If you look at Evan Longoria’s contract, you may say “well, it’s a great contract for the Rays no doubt about it, but shouldn’t other teams around Baseball be locking up their young players?” Absolutley! The most notable comparison to date is our good friend Jason Heyward. Jason has yet to play a game in the Majors as you all may know, but shouldn’t the Braves gamble on him and possibly lock him up now? Shouldn’t the Braves at least consider it? I’ve compiled a lineup and rotation of players and pitchers who should be locked up. There is one catch though, to be on this Roster, you need to be under the age of 25. Sorry Mark Reynolds! Sorry Josh Beckett! Victor Martinez, please don’t hold it against me!
C – Matt Weiters: I think the Orioles will be able to compete pretty soon. Not this season but I do think they will make some noise. Without Matt Weiters, I wouldn’t consider them to be a spoiler to say the least. If Weiters was locked up now, they could buy out at least two arbirtration years without breaking the bank. No, Matt Weiters isn’t Joe Mauer but some early comparables could be Mauer’s first contract. I’m sure we will all agree that the sooner the better.
1B – Billy Butler: Of course Padres fans want Adrian Gonzalez in a Padres uniform until the end of time, he’s older than 25 and wants a bigger check than he is getting at this point in time. Billy Butler on the other hand, is one of the better young players in the American League. He really put up solid numbers last season and I can only see him improving. If he remains on a year to year contract, the Royals will owe him a bigger and bigger check every year. If they can give him something like a 5 year $20-23MM deal, they will avoid the Tim Lincecum arb cases and continue to pay quality players (like Zack Greinke) team friendly contracts.
2B – Gordon Beckham: There aren’t too many Second Baseman in Major League Baseball who are productive, fast, and can play some defense. Gordon Beckham is in fact one of them. The White Sox did a fantastic job developing this kid and certainly were lucky to have drafted him considering the fact that the Reds, Marlins, Rays, Royals, and Giants would have loved to have taken this kid when they had the chance. Jared Mitchell is the next White Sox product to come up but for now, Gordon Beckham could be compared to Ian Kinsler and his contract. 5yrs/$22MM is what Ian Kinsler gets and I don’t see why the Sox wouldn’t give Gordon that if he can build on his strong Rookie campaign.
3B: Pablo Sandoval: If he can stay healthy, the Kung-Fu Panda is and will continue to be one of Baseball’s brightest young stars. Fat Ichiro came out of nowhere to come 2nd in the NL Batting Title race in 2009. My comparable is Troy Tulowitzki’s contract, but that might not even be enough if he hits like he did in 2009. Some concerns are obviously his weight, but he is committed to staying healthy and needs to be locked up if he proves that 2009 was no fluke.
SS – Elvis Andrus: Until my Flash Jr. (Dee Gordon) comes up and before Alcides Escobar has his fantastic rookie season, Elvis Andrus is my guy at Shortstop. The Rangers played really really well last season, and Andrus played a major role in their success. His defense is indispensible and his bat will continue to get better. His speed may net him several stolen base titles during his career, but this kid is one hec of a player overall. The most notable comparison for me, is Jose Reyes…But that is still a stretch because Elvis is only 21 and has one year of service time under his belt. Maybe a 6yr/$28MM will get it done, but even unsigned, the Rangers have to be happy with their young star.
OF – Andrew McCutchen: Even though last season’s performance speaks for itself, McCutchen hasn’t made it 100% clear that he is their clear cut franchise player and centerpeice for the future. That doesn’t say much though because they haven’t built around a player since Jason Bay or even Barry Bonds. And we know that didn’t work out. McCutchen absolutley deserves a Franklin Gutierrez, Curtis Granderson, or Grady Sizemore contract but I think for starters, the Pirates will settle on a Carl Crawford or something like 5/$19MM deal. Who knows, he may even be a trade piece if Neal Huntington feels the need to “keep building.”
OF – Jason Heyward: The only thing that needs to be said is, “Frank! Give this kid an Evan Longoria deal! Don’t you dare go year to year!!” A young phenom that is getting comparisons to several Hall of Famers and 1 future Hall of Famer certainly deserves a lucurative contract. Hopefully they can get him locked up as soon as possible but beware that if he is in the Braves Opening Day Lineup, it is a must-sign because thats when the clock starts ticking!
