By Yuki Mori
Now that the Nationals stand atop the league as 2019 World Champions and we begin transitioning into hot stove season, now is the perfect time to reevaluate some of the transactions of the 2019 season. Namely, the contract extensions players signed during the last off-season. Armed with one year’s worth of hindsight, I’ll be handing out grades to every offseason extension signee. Note that I only included players that have signed a multi-year, $10+ million contracts with teams, which means I won’t be including the likes of SP CC Sabathia or SP Hyun-jin Ryu.
3B Eduardo Escobar, ARI: 3 years/$21 million, .269 AVG/.320 OBP/.511 SLG, 4.2 bWAR
Although he was entering his age-30 season, Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen saw enough potential out of him to acquire him at the 2018 trade deadline and to keep him for three more years. The signing paid off, as he and NL MVP candidate Ketel Marte combined to form the middle of the lineup for Arizona. Escobar hit a league-leading 10 triples, and he set career highs in RBIs (118) and home runs (35), even leading the league in the former category at times during the season. Overall, a solid, durable defensive third baseman who could hit for power is exactly what the Diamondbacks need in order to compete with their young core next season and beyond.
SP Chris Sale, BOS: 5 years/$145 million, 147.1 IP/4.40 ERA/1.09 WHIP, 2.3 bWAR
There was concern at the beginning of the year when Sale’s velocity dropped by a couple mph and his winless stretch to begin the season (he finished 6-11). He picked it back up down the stretch, but had very little consistency and he later had to be shut down for the season for elbow inflammation. Fortunately, Sale managed to avoid Tommy John surgery. So what went wrong? He still posted some encouraging numbers: 13.3 K/9, 5.89 K/BB, and 1.09 WHIP just to name a few. There are also a few uglier numbers, most notably a 3.39 FIP and 107 ERA+. There were talks that Sale’s dip in velocity was most likely caused by fatigue from the World Series run and that he ended up nursing an injury throughout the season, which could have led to the ineffectiveness. Sale still has the stuff to dominate, and he and the Red Sox will be looking for a rebound season after a very disappointing first year of his new contract.
SP/RP Nathan Eovaldi, BOS: 4 years/$68 million. 67.2 IP/5.99 ERA/1.58 WHIP, 0.1 bWAR
When the Red Sox signed the World Series hero to an extension in the offseason, they expected him to solidify the starting rotation behind Chris Sale and David Price. Instead, the team likely ended up wanting to take it back, with the looming specter of J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts’ free agencies on the horizon. Injuries had plagued Eovaldi throughout his career, including multiple Tommy John surgeries, and this season was no different. He took multiple IL trips and had to resort to pitching out of the bullpen for most of the season due to injury concerns. The already questionable signing started off looking very bad, but the Red Sox can still hope that a healthier Eovaldi will return to his World Series form—and stay healthy—next season.
SP J.A. Happ, NYY: 2 years/$34 million, 161.1 IP/4.91 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 1.2 bWAR
After putting up the worst statistical season of his career and giving up a career-high 34 HRs, it is evident that Happ didn’t help the struggling Yankees starting pitching in 2019. Coming into his age-37 season one year removed from an ugly 5.22 FIP and 90 ERA+, it will be interesting to see whether Happ can bounce back.
SP Mike Fiers, OAK: 2 years/$14.1 million, 184.2 IP/3.90 ERA/1.19 WHIP, 2.9 bWAR
Five months ago, Mike Fiers struck out Eugenio Suarez to complete the first no-hitter of the 2019 season, and the second of his career, against the Cincinnati Reds. He struck out six, walked four, and threw 131 pitches. Although he didn’t pitch a no-hitter in every game, nor been a Cy Young Award candidate this season, Fiers has been everything that the A’s have asked for by giving them solid outings every five days, eventually going 15-4, his career best. With a healthy Sean Manaea and more prospects making their way to the majors in 2020, Fiers’ solid outings will be more important as the Athletics try for another postseason run.
