While pre-arbitration contract extensions are not the norm per se, many teams over the last decade have taken to locking up young talent early, and for far less than what they would command on the open market. Players like Evan Longoria, Mike Trout, and Andrew McCutchen have all gone this route. It is a high-risk, high-reward for many teams. For one thing, many of these pre-arb deals don’t come cheap. Mike Trout’s pre-arb deal came in at a whopping $144 million over 6 years. Now, he got that deal in 2015 and he is a all-time talent player, hence the large contract. In fact, it has been the single largest pre-arb deal signed to date. So why would the Dodgers consider a pre-arb deal with Corey Seager? Well, let us number the reasons why.
1) Corey Seager is a Generational Talent
Though Corey Seager will never be on the level of Mike Trout, he is still immensely talented. Seager has easily been the best shortstop this storied club has ever seen. Oh sure there have been solid shortstops throughout the years like Rafael Furcal, Nomar, Bill Russell, and others. But not since Maury Wills has there been a shortstop with quite the impact Corey Seager has had in his first 2+ seasons.
When you have a shortstop that has slashed .305/.374/.502 through his first 329 games, while playing plus defense, all before turning 24 years old, you want to lock him up early. Seager is going into his age 24 season, and is under team control through 2021 via arbitration. That means the club will control him through his age 27 season. This team does not want to have a situation similar to the Nationals with Bryce Harper. So signing Seager to a pre-arb deal would help the team moving forward. It is not a stretch to imagine he might actually get better than he is right now.
2) His Agent: Scott Boras
Yes, read it and weep. If you didn’t know before, you know the terrible news now. Corey Seager is represented by none other than the infamous Scott Boras. Well known for being an agent that will nickle and dime teams for every penny, Boras is a club’s worst nightmare when it comes to contract negotiations. So, it would seem logical to avoid contract negotiations in free agency would it not?
Scott Boras, agent for Corey Seager/Julio Urias: "These are not the kind of players you trade." On ESPN 710 AM this afternoon. #Dodgers
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) April 28, 2015
Enticing a player with a possible huge guaranteed sum during their pre-arb and arbitration years allows teams to buy out free agent years many times. Certainly with a name like Scott Boras representing Seager, the sooner, the better.
3) It Brings Stability to a Position With An Uncertain Future
There are a few things you have to assume for this point. First, you have to assume that Seager leaves via free agency after the 2021 season. Second, that we do not draft any star shortstops, acquire any stud prospects in a trade, or sign any big name international amateur free agents between now and 2021. And lastly, you have to assume that Seager’s replacement comes from one of the players in our system.
As you can see from our GM Mondays piece on our shortstop depth, we don’t have much in the way of star potential. Most of the shortstops in our system are either super-utility players, or glove-first shortstops. Now, that isn’t a bad thing, to have a slick-fielding, average hitting, shortstop, but the downgrade from Seager to that would be monumental. With this in mind, it once again reinforces the need to lock-up Seager long-term.
So what will it take to lock him up long-term?
Seager, right now, if he were a free agent would easily bring home a contract pushing $35 million average annual value. He knows this, and Boras knows this. However, he won’t make that via pre-arb and even through arbitration. Now, full disclosure, I am no sports agent, nor do I pretend to be one. But I do know numbers, and I will use them as best as I can to attempt to piece together a possible deal for Seager.
It is safe to assume he will make somewhere in the ballpark of $40 million through his three years of arbitration. Bryce Harper will have made about the same once he hits free agency after 2018. Typically pre-arb contracts are low. Like, league minimum type lows. So let’s first get the next 4 years hammered out. In total lets say Seager is guaranteed $50 million for the next 4 years. I think that is a starting point.
Next you have to tackle the free agency years. This is where it will get tricky. Because while $35 million a year today may be expensive, that may be a bargain in 2022 or 2023. Since Seager would be going into his age 28 season in 2022, the Dodgers should lock him up for at least another 2 to 3 years. This would keep Seager through his prime years. So let’s roll with adding 3 more years on top of the 4 already, and bring the total of those years to $115 million. This would be an average annual contract value of $38.3 million during the free agency buyout years.
Altogether the contract would land at a whopping 7 years, $165 million ($21.57 million AAV). If he signs this contract tomorrow it would be the largest pre-arb contract ever signed. Not only would Seager receive a hefty pay raise today, and get great guaranteed money through what would have been arbitration years, but he also has guaranteed money for the long-term. Scott Boras’ ego gets the boost it wants as his client will have signed the largest pre-arb contract. And the Dodgers will have their All-Star shortstop through the 2024 season.
When you consider all the above points, and look at what a potential extension could look like, you may ask yourself, why wouldn’t the Dodgers do this now? Well, it is logistically difficult to pull off. And, quite frankly, it will not happen if the player is not on board with it. We can only hope that something like this is of interest both to the Dodgers’ front office and Corey Seager. I know I speak for all of us when I say we hope to see Seager in Dodger Blue for many years to come.