Nolan Arenado
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Nolan Arenado, Rockies finalizing eight-year, $260 million contract extension

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Nolan Arenado and the Colorado Rockies are finalizing an eight-year, contract extension worth $260 million. Jeff Passan of ESPN says the deal includes an opt-out after three years.

At $32.5 million a year, the contract makes Arenado the highest-paid position player on an average annual basis in the game’s history, topping Miguel Cabrera‘s $31 million a year deal. The highest per-year salary overall remains Zack Geinke’s $34.4 million/year deal with the Diamondbacks. The largest total contract ever given out was by Marlins, who agreed to give Giancarlo Stanton $325 million. The largest free agent deal was the $300 million the Padres recently agreed to pay Manny Machado. No matter how you slice it, however, Arenado is going to make a lot of money and the deal will keep him in Colorado for the foreseeable future.

Arenado and the Rockies recently agreed to a $26 million salary for the 2019 season, avoiding arbitration. That deal — and, quite obviously, this extension — reflects the fact that Arenado is one of the best players in baseball. Last season, he hit .297/.374/.561 with 38 home runs, 110 RBI, and 104 runs scored in 673 plate appearances, won his sixth consecutive NL Gold Glove at third base, made the All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year, and finished third in NL MVP balloting.

Mariners agree to a six-year contract with prospect Evan White

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This is a rare one: the Mariners have signed first base prospect Evan White — a player who has yet to play a game above Double-A — to a six-year, $24 million contract. The deal has three club options as well that, if exercised, could make it max out at $55.5 million over nine years.

White was the M’s first round pick in the 2017 draft, going 17th overall out of the University of Kentucky. In 2019 he played at Double-A Arkansas in the Texas League, hitting .293/.350/.488 with 18 home runs, striking out 92 times and walking 29 times in 92 games. It’s a good line in a league that is pretty pitcher-friendly. Stuart also reportedly plays excellent defense at first base.

Clearly the Mariners consider White a part of their future, but unless White flames out early in his career, he’s leaving a lot of potential money on the table.

White turns 24 early next season, which means that, even if he begins the 2020 season in the majors, starting his major league service time clock on Opening Day, he wouldn’t reach free agency until he’s poised to begin his age-33 season, assuming the Mariners exercise those options. If the Mariners place him in Triple A for anything beyond a couple of weeks to start next season, that changes to his age-34 season. A full year of Triple-A action and even some modest service time manipulation by the M’s in 2021 would put it off even longer.

At the same time, a team is unlikely to want to pay a guy millions to toil in the minors — and the M’s are guaranteeing themselves as many as nine years of White’s services — so the threat of service time manipulation is greatly reduced. Which means that, if he hits, he plays. Of course, if he hits well and continues to do so, the Mariners will have a considerable bargain on their hands, with a potential franchise cornerstone locked up at an average of $6 million and change a year for nearly a decade.

As we’ve noted so often when discussing extensions with young players, that’s the tradeoff. After today, White could hit like Mario Mendoza, field like Dick Stuart and be drummed out of baseball before he’s 30 and, assuming he’s even moderately sensible, still have enough money to set himself up for life. If he turns into a real star he’ll make less than half of what he’s worth in his career. His alternative: wait at least four years and maybe five to reach arbitration and three more after that until he can be a free agent. Assuming arbitration and free agency exist after the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021.

So, let’s check back in a few years before passing ultimate judgment.