Contract Extensions – Three Up?

One of the more prominent signs of a successful ball club is the ability to lock up talent for the long term, thus establishing a core to build around. Gone is the idea of a “franchise player,” as it’s nearly impossible to find a player outside of Evan Longoria who seem likely to play for one team for an entire career. Instead, long term players could be called “era players,” those guys that define a certain period of time for a team. Right now, for the Rangers, we could call this the “Beltre era.” That era will soon be, unfortunately, at an end, but the next wave of talent is around the corner, and the Rangers have a handful of people on the field right now that could be the next “era player.”

With that said, it’s not a secret that the most recent crop of extended players, hasn’t panned out quite the way JD and company wanted. By the end of 2015, the “core” pitching rotation of Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, and Matt Harrison will have spent a total of five seasons on the disabled list. The Rangers turned the extended Ian Kinsler into Prince Fielder, but at the time, the thought was that Kinsler would be with the club for longer than he was.

So who’s next? It’s been a couple of years since the Rangers issued a contract extension, and there are a select few on the club that, in my mind, qualify for one. It’s not likely at all that any contract talks occur during the season – it’s probably not likely that any of these happen at all – but if Daniels and the club worked some magic, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing one of the following given a few extra years at a nice, controllable cost.

Shawn Tolleson

  • Career Line: 8-3, 3.13 ERA, 12 saves, FIP 3.93, WHIP 1.201, K/9 8.9, K/BB 2.51

Can an era be defined by a closer? Just ask the Yankees or Braves. I’m not saying Tolleson is Mariano Rivera or Craig Kimbrel, but since assuming the closer’s role, Tolly’s been solid. He’s converted all twelve of his save opportunities to the tune of a 1.50 ERA in those opportunities (h/t @FutureGM – Peter Ellwood). Over his 34.2 total innings of work, he’s given up ten runs.

Tolleson’s only earning a half million dollars this year, but, say, buying out the rest of his arbitration years isn’t unheard of for a team. Now, you would have to bank on the fact that Tolleson could continue this stretch of pain-free relief work, but seeing as he started the string in 2014 and has established himself in the first half of this year, it’s not that unimaginable. As long as Tolleson doesn’t try to do more (like try to be Rivera or Kimbrel) than he needs to, and as long as nobody tries to make him a starter, the Texas native could put his name in consideration for a bonus.

Robinson Chirinos

  • Career Line: .224/.291/.401, 22 HR, 74 RBI, .994 Fld%

Chirinos is on the wrong side of 30 for a catcher, doesn’t really hit for average, and doesn’t have a consistent enough power game to be a threat at the plate. He is, however, a pretty good receiver with a nice arm and a familiarity with the current pitching staff. He’s been a very pleasant surprise since being acquired from Tampa Bay and being something of a reclamation project, having come back from being a concussion victim.

With Jorge Alfaro’s injury in the minors, the bridge to the Rangers’ hopes for a franchise catcher grows a little longer, and Texas will need something to anchor the position behind the dish. As long as Chirinos doesn’t become a liability with the bat (he’s just barely above average when it comes to contributing to the run output), buying out the rest of his arbitration years (another three after this year), for pretty cheap, might not be a bad idea.

Mitch Moreland

  • Career Line: .258/.319/.444, 79 HR, 252 RBI, .995 Fld%

We are starting to see the Mitch we all wanted to see after the 2010 season. The Mitch Moreland that we never thought could exist because of an injury that always seemed to hit in May or June, is surfacing. Previously, the Rangers would see a great beginning to the year from Moreland, until some sort of injury would derail him for just a stint on the 15-day DL. When he’d come back, there’d be something to be said about overcompensating or continued pain or fighting through it, and it would just be painful to watch Moreland be at the plate.

With that in mind, when Prince Fielder was signed, Moreland seemed to be a man without a role on the team. Fielder would be the everyday first baseman and Moreland would be relegated to what amounted to a platoon DH. This year, though, Fielder made a statement that, under the radar, could be seen as the driving force in the Rangers’ competitiveness this season. Fielder said that the team was better with Moreland at first defensively and agreed to be the full-time DH. The tide turned, and while Moreland still endured his annual stint on the DL, he has come back with a refined, easily repeatable approach and is likely on his way to a career year.

With how things are going, can you imagine Fielder back at first if Moreland is gone? Look ahead, Rangers fans, 2016 is the contract year for Mitch Moreland. With his ever-improving defense at first base and his budding consistency at the plate, Moreland in a Ranger uniform for a while looks really nice. He has one more year of arbitration eligibility left, and while I wrote in December that Moreland was a non-tender candidate, his productivity gives me hope that the Rangers can buy out that year plus a couple of years of free agency. The obstacle there is that Prince Fielder becomes a $24 million/year designated hitter…but wasn’t he destined to become that anyway? Mitch Moreland as an extension candidate sounds a little far fetched, but I would welcome even a short-term extension to keep the 29-year old around.

This list is only three deep. Is there anyone else you would add? Would you support any kind of extension for the above listed players? Consider the alternative: do rotating players or high-dollar free agents sound appealing in these positions? For me, stability is huge, and while I understand that you can’t just go blowing money on extensions for people and you have to allow for some free agent signings, I feel like consistency in one of the above areas is key for this club going forward, and I wouldn’t mind seeing any of these take place.

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

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