Cleveland's Controllable Rotation Presents Blueprint for Twins
Image courtesy of David Richard, USA TodayIn a letter to season-ticket holders, Falvey used a familiar term when rationalizing the club's deadline fire-sale, referencing a desire to "achieve sustainable championship-caliber baseball." Admittedly, it sounds like the usual jargon of front office types trying to soothe an agitated fanbase amidst tumultuous times, but... Falvey is a bit of an authority on the subject.
He was a key fixture in Cleveland's front office when the Indians struck long-term deals with Kluber (a five-year, $38.5 million extension) and Carrasco (four years, $22 million) on the same weekend in April of 2015. Kluber was four years away from free agency, Carrasco three.
The figures listed above don't fully convey the beauty of these incredibly team-friendly contracts, both of which include a pair of economical team option years.
Although Carrasco's guaranteed term expires after this year, Cleveland can bring him back for $9 million in 2019 and $9.5 million 2020. Given that the 31-year-old is once again performing at an exemplary level, those decisions are looking like no-brainers.
The same is true for Kluber's options in 2020 ($13.5M) and 2021 ($14M). A two-time (so far) Cy Young winner making Ricky Nolasco-type money. Wow.
Granted, the salaries for both players can escalate based on Cy Young finishes, but either way we are talking about unbelievably favorable pacts for the club, which set itself up for inexpensive prolonged control if the starters fulfilled their promise (as they have), with escape valves if things went awry.
In retrospect, these contracts almost seem too good to be true. But they speak to the powerful value of long-term security for a young and somewhat unestablished major-league pitcher. It's not like Kluber or Carrasco were leveraged all that much; the former was coming off a Cy Young season in 2014, and the latter had broken out with a 2.55 ERA in 134 frames.
But when you've earned relatively little, and you know you're one elbow pinch away from everything changing, the prospect of many millions in guaranteed money can be very alluring.
Which brings us back to Mr. Falvey, and his current position overseeing baseball operations for the Minnesota Twins. He now finds himself with another rising frontline arm in Jose Berrios.
Like Cleveland, Minnesota faces finite payroll constraints. Maintaining a reasonable price tag on core pieces like Berrios is critical in the "sustainable championship-caliber baseball" framework, and it's why those savvy extensions for Kluber and Carrasco are such critical ingredients in Cleveland's ongoing supremacy.
Berrios is under team control for four more seasons after this one. The Twins have almost no hope of a striking deal with him quite as favorable as those of Kluber and Carrasco – both late bloomers who followed winding paths to stardom. Berrios is a 24-year-old All-Star with an impeccable record of health; needless to say, it'll be tougher to impress upon him the downside of holding steady and betting on himself.
But that downside exists. He and his agent both know it. No one is invincible. With free agency still so far away, the Twins have enough leverage to work out a mutually beneficial deal that locks up Berrios into his 30s while still giving the team some protection.
I really like the makeup of those Kluber/Carrasco contracts – the team option years are fairly cheap but in both cases can be increased up to $4 million by Cy Young finishes, bringing them closer to market value. So in a way, the pitchers still were able to bet on themselves, and remain highly incentivized to keep improving.
I don't believe Berrios needs that incentive. But, knowing what I know about him, I think he'd embrace it.
Whatever the terms, Minnesota would be very wise to make an extension for Berrios their No.1 priority for the offseason. Obviously, that'll mean loosening their stance after they reportedly tried and came short last winter.
But a rotation building block is worth his weight in gold. No one needs to tell Derek Falvey that.
- beckmt, mikelink45, SF Twins Fan and 1 other like this