Most Phillies fans around these parts have talked about Ruben Amaro going after Michael Bourn. But like Yoda said — and now Jon Heyman reports — there is another:
The Braves will make a qualifying offer Friday to Michael Bourn, and the Rays will make one to B.J. Upton, as well. But the top two free-agent center fielders on the market will turn those offers down and are more likely to sign long free-agent deals elsewhere … Baseball officials still see the Nationals as the favorites for Bourn, while the Phillies are seen as an early favorite for Upton.
Boras bluster and perception aside, I’m not sure that Upton wouldn’t be the better signing. he’s younger than Bourn even though it seems like he’s been around forever. And one gets the sense — and maybe it’s just wishful thinking, I’ll admit — that Upton has some crazy monster season in him at some point. A blip season, perhaps, that one day later we call a fluke, but one like that all the same.
Moreover, Bourn would probably be more expensive than Upton, and that could be a consideration. It’s hard to say what the budget constraints are for the Phillies. Yes, they have a big payroll already, but they also have a new TV deal coming in a couple of years that will likely give them a lot more dough.
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.