The Miami Marlins and Dee Gordon have embarked once again on contract extension talks in the hopes of getting a deal done. Last week, we discussed the possibility of a short extension lasting only through arbitration, but it sounds as though both sides are looking to go a little longer. From Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:
The Marlins and Dee Gordon are taking about a possible very long deal that could keep Gordon in Miami well into his free-agent years. The Marlins, according to sources, have offered a five-year deal, with Gordon seeking a deal of seven years. While things are said to be moving slowly, at least they are moving.
The Marlins are going a pretty traditional route in terms of contract extensions by seeking a five-year deal that would buy out two free agent seasons. Gordon and his crew are countering with a star-quality deal: a seven-year contract extension heading into his second arbitration season that would buy out four free agent years but guarantee a salary for much of the rest of his career. Both deals presumably would keep Gordon around for a long time, but would either be beneficial for the Marlins?
Five Year Option
The five-year deal is a pretty typical contract for any player signing an extension during arbitration. The key to these types of deals is usually to buy out one or two free agent years in return for guaranteeing the arbitration seasons and ensuring the player that he will not be released and be out of a salary for one bad season. For Gordon, this would be a benefit, because despite his track record from the last two seasons, he is still a player who is highly dependent on two tools that can falter in any given year.
The baseline we set in our previous article for a three-year arbitration deal would be three years and $28 million to $30 million. Tacking on two free agent years would add a reasonable sum of money to this contract. If we presume $28 million, Gordon may reasonably make $16 million for the two free agent years for which he is signed in the future; this would be $3 million more than the final arbitration salary of $13 million that might be expected. That makes the total deal a five-year contract worth $60 million.
The numerical value of that deal is nothing astronomical, and even in the late stages of the deal, the Marlins would be paying for less than two wins a season. However, it is guaranteeing Gordon money that he may not necessarily need guaranteed. He would be entering his age 31 season for his first free agent year, and that is typically a time period in which second basemen begin struggling, if they have not already started. The position traditionally has a bad attrition rate, so the Marlins would be banking on Gordon to continue his rising trend from the last two years.
Of course, a five-year deal would be more amenable than a seven-year contract, which is what Gordon's team is asking for. A seven-year deal would be worth a far greater sum. If we presume a salary increase of $2 million in those final two years of the deal, such a contract would look like a seven-year, $96 million deal.
Have there been similar contracts in the past? Chase Utley signed a seven-year, $85 million contract that included his first arbitration season, but he was a star by the time he hit arbitration and also was heading into only his first arbitration year. Plus, that contract was signed in 2007, which is ages ago. Dustin Pedroia signed an even cheaper deal heading into his third pre-arbitration year in 2008 that gave the team seven years of control and thus bought out three free agent years. Robinson Cano signed a four-year deal with two team options heading into his first arbitration year, with the total payout adding up to $59 million.
A look at the current crop of second basemen in baseball shows very few players who signed long-term during their arbitration seasons. A few of them, like Utley and Pedroia, had established themselves as superstar talents before signing their long deals. Utley signed his seven-year pact after a seventh-place finish in the MVP award ballot. Pedroia came off of an MVP win in 2008 before signing in 2009. Gordon has not hit either of those levels yet, and the vast majority of other keystoners have never earned a contract that large in arbitration. Cano was the closest comparison, as he had earned one All-Star bid and had two strong seasons before signing.
This all makes the seven-year deal a lot less likely, as there simply is not great precedent for it. Right now, the Marlins should still be worried about handing out a five-year deal, let alone a longer commitment to a second baseman. Gordon may not get the deal he is expecting, and that may be OK for the Fish.