UCB Roundtable Response: Buy out Colby Rasmus’ arbitration years?

by on March 17, 2010 · 4 comments

[Ed. note: Once or twice throughout the season, the United Cardinal Bloggers undertake a roundtable discussion via e-mail that involves and answers various questions from the bloggers taking part over the course of a few weeks. We’ve spent most of our writing time answering those questions and taking part in those discussions (gladly, I might add), so figured they are fair game to post here – not to mention trying to gain a little exposure for both the project as well as some other blogs you all should be reading.]

Steve Sommer from Play a Hard Nine asks:

Buying out a prospect’s arbitration years has become a trend among MLB clubs.  Do you see the Cards taking a similar path with Colby Rasmus?  If so what kind of parameters do you have in mind?

When I asked about buying out arbitration years in the fall in more general terms, most agreed that Colby was the most likely candidate.  I agree with that sentiment, but the real gamble is the price and length the team either has a bargain or an albatross.

As with any contract extension, there exists some amount of obvious risk.  Are you getting a bargain at a big price, like Albert Pujols’ first big deal, or a franchise-choking dud like Vernon Wells‘ current contract with the Blue Jays?

Are you going to give a youngster a bunch of cash and watch them continue to flourish like a Grady Sizemore, Evan Longoria, or Joe Mauer?  Or do you find yourself on the losing end of a Nick Markakis deal (ok, it’s only one bad season – but it’s not a great start!)?

Timing is everything as well – do you wait for Rasmus to prove himself and risk a couple of All-Star seasons in 2010 and 2011 before approaching him about an ever-increasing contract, or do you approach his representation in the middle of 2010 if it appears he has his head on straight and is headed into the chapters of outstanding Cardinal center fielders?

I think the Cards would be fortunate to get a Sizemore-type deal (approx 6 yrs, $24mm).  I guess in a way, they would also be fortunate – on the field, production-wise – to have to fork over a deal similar to what Justin Upton just signed (6 yrs, approx $51mm).

It’s a volatile market, to be certain.  After all, Chris Young got 5 years, $28mm from the Diamondbacks.  Rasmus surely would eclipse that, we hope, no?

As Pip said, expect a deal to pay a reasonable amount to buy out arbitration years and then a couple of dollar-heavy club options on the back end, like the Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina deals.  The club loves those club options, probably with some vesting incentives as well.

If I had to put numbers to it, I’d say 6 years, $34mm with a couple of options tagged on to boot?  Anyone?

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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Lee March 26, 2010

Sounds about right to me too. Don’t know if we can get that many years on a contract, hut I’ll take if we can.

PH8 March 27, 2010

If we were to assume that the Cardinals would make such a deal sometime during the 2010 season, they’d only be buying out one of Rasmus’ free agent years, likely at a high salary anyway, since these deals are usually really escalated/back-loaded to reflect not overpaying too much in the early seasons that would’ve otherwise been at league minimum.

Players are under team control one way or another for the first six seasons of their careers anyway, so all this would do is give Rasmus and the team the certainty of not dealing with arbitration every year, Colby gets a little contract certainty in case of injury or other ailment, and the Cards get the benefit of buying out maybe one or two free agent years.

Pretty typical, actually.

Lee March 27, 2010

@PH8: well, that’s good news. I was thinking that he’d already used up the first year with the team. At which point it seemed unlikely that he would sign anything that would hold him beyond the remaining five.

But you guys know way more about this than me. Thanks for clarifying.

PH8 March 27, 2010

Well, he has used up one year of service time – but standard procedure for these type of deals is that if the team is willing to give the player guaranteed money for their arbitration years (usually at a higher price, so to be beneficial for the player as well), then the player gives up the first and/or second of their free agent years in return (still at a pretty competitive price).

If I recall correctly, both Longoria and Braun gave up at least one of their unrestricted free agency years in order to get the certainty of that “first big contract”.

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