Yesterday, the Seattle Mariners announced they had signed left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales to a 4-year contract extension. But after much celebration, it’s time to see how well both sides actually did.
When the Mariners announced their agreement with Gonzales yesterday, it was met with almost universal praise (or at least nobody could poke a hole in it well and you know people would try). But now that we have the numbers, how well did each side actually fair in this deal?
Let’s begin with the Mariners. The extension doesn’t actually kick in until after the 2020 season. Gonzales is scheduled to make $1 million this season and the extension is worth a total of $30 million. Thus far, the Mariners’ commitment to Gonzales is $31 million over the next 5 seasons.
Let’s forget the option year for now. Gonzales is set to earn a $6.2 AAV (average annual value) for his age 28-32 seasons. Over the past 2 seasons, Gonzales has been worth 3.4 fWAR and 3.7 fWAR.
To be worth $31 million over the next 5 season, Gonzales will need to average just 0.9 fWAR per year. If Gonzales post just 2 fWAR a year, a mark he has blown past each of the past 2 seasons, Gonzales would be worth roughly $14 million a season, or when extrapolated over the next 5 years, a whopping $70 million.
If Gonzales post a 2 fWAR in each of the next 5 seasons, Seattle will recoup the value of the contract in less than 2.5 years. Even if the option is picked up for $15 million in the 6th season, the Mariners total investment comes out to 6-years at $46 million, a $7.67 million AAV. To pay off that investment, Gonzales needs to produce 6.6 fWAR in 6 years, something Gonzales has already done.
There is next to risk for the Mariners in this deal. But what about Gonzales? Does he come out ahead at all in this deal? Well for starters, let’s just recognize that after making just about $2 million since he debuted in 2014, he just locked up an additional $30 million. Any way you want to slice it, that is a win. But would he have been better off just playing out his contract? Let’s do some math.
Had Gonzales elected to play out the string, he would have a guaranteed base of $1 million this season before heading to arbitration for the first time next winter. While we can’t say for sure how he would make there, we can get a rough idea by looking at a few players who went through the process this winter.
Jose Berrios, who became arbitration-eligible for the first time is asking for $4.4 million while the Twins are offering $4 million. Over the past two seasons, Berrios has produced a 7.5 fWAR to Gonzales 7.1 fWAR. Berrios also had a more productive 2017 and is the better arm, but projecting a $4 million first-year arb number isn’t absurd and is honestly probably a tad high. But let’s roll with it.
Gonzales is up to $5 million over 2 seasons, with 2 more until he reaches free agency. From there, we can reasonably guess that Gonzales’s next two seasons would land him in the $6-$8 million for his arb 2 seasons, and between $8-$10 million in his final arb season.
Let’s take the high side of both estimates. That means over the next 4 seasons, had Gonzales decided to just get to free agency, he would have earned roughly $23 million. But he also would have been a free agent at least one year sooner, so that has to be factored in.
It is tough to predict what a player would be worth on the open market 4 years into the future. But because Gonzales isn’t a “stuff guy” or generate massive numbers, he wouldn’t be looking at anything in the $20 million AAV range. More than likely, he would settle in the $12-$15 million AAV club. Kyle Gibson, a similar style of arm got $9 million AAV this winter.
So assuming Gonzales got $15 million AAV on the open market, that means that he could have potentially earned $38 million over the next 5-years. But remember, that is assuming Gonzales maintains his current level of performance and stays healthy.
Gonzales may have sacrificed around $10 million or so of future earnings to lock down a large guarantee now. But trying to play the waiting game for 4 years is dangerous and while he may have lost some money in the long-term, it was a safe decision to make.
So in the end, how did both sides fair? I would put it like this: Gonzales did well and the Mariners did better. But at the end of the day, both sides are happy. Gonzales is fully bought into what Seattle is selling. And the Mariners clearly believe Gonzales is a part of their next winning team. Sometimes, win-win moves are possible and it looks as if we got one in this extension.