3B Nolan Arenado, COL: 8 years/$260 million, .315 AVG/.379 OBP/.583 SLG, 5.7 bWAR
Arenado continued to play like a franchise cornerstone, setting career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, all the while playing platinum glove-level defense. He has done what has been asked of him and perhaps played like a future Hall of Famer, but the Rockies must figure out a way to fix their pitching so they can get back into the playoffs as Arenado is hitting his prime.
CF Aaron Hicks, NYY: 7 years/$70 million, .235 AVG/.325 OBP/.443 SLG, 1.3 bWAR
Having been injured for parts of the season, Hicks only played in 59 games and didn’t do much offensively, though what he did do was in line with his career averages. The numbers may have diminished a bit this season, but this was most likely due to his health. A healthier season ought to benefit the Yankees, or this seven-year union may end up sour.
SP Sonny Gray, CIN: 3 years/$30.5 million, 175.1 IP/2.87 ERA/1.08 WHIP, 5.6 bWAR
After a terrible stint with the New York Yankees, the Reds have seemed to revive Gray, as he posted numbers comparable to his 2015 All-Star campaign, even improving certain stats. 2019 saw him post career highs in strikeouts, strikeouts per nine innings, and WHIP. If Gray can keep this up, along with Trevor Bauer and ace Luis Castillo, the Reds could be a serious contender next season for the ever-shaky NL Central.
RP Ryan Pressly, HOU: 2 years/$17.5 million, 54.1 IP/2.32 ERA/0.90 WHIP, 1.8 bWAR
Pressly was acquired from the Twins at the 2018 deadline and, with the help of Houston’s elite analytics department, threw harder and better. Pressly had a career-best 6.00 K/BB and although he wasn’t as effective during the postseason run, he should still contribute significantly for high-leverage innings as the Astros try to get back to the World Series after a heartbreaking loss against the Nationals.
SP Miles Mikolas, STL: 4 years/$68 million, 184.0 IP/4.16 ERA/1.22 WHIP, 1.7 bWAR
After spending four solid seasons for the NPB’s Yomiuri Giants, Mikolas returned stateside in 2018 and posted career-bests in everything, going 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA, 0.7 HR/9, 1.3 BB/9 in 200 IP. The Cardinals rewarded him by extending his contract, but he has not lived up to the hype from last year, as he posted a league-worst 14 losses. He struggled with the long ball, but given that his K/9 and BB/9 are comparable to his All-Star 2018 there is a sign of optimism that this contract isn’t a total bust… yet.
1B Paul Goldschmidt, STL: 5 years/$130 million, .260 AVG/.346 OBP/.476 SLG, 2.8 bWAR
After trading away C Carson Kelly, SP Luke Weaver, INF Andy Young, and a competitive balance draft pick to the Diamondbacks for their franchise star (no, not Greinke), the Cardinals acted fast to secure the first baseman for the future. This didn’t turn out so well at the beginning, as Goldy hit .181 in the month of June and the Cardinals slumped. But then he got hot, hitting .308 and, although it died down a bit, didn’t stop until they were swept by the Nationals in the NLCS. The Cardinals have locked a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman that can hit for power for four more years, and it will benefit them when they compete again for the NL Central.
SS Xander Bogaerts, BOS: 6 years/$120 million, vesting option for 2026, .309 AVG/.384 OBP/.555 SLG, 5.2 bWAR
After a strong 2018 campaign, Bogaerts managed to get even better, posting career-bests in OBP, SLG, OPS+ and many others, earning an All-Star nod along the way. Although the management is desperately seeking financial room for co-stars J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, they are definitely not regretting the Bogaerts contract. As he enters his prime, all signs point to Bogaerts getting better, which is necessary if the Red Sox want to get back to the playoffs after missing out in 2019.
