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Extending Paul Goldschmidt

The Diamondbacks seem keen to get young first-baseman Paul Goldschmidt locked in to a contract extension, but there appears to be less enthusiasm for such a deal from the player's side at this point.

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Christian Petersen

It's really no secret that part of the Kevin Towers plan is to get players locked in now - perhaps because the team foresees the influx of television money as likely to inflate the cost of both free-agents and extensions in a couple of years. Over the past year, we've seen Miguel Montero, Aaron Hill and Martin Prado all agreeing to longer-term deals with Arizona, and on that basis, it would be logical for Paul Goldschmidt to be another one with whom the team could open talks. The situation is a little different with him, in that he's under team control through 2017 anyway, but inflation also applies to arbitration salaries too.

The first word of a possible Goldschmidt extension came out at this year's Fan Fest, when Kevin Towers answered a question by revealing the team had tried to get a deal done this off-season. "We tried, but he was just confident in his ability at the time and said, 'You know, I'm not looking for security right now and need a little bit more time just to kind of have a better idea with another year of play who my peer group looks more like. We honored that and said, 'Fine, we'll wait.'" [Well, as we'll see, wait at least a week or two, anyway]] Towers also spoke to Nick Piecoro regarding Goldzilla, and explained what they saw in him:

"I believe in the player. I believe he’s the type of player that we want here for a long time, for a lot of different reasons. Not only the type of player, the type of individual. I know the work ethic is there, I know the head is there, I know the talent is there and I think he’s only going to get better."

One thing to note, also pointed out by Piecoro in his piece, is that first-basemen do not typically get signed to lucrative deals with just 1+ or even 2+ years of service. Arizona have signed a 1+ player to a long-term deal previously - Chris Young inked a five-year, $28 million contract in April 2008, when he had 178 games in the majors, close to the same number as Goldschmidt (193). But like most players in similar situations, he played a prime defensive position. Those seem much more likely to be bought out early than first-basemen.

But an interesting comparable can perhaps be found in the Cardinals' Allen Craig. He recently had his contract extended, in a deal that covers all his arbitration years and the first year of free-agency, with a club option for the season beyond that. It is slightly different, in that Craig has fractionally over two years of service time, rather than the one-plus owned by Goldschmidt. Still, it's still not a bad example of a young first-basemen being locked up for the future by his team. Here, via Viva El Birdos, is how the Craig contract breaks down.

Year Value Buyout
2013 $1.75M Servitude
2014 $2.75M Arbitration
2015 $5.5M Arbitration
2016 $9.00M Arbitration
2017 $11.00M Free Agency
(2018) ($13M/$1M) (Free Agency)

Would something similar get it done for Goldschmidt? There would be another year of "servitude" to be bought out, but the amount involved in that would be fairly token: a million would probably be about the mark. However, Craig is, arguably, not as good a player as Paul: while he had a breakout 2012, the Cardinal didn't make his major-league debut until three months short of his 26th birthday, an age Paul won't reach until about June this season. That may explain why Goldschmidt and his agent would rather wait: if his numbers improve - or better yet, spike in the way Craig's have over the past season and a half - the payday would increase significantly.

From the team's point of view, one factor not yet mentioned, is that not all player value is created equally valuable, in terms of position. To clarify that: the market rate per WAR differs dramatically around the diamond. Matt Swartz of Fangraphs looked at that; though his numbers are now a year old, the principle seems fairly well-established. From 2007-11, the average cost of a win was $5.4 million. But a win from first-base cost significantly more, and at six million dollars, it was easily the most on the infield (catchers or third-baseman were next, at $4.2m). Getting a cost-controlled player there would therefore save more money over free-agency, than at most spots.

The D-backs "fine, we''ll wait" appears to be playing out more along the lines of a teenage boy with a virgin girlfriend. "Are you ready yet?" "How about now?" On March 1st, Piecoro said "I heard that the team is planning to make another run at him about a contract extension before the season starts." And over the weekend, Towers said he hat met with Goldschmidt's agent, Joe Sambito. "We sat down and talked about a lot of things, but I really don’t want to get into any details." Piecoro's source reckons any extension is unlikely to happen, but I suspect Towers will keep sending Goldie hopeful, pleading inquiries through Facebook or whatever.

It's interesting to see where Goldschmidt's numbers to date stack up against othes. Here are the currently active 1B with 700+ PAs in their age 23-24 seasons, and what they did in those two years.

1 Albert Pujols 180 1377 89 247 163 117 10 6 .345 .427 .662 1.089
2 Prince Fielder 144 1375 84 221 174 255 5 4 .282 .383 .562 .945
3 Billy Butler 130 1350 36 171 127 181 1 0 .309 .375 .480 .855
4 Ike Davis 123 750 26 96 89 169 3 2 .271 .357 .460 .817
5 Paul Goldschmidt 122 764 28 108 80 183 22 3 .278 .353 .487 .840
6 Nick Johnson 118 847 29 105 118 155 6 5 .262 .383 .434 .817
7 Daric Barton 117 878 13 81 136 127 7 5 .272 .388 .406 .795
8 Mark Teixeira 117 1214 64 196 112 237 5 3 .270 .351 .520 .871
9 Adrian Gonzalez 116 793 30 99 62 150 0 1 .288 .343 .481 .824
10 James Loney 115 1026 28 157 73 133 7 5 .305 .354 .472 .826
11 Paul Konerko 113 1150 45 178 92 140 2 0 .296 .358 .496 .853
12 Justin Morneau 104 855 41 137 72 148 0 2 .251 .317 .473 .790
13 Justin Smoak 95 886 28 103 101 196 1 0 .227 .316 .385 .701

Those stack up pretty well: obviously, Pujols is in a class by himself, Actually, it's more of an entire semester. But it's worth noting that Goldie's OPS+ to date stacks up nicely, at the same stage of their careers, as some who have gone on to be All-Stars, MVP candidates and - most significantly here - sign highly-lucrative contracts, e.g. Gonzalez and Teixeira. While there are no absolute guarantees in baseball, if you can lock in Adrian Gonzalez-like production for a great deal less than the $21 million per year AdGon is currently being paid, you can't blame the team for being keenly interested in doing so.

[H/T to MLB Daily Dish and Viva El Birdos for useful info and linkage]