Making official what was first reported two weeks ago, the Cubs have finalized a seven-year, $60 million contract extension with shortstop Starlin Castro that includes a team option for 2020.
Castro is making the minimum salary this season and would have been arbitration eligible for the first time next year. And as a “Super Two” player he would have had four total seasons of arbitration eligibility before reaching free agency.
All of which means the seven-year extension covers all four arbitration seasons and his first three free agent seasons while giving the Cubs a $16 million option or $1 million buyout on his fourth free agent year. Carrie Muskat of MLB.com has the year-by-year breakdown:
Signing bonus: $6 million
2013: $5 million
2014: $5 million
2015: $6 million
2016: $7 million
2017: $9 million
2018: $10 million
2019: $11 million
2020: $16 million option or $1 million buyout
Compared to his rookie and sophomore campaigns Castro has taken a step backward this season, hitting .276 with a .729 OPS, but he’s already reached a career-high with 12 homers in 127 games and at age 22 there’s still plenty of room for further development.
Castro already has 1,761 career plate appearances with a month to go in his age-22 season. In the history of baseball the only shortstops with more plate appearances through age 22 are Robin Yount, Edgar Renteria, Alex Rodriguez, Elvis Andrus, Arky Vaughan, and Travis Jackson. If he turns out to be as good as the worst player on that list the Cubs will have gotten a bargain in Castro’s extension, which covers the rest of his twenties.
Bryce Harper has come back down to earth following a great start to his career, hitting just .214 with a .594 OPS in his last 40 games and .171 since the All-Star break.
His overall OPS is in danger of dipping below .750 for the first time since May 19 and the 19-year-old told James Wagner of the Washington Post that he’s searching for answers:
I’m all over the place right now. So I’m trying to find some mellowness at the plate and in the box. Just trying to work at it everyday and try to take something good from every at-bat and take something good from every game.
It’s certainly not surprising that a 19-year-old rookie is going through an extended slump after a strong start and even with his overall numbers declining rapidly Harper is still having a historic season for someone his age.
Among all the 19-year-olds in baseball history to log at least 300 plate appearances in a season Harper’s current .758 OPS ranks sixth-best behind Met Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Mickey Mantle, Cesar Cedeno, and Freddie Lindstrom. And directly in front of Edgar Renteria, Ty Cobb, and Ken Griffey Jr.
Last night Bryce Harper launched a mammoth home run and then gave the leader in the clubhouse for best quote of the season, and he’s already followed that up by hitting a double this afternoon against the Blue Jays.
Midway through his 41st career game Harper is now hitting .309 with a .391 on-base percentage and .559 slugging percentage, which is good for a .950 OPS that would be the highest for a 19-year-old in baseball history.
Here’s the all-time leaderboard among 19-year-olds with at least 200 plate appearances:
Mel Ott 1928 .921
Tony Conigliaro 1964 .883
Mickey Mantle 1951 .792
Cesar Cedeno 1970 .790
Freddie Lindstrom 1925 .761
Edgar Renteria 1996 .757
Ty Cobb 1906 .749
Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 .748
That’s quite a list.
He’ll inevitably go through a rough patch at some point and may come back down to earth a bit in general, but so far Harper has shown no signs of slowing down and in fact has hit .370 in his last 100 trips to the plate.
Right now it’s not a stretch to say that Harper is the best 19-year-old hitter of all time.
Bryce Harper joined Ken Griffey Jr., Andruw Jones, and B.J. Upton as the only 19-year-olds to bat third in a big-league game since 1980, but now he’s on the move in the Nationals’ lineup again.
Harper, who debuted as a No. 7 hitter before shifting to the No. 3 slot, is batting No. 2 tonight because Ryan Zimmerman is off the disabled list and back is his usual third spot.
Using that same since-1980 cutoff, the only previous 19-year-olds to bat second in an MLB game are Edgar Renteria, Ivan Rodriguez, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Jones, Griffey, and Upton. Not quite as exclusive in terms of company, but Harper is once again linked with some pretty big names.
More power to him if Erick Aybar loves Southern California and didn’t want to play anywhere else. He still should have done better than $35 million for four years in his new extension with the Angels.
$8.75 million per year is less than Julio Lugo got in his four-year deal with the Red Sox six years ago. It’s less than a well past his prime Edgar Renteria got from the Giants in a two-year deal for 2009-10. It’s barely more than Cristian Guzman earned in 2009-10.
And in case no one has noticed, the price tags have generally gone up since then. Aybar’s only rival at shortstop in free agency this winter would have been Stephen Drew, and at this point, there’s no telling if Drew is going to be a viable long-term shortstop after last year’s ankle injury. It’s possible no other starting shortstops will hit free agency this winter: Jhonny Peralta’s option is almost certain to be picked up by the Tigers, and Jason Bartlett and Alex Gonzalez both have 2013 options that figure to vest if they stay healthy.
Aybar may not be thought of as a star, but he certainly ranks among the game’s top 10 shortstops with his plus glove and .695 career OPS. Hitting free agency at age 29, he probably would have gotten $50 million for five years as a minimum. Instead, he settled for $35 million and didn’t even get no-trade protection in the bargain. Angels fans should be thrilled.