hoping for anything from an Astros cast-off is beyond desperation.

  7. blingboy says:

    Yadi has Gast coming inside a lot. Like that. It strange to see all the 80 somethings on the radar gun.

    Who is a bigger threat off the bench: Wiggy or Ankiel?

  8. blingboy says:

    We send out Carlos Martinez to mop up. Throwing 99. After Gast and Maness that’s like 110. 3 Ks.

  9. blingboy says:

    Then we send in our other mop up guy, he only throws 97, but he has a nice hook too.

    We had to use our first string pen guys last night, so its good to get the ‘B’ team guys some work.

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