It's time to speculate as to which players on the Twins' 40-man roster might be worthy of a contract extension.
One week ago, the Twins announced their three-year extension for Glen Perkins. The $10.3 million dollar deal locks him up through 2015 with an option for 2016, buying out his final year of arbitration and his first two (possibly three) years of free agency. Both sides gave a little something to get a little something, and it's an easy deal to like.
Contract extensions are traditionally offered to veteran players like Perkins. In recent years the Twins have extended large offers to Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer, and Justin Morneau. Teams will sign up veterans for any number of reasons, whether it's helping the themselves avoid getting into a situation where the player could test free agency, or rewarding the player, or simply locking down some cost certainty.
The Twins have also done the envogue thing a few times over the last couple of years, extending to younger players some smaller offers while they were more than a year away from free agency. Scott Baker (4 years, $15.25 million, 2009), Nick Blackburn (4 years, $14 million, 2010), and Denard Span (5 years, $16.5 million 2010) all signed very good contracts.
When the Padres signed Cameron Maybin to his five-year, $25 million dollar contract less than two weeks ago, it was widely seen as a good deal. The Padres bought out his three arbitration-eligible seasons for a contract that, while bigger than the Baker/Blackburn/Span deals, is still closer to those than the Mauer or Nathan type offers. But there's a type of long-term contract that's seen as even sexier in recent months: the long-term contract to young cornerstone players.
Analysts tend to gush about the Rays, and with good reason. In December they signed Matt Moore, a 22-year old right hander with exactly 9.1 Major League innings under his belt, to a five-year $14 million dollar contract which would be worth up to $40 million over eight years. There's a fine line between madness and genius, but it's hard to argue with a contract that won't break the team if things fall apart, yet will greatly reward the player (still without breaking the team) if the player succeeds.
While granting that the Twins do not have a Matt Moore type of young talent on their roster at the present time, can we still identify a few players who might fit into the mold of one of these contractual extensions? Absolutely we can. But seriously, probably only a couple.
About to enter his age-28 season, a lot of people would be skeptical of extending Liriano after the season he just had. But then again, some of those people (you know how you are) would have handed out high fives like cigars for their first born if the Twins would have extended him following his resurgent 2010 campaign. The question is, as it always is with these deals: how do you reward the player while still protecting the team?
If Liriano gets hurt, the Twins would have insurance to cover his salary. So, step one is determining the minimum average salary he'd be worth, and it'd have to be at least marginally higher than the $5.5 million he's making in 2012. But if he stays healthy and reaches performance based incentives, it has to be lucrative enough that it would convince him to forego free agency.
My starting point: a three-year extension worth $18 million with an option and escalators that could make the deal worth four and $40 million.
Like Liriano, Revere is something of a polarizing figure. Except where even pessimists on Liriano will admit to the potential for some pretty exciting upside, there are those who don't see a high ceiling for Revere because of his skill set. The good news, whether you believe in Revere's upside or not, is that it's so early in his service time process that his contract doesn't need to have the flexibility of Liriano's.
Having accrued just 167 days on the Major League roster so far, Revere will still need to play three full seasons before he becomes arbitration eligible. Assuming he remains on the roster full time going forward, that sets him up for his first arbitration year heading into 2015 (at age 27) and would schedule him to be a free agenct entering 2018 (age 30).
My starting point: With three pretty inexpensive seasons on the horizon, followed by the 40/60/80 (very general) rules for the three years of arbitration, I'd lock Revere up through his 20s. His extension would run 2013 - 2017; five years for $13 million.
Admittedly the Twins don't have a lot of talent on the roster that is in a position to be locked up long term, for a number of reasons. Yet teams are always looking toward the future, and being able to sign your talent to a good deal helps the organization show faith to the players and to the fans, and being able to project your payroll with additional accuracy is always a help, too.