SP Carlos Carrasco, CLE: 4 years/$47 million, 80.0 IP/5.29 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 0.3 WAR
It is unfair to judge Carrasco’s 2019 season, since he had to be shut down in June due to his battle with leukemia. But he made an improbable comeback in September, pitching out of the bullpen 11 times and even earning a save. Looking at the March-May stats however, it wasn’t good, as Carrasco struggled before his stint on IL. It would be interesting to see whether he returns to the rotation next season, as Terry Francona has many young starters such as Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac competing after a strong 2019.
SP Justin Verlander, HOU: 2 years/$66 million, 223.0 IP/2.58 ERA/0.80 WHIP, 7.8 WAR
Verlander has looked unbeatable ever since he was traded to the Astros. In 2019, he continued to excel and defy age in 2019, with the Cy Young most likely a coin toss between him and fellow teammate Gerrit Cole (who knows, they might both win!). He led the league in almost every category. (This includes wins, by the way. We at M-SABR just to make sure 2016 doesn’t repeat.) Despite this, he also gave up an eye-popping 36 home runs. As good as he was, he is still vulnerable in the juiced ball era. Verlander will continue to dominate opponents in his Hall of Fame career, but it will be interesting to see where this HR kryptonite takes him.
3B Matt Carpenter, STL: 2 years, $39 million, vesting option for 2021, .226 AVG/.334 OBP/.392 SLG, 0.8 bWAR
After a breakout summer in 2018, the Cardinals third baseman struggled in September, just like April and May of that season. He kept struggling, as he posted a .726 OPS but seemed to have broken out of it in September. As the whole Cardinals lineup struggled throughout the season, Carpenter will once again be a breakout candidate in 2020. Depending on how that goes next season, he may receive the vesting option.
DH Khris Davis, OAK: 2 years/$33.5 million, .220 AVG/.293 OBP/.387 SLG, -0.3 bWAR
The improbable streak of Khris Davis hitting .247 finally came to an end. Davis struggled, and posted a career-low in virtually every offensive category. He posted a negative WAR for the first time in his career; his previous low was a 0.9 bWAR mark in 2015. Regardless, he’s a bounceback candidate. The A’s would certainly want that to happen if they want to go deep into the postseason in 2020. If Davis can get his groove back, a lineup of Davis, Matt Chapman, and dark horse MVP candidate Marcus Semien lineup would be deadly.
CF Mike Trout, LAA: 12 years/$426.5 million, .291 AVG/.438 OBP/.645 SLG, 8.3 bWAR
Another season, another MVP season for the great Mike Trout. He managed to get better after signing the big contract, as he hit a career-high 45 HRs and slugged .645. This contract extension was a no-brainer move, and he will continue to prove that he is one of the best to play the game. With Joe Maddon hired as the new manager and the possibility of top-tier free agents signing with the Angels, there is the distinct possibility that we will finally witness postseason Trout for the first time since their sweep at the hands of the 2014 Royals.
OF Randal Grichuk, TOR: 5 years/$52 million, .232 AVG/.280 OBP/.457 SLG, 0.3 bWAR
Grichuk had a promising 2018 season that saw him signing a five-year extension, and he hit career-high 31 home runs as a result, but also set a career-high in strikeouts (163). He struggled mightily throughout the season but had also set a career-high in games, so he may come back next season with better results. Nonetheless, the results so far have been not so good for the Blue Jays.
SP Kyle Hendricks, CHC: 4 years/$55.5 million, vesting option for 2024, 177.0 IP/3.46 ERA/1.13 WHIP, 3.9 bWAR
Hendricks continues to show the world that it isn’t all about high-speed fastballs and overpowering hitters. He continued to pitch well in 2019, posting a 129 ERA+ and a career-high in K/BB (4.69). Hendricks isn’t a true staff ace but will be relied on heavily in David Ross’ first season at the Cubs’ helm as they attempt to take back the NL Central.
