When the Rangers finalized Ian Kinsler’s extension of 5 years and $75 million dollars, the front office locked in yet another cornerstone of the Rangers’ future. With this extension, the Rangers have sent a message to all the players in the organization that they will take care of you, if you take care of your game on the field.
This is Kinsler’s second extension, and this one nullified the last year of his previous extension, and was completed two seasons before Kinsler even would’ve sniffed free agency. Locking up Kinlser also sets the infield composition for at least the next few years before Kinsler slides gracefully into the outfield.
Jurickson Profar, boy wonder in AA Frisco, could be the man to force such a move; and as wild as it may seem, Profar is a player the Rangers should consider extending.
Now before you look up my twitter feed to talk some sense into me, let me say two words: six games.
On April 19, 2008, 22 year-old Evan Longoria signed, “The Extension Heard ‘Round The Blog-O-Sphere”, just 6 games after his debut. His payday was $17.5 million over 6 years, with options that could raise it to $44.5 million over 9 years. Longo started the 2008 season as Baseball America’s #2 overall prospect, and he finished the year in the World Series and won AL Rookie of the Year honors, and placed 11th in MVP voting.
The deal was team-friendly from the day he signed, and with each passing year you almost feel sorry for the guy, as he has missed out an some major earning potential. In fact, his college teammate, Troy Tulowitzki signed a similar extension with one year of service time as well (6 years, $31M), but he topped it off with a mega extension three years later, to add an additional six years, which will pay him $119 million.
Profar is 19 years old, in AA, and is ranked by BA as the #7 prospect in baseball. (Just for reference, Longoria was ranked #7 overall too when he started his first season in AA). The main reason to look into an early extension with Profar is that of all of the Rangers’ minor leaguers the floor of his talent may be the highest. This significantly reduces the risk associated with signing Profar, at a minimum, he will be a league average, everyday player. At best, Profar could be a perennnial all-star and generational talent.
Early extensions are low-risk, high reward deals. Teams are regualrly throwing money at low-risk, high reward pitchers in their 30s. I believe it would be a much wiser approach for teams to lock up their potential all-stars early and often. But if you’re the White Sox, and you have no prospects, this doesn’t apply.
With the early extensions, you are risking slightly above what a league average player would make, and by all indications, profiles, and reports, Jurickson Profar will be at minimum league-average. Why so soon though? Because agents work quickly too.
Elvis Andrus’ agent is Scott Boras, and Boras more than any other agent makes it a goal to get his clients to the big payday in free agency. When Elvis hits the market, he’ll be 26 years old, (very young by free agency standards, due to being a 20 year-old rookie) playing a key position, and will likely score a monster deal when his time comes.
I know you say it’s silly to think that far ahead, but is keeping a star player into his prime years and saving millions in payroll silly?
In Andrus’ first 8 years he’ll earn roughly $50 million, if the Rangers offered Profar an early extension it would probably be in the neighborhood of $30 million, and the would likely attempt to secure some of his future free agency years. (Yes, I am hypothetically talking about the free agency years of a SS in AA).
Why would Profar give up millions in future earnings though? Baseball contracts are almost always guaranteed. For Profar, securing that guarantee of approximately $30 million is highly valuable. Regardless of injury, or future performance, the player will be able to take care of himself and his family for the rest of his life. For the team, that $30 million represents an investment in a potential superstar, enabling the team to hold on to an elite level player for a very long time without breaking the bank.
The Kansas City Royals extended Salvador Perez, to a five year deal and up to $27 million. Perez had only played 38 games last year before the Royals targeted him for an extension. Perez was never a top prospect, but Kansas City offered a contract to the 21 year-old catcher from Venezuela, because they recognized an opportunity to save money on a player who they saw would be at least a major-league regular.
With the likelihood of Andrus’ future departure, Profar not locking arms with Boras yet, the new trend of players signing extension before one-year of service time, and Profar’s mature game, it seems reasonable that the Rangers will attempt to sign Profar long-term. Sure, its premature to even discuss this, but 6 days into Longo’s career was premature too.
Before this limb breaks beneath my feet, I’ll peer into my crystal ball one more time, and declare that Profar could even be the first player to be extended before he debuts.
Crazy, I know, or is it? The Rays discussed Longoria’s extension in early March before he even played a game in Tampa Bay, and most of the particulars were ironed out before he was called up. The Rays already knew what they had in Longo, likewise, the Rangers are familiar with what a commodity Profar is. A cup-of-coffee, half season, or a September call-up won’t be needed to assure the Rangers brass of Profar’s potential.
Kinsler’s extension may have just moved the Rangers closer to extending his positional replacement in a few years. Thinking several years away is unpredictable, but that’s how the game is played now; and extending a teenager before he debuts is the ultimate two-steps ahead move.