OF – Carlos Gonzalez: Whats better than a young 5 tool player? Carlos Gonzalez is among the few. Dan O’Dowd did a fantastic job bringing him over from the A’s and his second half of the season performance certainly proved to make the trade seem worth it. Carlos could hit up to 28 Home Runs this season and can bat anywhere in the lineup. He can set the table for the big guys, and can steal bases behind Dexter Fowler or before. I don’t think there needs to be any other comparison than Grady Sizemore and Curtis Granderson in terms of the contract but I would rank him among the top 5 best rising stars in Baseball.
DH – Kyle Blanks: If and when the Padres trade Adrian Gonzalez, they are going to count on Kyle Blanks to be a solid clean up hitter at the least. With a young nucleus of Blanks, Darnell, Cabrera, and Dacker, the Padres couyld compete as early as 2011. Kyle Blanks could be a 30 home run hitter year after year if he stays healthy and is one of the Baseball’s best young players who nobody talks about. I could see this season being his breakout year and if it is, the Padres need to be ready to spend some money (for once). He has already turned in to a guy the Padres fans want around for a long time.
P – Clayton Kershaw: There is only one way for the Dodgers to prevent GM’s from talking about this kid; LOCK HIM UP! Clayton is clearly the ace and no doubt about it, one of Baseball’s best young pitchers. If the Dodgers don’t lock him up, they will soon have to pay him the big bucks. He has no inning restrictions this season, and may even cut down on the walks while he is at it. Will definetly strike out 200 batters this season and when he does, the Dodgers will either be saying, “Thank gosh we locked him up” or “Okay Jamie and Frank, could you guys please solve your divorce situation so we can lock Clayton Kershaw up?” This is his breakout season.
P – Yovani Gallardo: The Brew Crew love this guy, and why not? He had one hec of a 2009 season and racked up 200 K’s for the first time in his career. If he has another big season, the Brewers will need to break the bank and for a small market team, they should get him signed before that big pay day comes. Matt Cain’s contract comes to mind and thats a perfect comparable in my opinion.
P – Brett Anderson: Billy Beane’s great work over the last few years is finally starting to pay off. With young stars like Chris Carter and Michael Taylor ready to knock balls out of the park this season, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Dallas Braden among others will certainly be much happier this season than last. Brett Anderson though I think is their best youngster on he mound. He really has potential to be the next ace of his respective team, and to ensure that, they have to lock him up. If he stays healthy this season, I wouldn’t hesitate to give him a 4 or 5 year deal worth $14-22MM.
P – Clay Bucholz: It seems likely that Bucholz is staying. Therefore, a contract extension is definetly something for Theo Epstien to think about. Yes, Josh Beckett and Victor Martinez should come first, but with the contracts of David Ortiz and Mike Lowell coming off the books, the Red Sox certainly have financial felxibility to say the least. I think once again, Matt Cain’s contract is a pretty good comparison. Maybe Paul Maholm, but the point is that Clay Bucholz is a really good pitcher and could win 15 games in the 4 spot in the Red Sox rotation this season.
P – Tommy Hanson: Obviously, there are about 10 under-25 players who deserve a long term deal, Brian Matusz, Jair Jurrjens, Mat Latos, Derek Holland, Ricky Romero, Rick Porcello, and plenty more. But I’m going to take Tommy Hanson because I think that he is an ace in the making. It’s rare that a pitcher will be brought up mid-season and dominate like Tommy did. Well, with the departure of Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens’ sore arm, and Derek Lowe’s sinker that doesn’t sink, the Braves need some confidence when signing pitchers to long term deals. There is nothing in Hanson’s delivery that tells me that he wont be a consistent 3.00 ERA pitcher througout his career but if that does happen, the Braves need to know that he is wearing navy and red with a big white “A” on his cap.
RP/CP: Daniel Bard: Leo Nunez is one of the better young closers in Baseball but he is 26 years old. Daniel Bard on the other hand, could very well be the future closer of the Red Sox let alone, late inning reliever until then. He has really good stuff and pitched very well against AL East teams. I would give him a 3 or 4 year deal now assuming that Pap won’t be wearing Red Socks forever. The Red Sox need certainty in their bullpen and Manny Delcarmen is not the answer. The answer is Daniel Bard.
It needs to be said that the 3 best contracts in Baseball were given to players in their first two seasons or around that time. Those 3 are Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun, and Troy Tulowitzki. A team friendly contract means so much to an organization and fanbase. The Rays obviously do buisness well but hopefully the players I talked about will get a good deal on both sides. All it takes is a good 2010 season!