SP Jacob deGrom, NYM: 5 years/$137.5 million, $32.5 million club option for 2024, 204.0 IP/2.43 ERA/0.97 WHIP, 7.9 bWAR
Another Cy Young-worthy season from the reigning award winner. Although deGrom regressed from last season, the eye-popping numbers he posted last season were very unsustainable. However, he posted very similar results in metrics like K/9, K/BB, and WHIP to go along with his league-leading 255 strikeouts. He did allowe nine more home runs compared to last season, and those might have been the difference-maker from last season to now. Nevertheless, deGrom is an elite pitcher and the Mets would expect another dominant season from him as they try for the postseason in 2020 after just falling short in 2019.
SP Aaron Nola, PHI: 4 years/$45 million, 202.1 IP/3.87 ERA/1.26 WHIP, 3.9 bWAR
Nola had an off-year after finishing 3rd in NL Cy Young voting the season before. He struggled with pitch location but still managed to put above-average numbers. As Joe Girardi looks to take his new team back to the postseason in 2020, a rebounding 2018-esque Nola would be just the thing the Phillies need to compete for a playoff spot.
3B Alex Bregman, HOU: 5 years/$100 million, .296 AVG/.423 OBP/.592 SLG, 8.4 bWAR
There’s no question that Bregman is talented. The AL MVP candidate posted career-bests in almost every offensive category, leading the already star-studded Astros lineup to the World Series. He has been worth every penny for the mighty Astros and will continue to excel next season as the club attempt to win their second World Series in four years.
SP German Marquez, COL: 5 years/$43 million, club option for 2024, 174.0 IP/4.76 ERA/1.20 WHIP, 3.8 bWAR
Although a disappointing season from the Rockies saw them freefall from playoff contention during the summer, Marquez showed why the Rockies signed him long-term, as he put a career-high K/BB ratio. Clearly there is bias to his numbers from the “Coors effect,” as he posted a 3.67 ERA on the road and 6.26 ERA at home. The Rockies will try to get back into postseason contention with him and Jon Gray anchoring the rotation and a lineup led by the aforementioned Arenado. Marquez must continue to show his elite stuff, as the other options are questionable for the Rockies (Antonio Senzatela, Chad Bettis, and Kyle Freeland, just to name a couple)
SP Luis Severino, NYY: 4 years/$40 million, 2023 club option, 12.0 IP/1.50 ERA/1.00 WHIP, 0.6 bWAR
Severino pitched in only three games, so the stats tell us nothing. He had been injured all season long, so it’s hard to make any strong statements about this contract so far. But considering the desperation for starting pitching Yankees had faced all season, Severino’s absence was very impactful.
RP Jose Leclerc, TEX: 4 years/$14.75 million, 2023 and 2024 club options, 68.2 IP/4.33 ERA/1.32 WHIP, 1.4 bWAR
After a brilliant 2018 season saw him post a 1.56 ERA, this season seemed much more disappointing for the 25-year-old, as he put up an eyebrow-raising 5.1 BB/9. Some question marks remain about Leclerc’s control, as that is more in line with his career lines. He seemed to have a good season last year, but hopes to find and replicate that success in the 2020 campaign as the Rangers open their new ballpark.
SS Jorge Polanco, MIN: 5 years/$25.75 million, .295 AVG/.356 OBP/.485 SLG, 5.7 bWAR
Although he cooled down in the second half, Polanco was an All-Star and an AL MVP candidate back in May and June. He posted career-highs in every offensive statistical category, propelling the Twins to the ALDS. Him and Max Kepler should be very fun to watch, as the “Bomba Squad” attempts to take on the cream of the American League once more in 2020.
RF Max Kepler, MIN: 5 years/$35 million, .252 AVG/.336 OBP/.519 SLG, 4.0 bWAR
Another of the main members of the “Bomba Squad” that hit an atrocious number of HRs. With career-high 35 HRs, .519 SLG, and a 122 OPS+, Kepler was a home run threat at any given time when he was up. and what’s also amazing is his plate discipline: Kepler only accrued 99 strikeouts in 2019. If he can continue that production, the “Bomba Squad” has another good chance at the postseason in 2020 and should hope to go deeper this time.
