Yankee policy is to discuss contract extensions only before free agency, but it hasn’t stopped us from bringing up possible extensions for Russell Martin, Curtis Granderson, and Robinson Cano over the last week. Extensions, especially to young players, have been a big talking point this offseason. Matt Moore and Salvador Perez received long term extensions before they could even finish a full year in the majors, something of a growing habit for small market teams. William took a look at extensions given to young players recently, and found that while position players traditionally receive early extensions, the price of pitching should cause teams to reconsider extending starters.
With the failure to find a number two starter over the last few years, the price of pitchers on the free agent and trade market, and a budget to maintain in the upcoming years, Cashman should begin to consider extending two of his young pitchers. Yes, a team with a small budget may not have considered extending a young pitching prospect in the past based on the general health inconsistencies at the position, but the Yankees have enough money to absorb the few million guaranteed in extensions. Assuming Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova continue the success they saw last year into the 2012 season, a Moore-like extension of 5 years at $14m with 3 team options could keep the players under team control until 2020. Pineda and Nova appear to be the future #2 and #3 pitchers for the team, and if even one ends up fulfilling their ceiling, an extension could save the Yankees a lot of money and headache.
The team will end up spending around $53m on the starting rotation this year, about the same total salary of the Rays. Despite this, the Rays are projected to have a better rotation, so it’s clear who has managed their money smarter. Taking a page from the small market team, the Yankees could solve some big problems by ending their policy of anti-extensions. For one, if Nova and Pineda reach their ceilings, they’ll be looking at some hefty arbitration numbers in 2015-2016, when the 35 year old Sabathia will be making $25m. Also, the 2017 season could see all three pitchers becoming free agent market, forcing the Yankees to replace the front end of their rotation in one season. But why not solve these problems with a relatively low risk?
The total guaranteed money in an extension to Pineda or Nova would be less than the total money they’re paying to have AJ Burnett pitch on the Pirates. My opinion is that early extensions are relatively low risk when you view their upside, a low risk with high reward. If Pineda and Nova show another year of success, wrapping them up makes the most sense to me. The stubborn policy of waiting until free agency hits is becoming a relic of the past, extensions are the new way for teams to save money, and the Yankees will be left in dust if they don’t change their ways. Using this small market tactic should begin with their young pitchers.