Friday, February 15, 2019

Extending Polanco and Kepler

The Twins today are expected to announce multi-year deals with Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler:

What strikes me about these reported lengths of contract is that the Twins are not just getting their arbitration seasons but eating free-agency seasons as well. That's unusual. The Twins have, with some frequency, bought out arbitration seasons. It has been rare that those deals have delayed free agency.

The union, or at least veteran players, has tended to discourage young players from doing that. "Bet on yourself" has been a common saying. Buying out arbitration years is one thing -- arbitration contracts aren't guaranteed -- but giving up years of free agency is another.

But both Polanco and Kepler are doing so. With the options, both could be surrendering their first two free agent seasons. And both could be well into their 30s by the time they get to test the market.

This is, I think, evidence of the profound change in free agency the past two winters. Kepler (who was a Super Two arbitration-eligible player this winter) and Polanco (still pre-arbitration) are high-floor players in their mid-20s. There's still time for some growth for both, but neither is likely to turn into a perennial All-Star or an MVP candidate. 

These deals may limit the high-end of their future earnings, but they emphatically raise the floor of what they would get in their 20s. And the direction of the free agent market hasn't been kind to free agents turning 30. Kepler and Polanco are getting what they can now.

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