As the Mariners make their way through the 2022 offseason, many fans find themselves asking the same question. "Why aren't the Mariners spending money?" It's a fair assumption to make looking at the top level of the offseason, but it isn't entirely true. Getting into whether or not the Mariners are a cheap organization is a topic for another day. Instead, I want to look at something tangential to this. What would an early contract extension look like for the Mariners Cal Raleigh?
It's a tough question to ask. However, you can take a look at what the Braves have been doing and see why, if done correctly and with accuracy, it can lead to sustained success. They've locked up a ton of their young stars to long deals that go through the arbitration period and into their actual Free Agency. What would happen if the Mariners did the same thing?
It's something I'm going to look at with some other players on the team, but I wanted to start with Cal Raleigh.
So, what kind of deal would the Mariners look to make with Big Dumper?
I think the first thing to do to try and get a relevant number is to look at what the other catchers in baseball are making, and try and fit Raleigh into a similar tier. That first tier are guys like Salvador Perez, JT Realmuto, and Willson Contreras. I don't think he is in the same tier as those guys (yet). So that range is out. Yasmani Grandal is paid in that same window, and he's a good catcher, but that seems like a bit of an overpay.
It's the next tier that Raleigh fits into, for me. For contract length and average, the only other guy that is really there is Sean Murphy. Now, there may be other young catchers that you think are better, but that's not the point I'm putting forward here. I'm talking about what people are currently making. Also, if you look at Murphy, you might see his number is just over $12M. That's because of arb years, and he's actually making $16M once the FA years kick in.
That $16M number is the one I think we need to realistically look at for Raleigh. He has a couple of years of pre-arb left, and then his three arb years. So, his average value is going to be lower as well when you take that into account. Here's how I think it should break down.
In total, it ends up being 9YR/$103M, with a club option after 2029. If they don't pick it up, they give him an $8M buyout, which means that it would end up being 7YR/$71M.
Is it too early to offer something like this to Raleigh? Quite possible. Especially a catcher who doesn't have a lot of experience under his belt, and truly only has one full season in the majors. Here's the thing, and you see it from Atlanta. If you believe in these guys, you can sign them early and reap the benefits. Shoot, the Mariners are trying to do it with Luis Castillo, and more importantly, Julio Rodriguez.
If Raleigh continues to play solid defense, mash homers, and ends up with a league average BABIP (his was .226, LA is .291), then he is going to easily be a top-3 catcher in baseball. If thats the case, then that deal is a massive win, especially at what is a weak position depthwise across all of baseball.
Raleigh had a 3.8 WAR last year, and that was with the rough start and broken/torn-up thumb. Would it surprise you to see him throw up a 5.0 WAR at some point? That would be a massive win for the Mariners. This isn't an argument about whether or not the Mariners would spend the money. It's solely what I think it would take to get Raleigh signed to a long-term deal early on in his career. Even though waiting until after 2023 would be the smarter choice, they might be able to save by doing it now.