Gary Sanchez is awesome. No need to rehash that here. He turns 24 in December. He will be under team control through his age 30 season if the Yankees do nothing. Should they extend Sanchez?
The Yankees haven't signed a lot of young players to extensions, mostly because they haven't had a lot of good young players. Robinson Cano signed a 4-year $28 million extension with two club options in 2008, allowing the Yankees to control his age 29-30 seasons. More recently, Brett Gardner signed a 4-year $52 million extension just before hitting free agency.
As a result, we're in very lightly-trodded ground. The Yankees officially had a policy not to offer contract extensions for many years, but wisely dropped that policy as baseball norms have changed. Most teams these days are able to lock up one or two years of free agency from their top young prospects at a discount. Players like Gary Sanchez secure their long term status as fabulously rich; teams like the Yankees get to buy cheap prime age years of talented players.
What would it take to lock up Sanchez for the next 7-8 seasons? Here are some recent <1 year service time contracts:
- Chris Archer: 6 guaranteed years for $20 million + 2 club options
- Ryan Braun: 8 guaranteed years for $45 million
- Paul Goldschmidt: 5 guaranteed years for $32 million + 1 club option
- Yan Gomes: 6 guaranteed years for $23 million + 2 club options
- Starling Marte: 6 guaranteed years for $31 million + 2 club options
I included Braun's now-ancient 2008 contract because I think his rookie debut is the best analogue to Sanchez's best-ever rookie debut. Braun's contract still stands as the most guaranteed money given to a player with less than 1 year of service time. Braun hit .324/.370/.634 in 113 games, posting 2.0 bWAR (his defense was horrible) and winning the NL Rookie of the Year award. The others had strong debuts, but none were nearly as promising as Sanchez and Goldschmidt.
So, $45 million is the starting point. Factoring in normal inflation, that's $52 million in 2016 dollars. In baseball dollars, that's probably a bit more. Baseball salaries have increased quite a bit over inflation over the time period. The average player made $2.9 million in 2007 and about $4.4 million this season, or about a 34% increase. So, the $45 million starting point becomes $60 million in today's money. I think 8/60 is a no-brainer extension for the Yankees.
However, Sanchez is arguably better than Braun. They both debuted at the same age, but Sanchez is a good defensive catcher, while Braun was an average at best corner outfielder. Maybe they can get him for $60 million (I know I'd have trouble turning that kind of briefcase full of cash down), but Sanchez might ask for more. So, what should the Yankees best offer be?
Here's my best offer: $6 years, $60 million, plus club options for the next two seasons at something like $16 million per year. Small enough that the Yankees could trade Sanchez if need be, large enough to make him the highest paid player with less than 1 year of service time in history, by a mile. Even if Sanchez turns into a star, he gets to walk away with $92 million and hit free agency at 32. If he doesn't, the Yankees can eat $60 without breaking the bank.
One complication may be any kind of $189 million plan. If the Yankees want to get under the luxury tax threshold, an early extension for Sanchez can make that difficult. It would be a shame for the Steinbrenners to fall into that kind of short term thinking, but we've seen it before. I'd rather than trade Gardner for a bag of balls than give up a chance to lock in the next great Yankee star through his prime years.
But that's my opinion. Yankee fans: what would your best extension offer to Sanchez be?