Salvador Perez was a special case — so vastly underpaid and so valuable that the Royals agreed to restructure his contract, signing him on Tuesday to a five-year, $52.5 million extension that begins in 2017.
Still, might this become a trend?
Perez, 25, is not the only player who agreed to a below-market deal that left him dramatically underpaid. But it will be interesting to see if other teams become more willing to renegotiate club-friendly deals.
The Royals did not need to redo their All-Star catcher’s contract — they had guaranteed Perez $7 million at a time when he had only 158 plate appearances in the majors and had not shown he could hit in the minors.
They also understood that Perez, 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, frequently gets struck by foul balls at a time when concussions are becoming an increasing source of concern in all sports.
Yet, something was wrong here, and everyone in baseball knew it.
Perez, the reigning World Series MVP, did not complain about his under-valued deal, which was negotiated by his previous agent, Gustavo Vasquez. But his new agents at the Beverly Hills Sports Council were right to ask for a restructuring.
The Royals, in turn, knew that Perez was one of their leaders, a landmark figure who helped the team achieve back-to-back Series appearances.
The Royals, in turn, knew that Perez was one of their leaders, a landmark figure who helped the team achieve back-to-back Series appearances. And they knew that by baseball standards, he was practically an indentured servant.
Perez’s original five-year, $7 million contract included three club options beyond this season that, after escalators, were worth a total of $16.5 million, according to Yahoo Sports.
The new deal, which includes a $6 million signing bonus and tops out with $13 million salaries in both 2020 and ’21, is much fairer.
So, who’s next?
Six players immediately come to mind, but make no mistake — all of them agreed to their contracts, and their teams are not obligated to make any sort of adjustments.
On the other hand, it can be argued that each of the six is as valuable to their clubs as Perez is to the Royals.
*Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks. Entering third year of five-year, $32 million contract.
Goldschmidt, second in OPS only to Bryce Harper in the National League last season, will earn $5.75 million in 2016. The DBacks control him through ’19, including with a $14.5 million club option.
That’s right: Goldschmidt’s highest possible salary under this contract is $1.3 million less than the value of the qualifying offer in 2015 (the qualifying offer is determined by averaging the 125 top salaries from the previous season).
DBacks general manager Dave Stewart told CBSSports.com last August that he wants to make Goldschmidt a "lifetime" Diamondback.
*Anthony Rizzo, Cubs. Entering fourth year of seven-year, $41 million contract.
Aug 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (44) hits a solo home run during the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Rizzo, fourth in the NL in OPS last season, will earn $5 million in ’16. His deal includes escalators that could increase future salaries, and $14.5 million club options for 2020 and ’21.
Think about it — those options are four and five years away, and like Goldschmidt’s option for ’19, they currently are $1.3 million below the value of the qualifying offer.
Rizzo, like Goldschmidt, would not be a free agent until he was 32.
*Jose Altuve, Astros. Entering third year of four-year, $12.5 million contract.
Altuve, the 2014 AL batting champion and a three-time All-Star, will earn $3.5 million this season. His deal includes club options in 2018 and ’19, which would have been his first two free-agent years.
The values of those options: $6 million and $6.5 million.
*Chris Sale, White Sox. Entering fourth year of five-year, $32.5 million contract.
… let’s make one thing clear: Pitchers, because they face greater injury risk than position players, are less logical candidates for extensions.
Before going any further, let’s make one thing clear: Pitchers, because they face greater injury risk than position players, are less logical candidates for extensions.
Many in the industry viewed Sale as a breakdown candidate when the White Sox awarded him his current deal in March, 2013. But the team took the chance, and Sale recently told the Chicago Tribune that he considered all of the possibilities at the time and remains comfortable with his deal.
Sale, had he gone year to year, would have been a free agent after this season. Instead, he will make $9.15 million in what would have been his final year of arbitration, then $12 million in what would have been his first free-agent year. His deal also includes club options of $12.5 million and $13.5 million for 2018 and ’19.
*Madison Bumgarner, Giants. Entering fourth year of five-year, $35 million contract.
Bumgarner’s contract, at the time he signed it in April 2012, was the largest awarded to a player with less than two years of service time. But with a salary of $9.75 million this season, he entered spring training as the Giants’ lowest-paid starter.
Next season is the final guaranteed year of Bumgarner’s agreement, but the Giants also hold $12 million club options on him for 2018 and ’19. In other words, Bumgarner’s highest potential salary in this deal is $6 million lower than Jeff Samardzija’s average annual value and almost $10 million lower than Johnny Cueto’s.
Neither of those pitchers was MVP of the 2014 NLCS and World Series. Bumgarner, like Sale, could have been entering his free-agent year this season. But, also like Sale, he has expressed no dissatisfaction with his contract.
No matter: Giants GM Bobby Evans said recently that he has discussed the subject with Bumgarner’s agent, Mark Pieper, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
*Chris Archer, Rays. Entering third year of six-year, $25.5 million contract.
The Rays took a gamble on Archer, signing him when he had less than one year of service. In exchange, Archer, allowed the club to gain control over him for eight seasons; his deal includes club options of $9 million in 2020 and $11 million in ’21.
Archer, 27, is almost a year older than Bumgarner, but not nearly as established. Still, he is rapidly emerging as one of the game’s top pitchers and role models.
In Nov. 2012, the Rays exercised three club options on third baseman Evan Longoria while signing him to a six-year, $100 million extension. Longoria, though, was a position player, one who is now in decline.
If Archer stays healthy, he would be a better candidate for a trade than extension. His contract makes him valuable not just to the Rays, but also to other clubs.