Last spring, the Tampa Bay Rays signed top pitching prospect Matt Moore to an eight-year contract extension. Although the 22-year-old pitcher was the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball he had made only two career starts and had a grand total of 19.1 innings under his belt. Even more unusual for the young pitcher was that he had a postseason start and a contract extension to his name all before he his first Grapefruit League appearance.
Even without a long resume the Rays were willing to guarantee Moore $14 million from (2012-2016), and in exchange Moore agreed to club options for through additional years (2017-2019) that, if exercised, could bring the total dollar figure to $37.5 million. The contract also includes bonus escalators which could bring the total contract value to $40 million.
The contract gave young Moore the security of knowing that he can make $40 million dollars and still hit the free agent market at a relatively young age, while allowed the Rays to immediately add him to their 2012 rotation without the worry of service time and arbitration clocks. Additionally, it gives them the stability of controlling a talented pitcher for the next eight full seasons—which brings us to Trevor Bauer and the Cleveland Indians.
Like Moore, Bauer will be 22 years old this winter and has limited experience in the big leagues (16.1 innings). But unlike Moore, who was living off a small minor league salary and the modest $115,000 signing bonus that he had received after being drafted in the eighth round of the 2007 draft Bauer, has considerable more financial security. After being drafted with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Diamondbacks signed him to a major league contract that included a $3.4 million signing bonus and salaries through his first four minor league seasons that guarantee him total earnings of $4.45 million. The contract also includes major league salaries of as high as $1.525 million for 2014—quite a coup for a pre-arbitration player.
The Indians should try to sign Bauer to contract similar to Moore’s contract extension. The good news is that Bauer is not represented by Scott Boras but by the Wasserman Media Group, who aren’t adverse to long term contract extensions—other clients with whom they have set such precdent include Hanley Ramirez, Starlin Castro, and Carlos Santana.
With the contract extension the Indians, like the Rays, could allow Bauer to join their rotation from Opening Day without worrying about service time or arbitration status. The contract extension may also allow Bauer to concentrate on his craft and give him the sense of value that he certainly wasn’t feeling in Arizona.
Modeling a contract after Moore’s could guarantee Bauer $18.4 million from 2013-2017 and, if all three option years were to be exercised, would be worth $52.9 million. The Indians could also add escalators to the deal which could increase the value by a little over $2 million to bring the total value to $55 million—and he’d still be entering free agency before his 30th birthday.
The first part of the contract would require the Indians to guarantee the 2013 and 2014 portions of his current deal regardless whether he pitches in Cleveland or Columbus. In my proposal, the following would be his yearly salaries by year: $1.325 million in 2013, $1,525 million in 2014, $2 million in 2015, $4.5 million in 2016, and $7 million in 2017. The first option year would be 2018 for $10 million and would include a $2.5 million buyout. The salaries for the remaining option years: would be $12 million for 2009 (with a $1 million) and $15 million for 2020 (with a $500,000 buyout).
It would be a bold move for the Indians organization to risk over $18 million on a young pitcher with very little major league experience, but it would send a positive message to Trevor Bauer and Cleveland fans that the team is committed to building a strong lasting product to play at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.