Extend Patience and Power (and Gaby too)

The following table has the three most important position players on the Marlins’s roster, at least when it comes to this upcoming offseason’s plans.

Player, 2011 PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Logan Morrison 134 .325 .410 .570 .421
Mike Stanton 190 .259 .337 .542 .379
Gaby Sanchez 224 .314 .397 .460 .389

This trio of players is going to play a pivotal role not only during this 2011 season but in the years to come. Morrison, Sanchez, and Stanton are each going to be vital parts of the team for the next few years, and the early starts to their 2011 season along with their 2010 performances have only continued to solidify that fact. With the Marlins heading into the new stadium next season, they will need a core nucleus of young stars to build around, and whom better to go to than these three gentlemen?

This of course brings me to my obvious next point. How will the Marlins ensure that they keep these three players over a long period of time? Sure, each of them are under team control through 2015, but the Marlins would be wise to strike a deal with each of these players so that their tenure here can be more assured. In the last two seasons, the Fish have shown a willingness to sign the right players to long-term deals, inking Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, and Ricky Nolasco to multi-year contracts that bought out some free-agent seasons from these players. For this trio, the team could look to take this a step further and extend immediately, such as by the end of this season.

The benefits of extension

The core benefit to inking an extension for a player under team control is security. They know that their services will be retained during their pre-arbitration seasons, but their arbitration years are no guarantee, particularly if they begin to play poorly. Players value receiving their first large guaranteed sum of money, and such a guarantee should not be underestimated.

Teams benefit from an extension by locking in prices right now regardless of performance and receiving the bonus of potentially bought-out free agent years. If any of the three players begin to perform at an extremely high level (and at least two of them seem very likely to do so), their arbitration seasons are going to reach very expensive levels; buying out those arbitration years at a fair, easily projectable scale based on current performance would save the team quite a few dollars in case any of the three become superstars. In addition, if the team can buy out any number of free agent years, they will get those seasons at a well below-market value. In short, the team offers the player security in favor of the player’s time.

The example

The obvious example of an extension for the Fish is the Ramirez contract, whose details can be seen here:

Year Status Salary (millions)
2009 Arb 1 $5.5
2010 Arb 2 $7.0
2011 Arb 3 $11.0
2012 Free Agent $15.0
2013 Free Agent $15.5
2014 Free Agent $16.0

The Marlins bought out all of Ramirez’s arbitration years and three of his free agent seasons with the contract. In return, the Fish got a deal on each of those seasons; Ramirez going into his 2009 year was a .308/.379/.527 career hitter at one of the premium defensive positions in baseball, and a player like that would have earned much more than $5.5M in his first arbitration season. The three free agent seasons the Marlins received are also at below average rates, valuing Ramirez as more of a three- to four-win player than the five- to seven-win player he had been through 2008. This is the sort of discount the Marlins can expect from a long-term deal from a player interested in staying in a Marlins uniform for a while.

Patience and Power

First, we’ll take a look at “Patience and Power,” Morrison and Stanton. Here’s what ZiPS sees as their end-of-season lines.

ZiPS proj 2011 PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA fWAR*
Logan Morrison 529 .298 .386 .489 .381 3.1
Mike Stanton 638 .250 .331 .517 .366 4.3

Think of what it would take for the Marlins to sign a player like Morrison or Stanton to a long-term deal that accomplished buying out their team-control years at fair prices and getting a few cheap free agent seasons. If the extensions were to happen after this season, I can think of one good comparison to use: Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun.

2007 PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA fWAR
Ryan Braun 492 .324 .370 .634 .422 3.1

Neither Stanton nor Morrison were as strong on offense, though neither is old as Braun was in 2007 (24 years old). Both Morrison and Stanton are better defenders than Braun ever was, and in the end their profiles all sort of even out. Braun was worth three wins through his first 500 of so plate appearances, while Stanton through 600 PA has totaled 4.1 WAR and Morrison through 421 PA has totaled 2.6 WAR.

What was the contract Braun received during his Rookie of the Year campaign? Essentially it was a seven-year extension worth just around $45M, with the eighth year overriding his rookie season contract but being worth about the same amount. Here’s the pay scale breakdown:

Year Status Salary (millions)
2009 Pre-Arb $1.0
2010 Pre-Arb $1.2
2011 Arb 1 $4.0
2012 Arb 2 $6.0
2013 Arb 3 $8.5
2014 Free Agent $10.0
2015 Free Agent $12.0

This the sort of contract the Marlins should be looking to sign, a deal long enough to buy out two arbitration seasons from Morrison and Stanton. Braun gave a huge discount to stay in Milwaukee, but the Marlins can probably afford to give a little more away to make a deal happen. For a three- to four-win player at that age, the Marlins might have to go into the $11-13M range on the tail end of the contract. My proposal is on the conservative side in terms of what it would take to sign an extension, but the Marlins should consider a six-year, $51M contract for Morrison and Stanton. Here is the likely breakdown:

Year Status Salary (millions)
2012 Pre-Arb $1.0
2013 Arb 1 $5.0
2014 Arb 2 $8.0
2015 Arb 3 $11.0
2016 Free Agent $13.0
2017 Free Agent $13.0

Given the youth and skill involved, that should be more than enough to convince them to sign. The Marlins would be guaranteeing themselves two likely undercosted free agent seasons in return for holding onto them guaranteed and a locked-in price regardless of their performance. Neither contract would add much to their budget, as the Fish would have likely paid them the money anyway, and given the decent arbitration salary scaling, it is likely that such contracts would be no less tradable in case the team has to make a move.

What about Sanchez?

Here’s how Sanchez projects to finish the season.

ZiPS proj 2011 PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA fWAR*
Gaby Sanchez 635 .294 .369 .471 .369 3.5

The only difference between Patience and Power and Sanchez is their ages; Sanchez is already 27 years old while the others are in their early 20’s. It is much more likely that Sanchez sees a peak and decline heading into the seasons during which he would be paid the most. In that case, the Marlins should consider treating him as they did Dan Uggla, going year to year with him instead of extending him. However, if the team feels Sanchez can continue to perform at a high level over the next three to four seasons, the team can also throw an extension at him that covers his arbitration years without buying out free agent seasons. The advantage in that regard would again be to lock in his price, either for the Marlins or for potential trade suitors.

In the last Marlin Maniac Live Chat, there was also discussion about locking up Sanchez with regards to appealing to the right fans heading into the new stadium. Sanchez is a homegrown product, a native of south Florida who attended the University of Miami. Once the Fish move to the new stadium and become the Miami Marlins, it may help appeal to the south Florida crowd to have a Hispanic influence on the team, much like Mike Lowell was in the early 2000’s for the Fish. I think this effect is worth mentioning, but certainly should not override the actual talent aspect of a potential Sanchez extension.

Here’s what an extension for Sanchez could look like:

Year Status Salary (millions)
2012 Pre-Arb $1.0
2013 Arb 1 $4.0
2014 Arb 2 $7.0
2015 Arb 3 $10.0

This deal would be worth slightly less than the deals Morrison and Stanton received, but it would be a four-year, $22M extension that I also suspect would not be questioned by Sanchez. The Fish could also go the safe route and extend him through three years and leave the last arbitration season open for either a trade or release in case Sanchez’s performance declines or the Fish feel, as they did with Uggla, that he is not a long term solution at the position. Sanchez’s tenure with the Fish is the most questionable of the three, but undoubtedly the Marlins know he is a valuable commodity that could potentially be worth an extension.

Tags: Gaby Sanchez Logan Morrison Miami Marlins Mike Stanton

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