Two weeks after handing Matt Cain a five-year, $121.5 million contract extension the Giants have locked up Madison Bumgarner long term as well, signing the 22-year-old left-hander to a five-year deal with team options for 2018 and 2019. According to his agents the contract is worth $35 million in guaranteed money.
In terms of service time Cain and Bumgarner are much different, as Cain would have been eligible for free agency after this season and Bumgarner isn’t even arbitration eligible yet.
San Francisco already had Bumgarner under team control through 2016, so this deal simply pre-pays for his three arbitration seasons and buys out his first year of free agency while giving the Giants an opportunity to keep him off the open market for two additional years. If they exercise both options he won’t be a free agent until 2020, at age 30.
As with any long-term commitment to a 22-year-old pitcher there’s lots of risk involved, but Bumgarner was considered an elite prospect in the minors and has already established himself as one of baseball’s best left-handed starters with a 3.12 ERA and 292/79 K/BB ratio in 337 career innings.
Now that the Giants control Cain through 2018 and Bumgarner through 2019 they may not feel as much pressure to break the bank for Tim Lincecum, who has another year and $22 million left on his deal, although certainly no amount of top-notch young rotation depth makes losing a two-time Cy Young winner to free agency before age 30 any easier.
Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.
While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.
Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”
Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.
If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.