The reported extensions of the Mets’ Jeff McNeil and Rays’ Yandy Díaz are worth a combined $74 million. The Rockies’ Ryan McMahon, when he was in the exact same service class as McNeil and Díaz nearly a year ago, got $70 million.
McMahon’s career OPS+ was 12 percent below league average when he agreed to his extension as a player with four-plus years of experience. McNeil’s career OPS+ is 28 percent above league average, and he is coming off a season in which he led the majors in batting average and played quality defense in both the infield and outfield. Díaz is 20 percent above league average, and coming off a season in which he was fifth overall in on-base percentage and appeared in a career-high 137 games.
McMahon had the advantage of youth. He was entering his age 27 season at the time of his deal, putting him four years ahead of where McNeil and Díaz are currently. He also had strong defensive metrics at third base and the types of counting numbers — 23 homers, 86 RBIs in his most recent and productive offensive season — that carry significant weight in salary arbitration. Still, McMahon’s six-year contract provides ample fodder for those on the players’ side who believe Díaz and especially McNeil sacrificed too much in their respective deals.
Welcome to extension season. Fans often fail to grasp that the multi-year “bargains” teams strike with arbitration-eligible and pre-arbitration players are negotiated without the benefit of open bidding. Player representatives often bemoan deals by their peers that they perceive to be below market value. Club officials often hem and haw about the risks they are taking when in some cases they are getting players for far less than they actually are worth.
I’ve written enough about these deals where I see the logic in everyone’s arguments. The players who are willing to exchange financial upside for long-term security. The dissenting agents who would prefer those players to push the market for the benefit of those who follow. The club officials who argue that players who reject such deals sometimes carry a mental burden, knowing what they might have earned.