Diving Into The Offseason: Rosario And Kepler Extensions?
Image courtesy of Troy Taormina, USA TodayMax Kepler and Eddie Rosario are being lumped together today since they are both left-handed hitting outfielders. They both will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after the 2018 season.
While they have different styles on the field, they have put up similar numbers. Rosario has 50 home runs in less than three years. Kepler has 36 home runs in less than two years. Rosario had his breakout season in 2017, but Kepler is one year younger.
Eddie Rosario has 2.120 years of service time which left him just three days short of being a Super-2 arbitration guy this offseason. Max Kepler has 1.152 years of service time. Assuming he spends all of 2018 in the big leagues, he’s certain to be a Super-2 arbitration guy after the 2018 season. That also means that he will have four arbitration seasons.
So where do we start with this discussion? Hey, I think that the ultimate comparable deal for these guys happens to be an infielder. A year ago, Jose Ramirez signed a long-term contract that will guarantee he’s in Cleveland from 2017 through 2021, and includes options for 2022 and 2023. The deal is five years and $25.5 million.
In his All-Star 2017 season, he made $571,400. He’ll make $2.48 million in 2018, in what would have been his first arbitration season. That will be followed by salaries of $3.75 million and $6.25 million. The deal then will buy out his first free agent season for just $9.0 million. Cleveland will also have options for two more years, one at $11.0 million and the other at $13.0 million. Based on his 2017 season, that will prove to be a tremendous contract for Cleveland. What would he have made in arbitration coming off that year? $5 million? Maybe more? And, what would a long-term contract have cost Cleveland if they had waited until now? Probably $25-30 million just in his arbitration years, and then at least $18-20 million a year for a couple of free agent seasons. In fact, at that point, is there any true value for Cleveland not to just go year-by-year, other than keeping his rights into his free agent years?
Here are some outfielders who have signed extensions in the last half-dozen years or so.
Aside from Maybin, the others waited another year, until they had reached arbitration, to reach a long-term agreements. But the numbers still give some range for a potential deal for Rosario or Kepler.
Here is a group of players who went year-to-year in arbitration. Nelson Cruz signed a one-year deal in his first arbitration deal. Then he signed a two-year deal after that.
Finally, here is a group of outfielders who went through the arbitration process for the first time in 2017. This might give a good idea of what Rosario and Kepler could command or receive in arbitration next offseason.
That’s quite a bit of information for you to consume as you consider what the Twins should offer Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario in terms of long-term security. Below is a chart with two offers that I would start with, feeling that it is equitable for both the team and the player, understanding the risk/reward for each side. Again, it is important to note the distinction between the two players in terms of arbitration, as Kepler will have a fourth arbitration season before becoming a free agent.
The deal above for Eddie Rosario equates to five years and $28.5 million. The first option year has a $1 million buyout, so it could be a six year, $41 million, and with a second option (also a $1 million option) could make it work seven years and $54 million.
For Kepler, the contract is worth $48 million over seven years with an option that could make it work $61 million over eight years.
In both cases, the player would likely prefer the deal be for two years less so that they could be free agents at age 30, but again, that is the risk for the player in a long-term deal and obtaining ten lifetime’s worth of guaranteed money.
The Twins would have to make an assumption that Rosario will continue to improve his strike zone judgment and continue to become more consistent. For a Kepler deal at this time, the Twins would need to make an assumption that he will improve his performance against southpaws and continue to add more power.
So, what do you think? Should the Twins have conversations with Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, or both? What are the risk factors in your mind? What would you do as the Twins GM?
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