KyleSeager

Is It Time For The Seattle Mariners To Extend Kyle Seager?

The financial landscape of Major League Baseball has changed drastically under the new collective bargaining agreement; teams are under spending restrictions on amateur talent.  The result is that fewer teams are willing to lose premium talents to free agency and finding ways to sign their players long term.  Extensions have been big the last several seasons—every offseason, quality players are signing long extensions to stay with their current teams.  I think the Seattle Mariners should get in on this developing trend and extend their best position player: 3B Kyle Seager.

Seager has broken-out this season and really turned into the type of player the Mariners should build their franchise around along with Felix Hernandez.  According to Frangraphs, Kyle Seager is the seventh best 3B in the league in terms of Wins Above Replacement (fWAR).  Seager is also the third youngest of the top 10 3B:

Rank

Age

Name

2013 fWAR

1

30

Miguel Cabrera

7.3

2

27

Josh Donaldson

6.4

3

27

Evan Longoria

6

4

21

Manny Machado

6

5

30

David Wright

5.7

6

34

Adrian Beltre

4.9

7

25

Kyle Seager

4

8

27

Todd Frazier

3.2

9

22

Nolan Arendo

2.9

10

29

Chase Headley

2.7

Seager is batting an impressive .278/.349/.459 with 22 HR, making him 24% better than league average at the plate.  Over the last two years, Seager has belted 42 HR for the M’s, putting him fifth among 3B; he is also fifth among fWAR over the past two seasons.  Seager truly is a special hitter and the Mariners need to lock him up now before he becomes more expensive. 

That’s the real reason teams gamble on signing young players to extensions – cost certainty.  On the other hand, signing contract extensions makes sense for young players because they get more money in the earlier years of their careers than they would have otherwise, and they get protection if they get seriously injured or fall apart. 

I think it is a safe bet that Seager will only continue to improve over the next couple of seasons as he approaches the traditional peak for MLB players.  So, what would be a fair price for a Kyle Seager extension? Let’s take a look at some recent extensions I found for players similar to Kyle Seager in terms of production, age, and the time they were extended in their career.

Player:

Position:

Team:

Games:

Years:

Dollars:

Justin Upton

OF

Arizona

281

6

$51,250,000

Ian Kinsler (2008)

2B

Texas (AL)

250

5

$22,000,000

Anthony Rizzo

1B

Chicago (NL)

173

7

$41,000,000

Paul Goldschmidt

1B

Arizona

193

5

$32,000,000

Martin Prado

3B/OF/2B

Arizona

683

4

$40,000,000

Allen Craig

1B/OF

St. Louis

238

5

$31,000,000

Starlin Castro

SS

Chicago (NL)

401

7

$60,000,000

Andrew McCutchen

OF

Pittsburgh

420

6

$51,500,000

Jay Bruce

OF

Cincinnati

209

6

$51,000,000

Alexei Ramirez

SS

Chicago (AL)

440

4

$32,500,000

Pablo Sandoval

3B

San Francisco

463

3

$17,150,000

Ben Zobrist

2B/OF

Tampa Bay

76

5

$29,000,000

Average

   

318.92

5.2857143

$38,850,000

Kyle Seager

3B

Seattle

347

?

?

For the most part, the extensions on the chart above occurred between 2010-2013, were given to players with between 2 and 4 seasons of MLB experience, and for players that had a similar total of career games to the number Seager has now.  For this chart I only counted guaranteed years (many of these contracts contain team options).  The contracts on this list that I think are especially relevant are Ryan Zimmerman’s 5 year/$45 million extension, Dustin Pedroia’s 6 year/$40 million extension, and the generic 6 year/ $50 million extensions signed by Bruce, McCutchen and Upton. 

If I were the Mariners, I would shoot for 6 years for Seager which would buy out his 2014-2019 seasons.  Seager will be arbitration eligible for the first time in 2015, meaning that his contract will start to dramatically increase from the $500K he makes now—and in 2015.  Currently, Seager is slated to become a free agent after the 2017 season, so a 6-year contract would add two seasons to Kyle Seager’s M’s tenure.  Here is a possible breakdown of Seager’s year to year costs under a theoretical extension:

Year

Possible Salary

Career

2014

$1,500,000

Pre-Arb

2015

$4,200,000

Arb 1

2016

$7,100,000

Arb 2

2017

$10,000,000

Arb 3

2018

$14,000,000

Free Agent

2019

$15,500,000

Free Agent

6

$52,300,000

 

Without an extension, Seattle is only required to pay Seager league minimum next year; most players who sign extensions that cover pre-arbitration make roughly 2-3 times league minimum instead.  In the first year of Dustin Pedroia’s contract, the Boston Red Sox paid him $1.5 million; many other players have gotten similar raises as part of the incentive to sign an extension.  The trickiest, and most important figure to come up with when trying to figure out a reasonable extension, is the first year arbitration salary.  Before the 2013 season, Jason Heyward agreed to a first time arbitration salary of $3.65 million, while David Freese signed for $3.15 million, and Ian Desmond made $3.8 million.  Based on those numbers I figured that if Seager were to go to arbitration after next season it wouldn’t be hard to imagine him looking for a similar contract.  Based on that assumption, I determined that $4.2 million for his first arbitration season would be fair. Seager would pick up a few extra (million) dollars early in the contract to agree to give the Mariners free agent seasons at a projected discount. 

Once I put together the next years using numbers similar to Paul Goldschmidt’s and Pedroia’s extensions I came up with a 6-year extension worth a total of $52.3 million dollars.  At first it sounded kind of silly to guarantee Seager more money than Andrew McCutchen, but the reality is that 3B is a much scarcer position currently in the MLB than outfield is.  I think locking Seager up to a contract similar to my 6-year/$52.3 million extension would really benefit the M’s; Seattle would have their two most important players locked up together through 2019 and still have lots of money and desirable trade pieces to put together the rest of a championship-caliber MLB team.  In addition to the on-field benefits, an extension for Kyle Seager would be a good sign to the fans that the M’s want to win now, and a good message to the other players: “Perform on the field and we take care of you.”

About Arran Gimba

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