The Seattle Mariners have yet to get involved in the latest trend across Major League Baseball, signing a player to an extension. Today, we take a look at one of the candidates.
We already did this exercise with Mariners outfielder Mallex Smith and the method we used there will be the same throughout this series. The goal is to find a deal that helps the team maximize the value of their assets, while also giving the player a fair deal.
Today, we take a look at outfielder Domingo Santana. The 26-year-old has come to Seattle and exceeded expectations, slashing .338/.413/.549 in his first 17 games. Santana currently leads the AL in PAs, RBI, and hits, and is on pace for a 40/30 season (HR, SB).
Obviously, these numbers will even out, but Santana looks like his 2017 self, which saw him slash .278/.371/.505 with 30 homers and 15 steals. He was bumped from the Brewers starting outfield after Milwaukee acquired Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto took advantage of the crowded Brewers OF and snagged Santana for Ben Gamel and a minor league arm.
Santana is currently an Arbitration 1 player and is earning $1.95 million in 2019. This also means that the Mariners control his rights for both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. When he was first acquired, many assumed he was a buy-low candidate who would be flipped at the deadline or in the off-season. If the M’s wish to go that route, they should net more than what they gave up.
But at 26-years-old and Dipoto acknowledging that contention in 2020 may be more realistic than he originally thought, Seattle could very well hang onto Santana. And if they see him as a viable, middle of the order bat, they could even look to add him to their core that includes Mitch Haniger, Marco Gonzales, and Yusei Kikuchi.
But what would an extension look like? Assuming Santana puts up similar numbers to his 2017 season, he will likely earn around $5 million in 2020 and, if he repeats again, between $8-$12 million in 2021. So let’s estimate his current deal as roughly a 3-year, $18 million deal.
As we mentioned with Mallex Smith, buying out 1 free agent year doesn’t add much value to the Mariners, so the team would almost certainly look for a 5-year deal. However, if Santana just played out his club control years, he would hit the market at 29-years-old. At that age and offensive profile, it isn’t inconceivable that he could get a high eight-figure deal.
But for our purposes, let’s assume the Mariners see Santana in their future plans and Santana feels the same way. In this case, a 5-year deal would still let Santana hit free agency at 31, giving him an opportunity for a second payday.
The Mariners will be buying out two years of free agency from Santana, who could expect between $12-$15 million AAV depending on his performance. This puts us around the 5-year, $50 million extensions.
However, things may have gotten more complicated with the recent Randal Grichuk extension. Grichuk was given a 5-year, $52 million deal. He was one year closer to free agency and one year older than Santana, so it isn’t an apples to apples situation.
But Santana is sure to ask for something in that range. If the Mariners absolutely want to lock up Santana, a 5/$60 deal may do it. There are some complications to this extension, but the framework between 5-years, $50-$60 million contract may be an excellent place to start.