SP Blake Snell, TBR: 5 years/$50 million, 107.0 IP/4.29 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 1.4 bWAR
After winning the Cy Young award last season, Snell regressed mightily. However, this was mostly because he put up unsustainable numbers last season. His stuff overall seemed more hittable in a rather disappointing season, but Snell should be able to make an adjustment during the offseason with the help of his ballclub’s elite pitching and analytics departments. He still posted okay numbers through an injury-plagued season. This year might not have gone the way he wanted it to, but bouncing back next season with Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos, and others in the rotation and bullpen will make this one of the toughest pitching team in the tough AL East.
2B/OF Whit Merrifield, KCR: 4 years/$16.25 million, 2023 club option, .302 AVG/.348 OBP/.463 SLG, 4.0 bWAR
It didn’t make sense as to why the rebuilding Royals would extend the contract of an aging second baseman but the value Merrifield brings, whether as a trade asset or in the lineup, is huge. He led the league in games played, at-bats, hits, and triples to show off his durability, contact hitting, and speed. He is an asset for many contenders looking for a middle infielder. Don’t be surprised if he is moved this offseason: he is signed for very cheap and is having some of the best seasons of his career. The Royals did a wonderful job securing the All-Star to a low-cost contract to allow potential suitors to still be interested.
LF Eloy Jimenez, CWS: 6 years/$43 million, 2025 and 2026 club options, .267 AVG/.315 OBP/.513 SLG, 1.4 bWAR
Many were worried about handing a prospect a long-term contract without a single major-league at-bat. He impressed in his first full campaign, as he hit for power with 35 HRs and .513 SLG. He still has a lot to prove and establish in the majors, but this is a great start for a rookie with big expectations and White Sox fans should be excited for the future he brings to the South Side.
2B Brandon Lowe, TBR: 6 years/$24 million, 2025, 2026 club options, .270 AVG/.336 OBP/.514 SLG, 2.9 bWAR
Another rookie, Lowe took off in the first half, but after earning an All-Star nod and early AL Rookie of the Year buzz, injuries sidelined and slowed him down towards the end of the season. If the first half of the 2019 season was an indicator of what he is capable of doing, the Rays scored big, as he will be a strong presence in the lineup that struggled offensively in the 2018 season.
OF Ronald Acuña Jr., ATL, 8 years/$100 million, 2027, 2028 club options, .280 AVG/.365 OBP/.518 SLG, 5.5 bWAR
An NL MVP candidate at age 21 sounds unreal, but if anyone can achieve that it’s Acuña. He was 3 stolen bases from achieving a 40/40 season, which is unbelievable considering he won Rookie of the Year award just one season prior. For a young player already being compared to the likes of Mike Trout as among the best in the game, the extension seems reasonable and the front office is surely happy with the results, hoping that he can achieve more as he hits his prime and can lead the Braves deeper into the playoffs.
INF David Bote, CHC: 5 years/$15 million, 2025, 2026 club options, .257 AVG/.362 OBP/.422 SLG, 2.0 bWAR
After his first full season in the majors, Bote failed to impress as he posted very pedestrian numbers in a star-studded lineup desperate for help—especially against left-handed pitching (which was solved by a trade for Nicholas Castellanos). He still has four more years in his very controllable contract, and David Ross and the management will hope for a bounce back season from the young infielder. Otherwise, it could be another wasted season for the Cubs.
2B Ozzie Albies, ATL: 7 years/$35 million, 2026, 2027 club options, .295 AVG/.352 OBP/.500 SLG, 4.8 bWAR
The other young Atlanta Brave who signed a long-term extension with the club, Albies managed to lead the majors in at-bats and hits, an incredible feat considering that his in-season struggles caused him to be demoted in the lineup. His offensive numbers are getting better yearly, and the dynamic duo of Albies and Acuña will be a must-watch for years to come.