10 MLB Contract Extension Candidates
Shohei Ohtani (Angels, SP/DH, 28)
Career WAR: 24.8 (8.3/162)
Ohtani accepted a 1 year, $30M salary to avoid arbitration for the final time, setting up what could be the most anticipated season for a player heading toward free agency in MLB history. Spotrac took on the exercise of trying to properly value this unicorn player last June, coming up with multiple ways to slice this negotiation, maxing out in the 8 year, $440M range for better or worse. Many (rightfully) believe Ohtani will become MLB’s first $500M player - but for which franchise?
2023 PREDICTION: No extension. Ohtani hits the open market, signing a 10 year, $450M deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Juan Soto (Padres, OF, 24)
Career WAR: 23.2 (6.1/162)
Soto and the Padres avoided arbitration on a $23M salary for the upcoming season. The 24-year-old still has one more trip through arbitration next offseason before hitting the open market. Despite a lackluster finish to 2022 upon his move to San Diego, Soto’s stock remains near the top of the game. He projects to a $33M per year deal in our system - though his 2023 salary places him more in the $38M range. Aaron Judge’s deal in NY is the obvious barometer here.
2023 PREDICTION: No extension. Soto will have the luxury of waiting to see what the Mets do with Pete Alonso, the Blue Jays do with Vlad Jr., and the world does with Shohei Ohtani next winter. He can use 2023 as a way to reestablish his greatness in our minds, and bank off of it this time next year, likely in the $450M range.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays, 1B, 23)
Career WAR: 13.4 (4.3/162)
Guerrero Jr. has compiled 80 home runs and 208 RBIs in his past 320 games, developing into every bit the player Toronto wanted him to be. He’s also only 23 years old, with two more offseasons of arbitration ahead of him, set to earn $14.5M on his latest agreement with the Blue Jays. Can he keep his large physical frame in well enough shape to make this production last a full career? He’s a 12 year, $425M player in our system, all things included.
2023 PREDICTION: The Blue Jays strike early with Vlad, locking him into a 10 year, $350M deal.
Logan Webb (Giants, SP, 26)
Career WAR: 8.4 (3.6/162)
The Giants’ undisputed ace avoided his first arbitration filing for a $4.5M salary in 2023, putting him on track for a $22.5M valuation long-term, and $27M for his arbitration career. Will a 5 year, $72M extension work for both sides here (3 years, $27M through 2025, then 2 years, $45M for his first two years of free agency? This hands Webb a strong payout, and gets him back to the open market around age 30.
2023 PREDICTION: The Giants saved about $600M in contracts they were hoping to reel in this offseason. Webb gets a piece of that pie, locking in a 5 year, $60M contract to slightly push past Sandy Alcantara’s (value) deal in Miami.
Kyle Tucker (Astros, OF, 26)
Career WAR: 12.8 (3.1/162)
One of the most underrated players in the game should benefit financially from Houston moving on from Correa, Springer, etc in past years. The 26-year-old is amidst his first arbitration deliberations as we speak, projected to earn around $6M according to our valuation. This puts him on track for a $30M per year long-term extension.
2023 PREDICTION: The Astros read the room during the arbitration filings and understand they should just get ahead of this monster before it eats them alive. Rafael Devers’ 10 year, $314M contract hits about right here.
Pete Alonso (Mets, 1B, 28)
Career WAR: 14.2 (4.3/162)
Alonso continues to improve his overall resume, putting himself in serious contention for the next blockbuster contract in NY. The Mets avoided Arbitration 2 at a healthy $14.5M price point, putting him in line for a $36M per year long-term extension, which also aligns with our $37.1M valuation. Alonso has one more trip through arbitration next offseason before becoming free agent eligible after 2024.
2023 PREDICTION: Shouldn’t he just get the Correa offer? Maybe, but this scenario’s been too quiet to assume anything is in the works right now. However, Francisco Lindor’s contract was announced on Opening Day two years ago, so maybe Steve Cohen is just waiting for the stage to be set. 10 years, $350M should get this done.
Bobby Witt Jr. (Royals, SS, 22)
Career WAR: 0.8 (0.9/162)
The Royals appear poised to start locking in their young core (with a future Braves roster in mind). Witt should be the first benefactor of this thinking after a strong rookie campaign (31 doubles, 20 homers, 6 triples, 80 RBIs, 30 stolen bases). Ke’Bryan Hayes’ 8 year, $70M deal in Pittsburgh should be a fair baseline for Witt, who enters 2023 two years younger than Hayes was when he locked in his deal. Hayes will earn $41M through his final 5 years of team control, then $35M for the next 4 seasons. Braves’ OF Michael Harris will see $35M through his 5 year control span, then $67M for the next 5 seasons.
2023 PREDICTION: The Royals lock in Bobby Witt Jr. to a 6 year, $60M extension, plus 2 club options through 2030 that can max the deal out at $100M, while still allowing him to hit the open market at age 30.
Adley Rutschman (Orioles, C, 25)
Career WAR: 5.2 (7.5/162)
A do-it-all catcher already doing it all in one season? Just pay him whatever he asks for, Baltimore. The list of catchers currently on a pre-arbitration extension is zero, so we’re breaking new ground here no matter what the end result winds up being. Wander Franco’s 11 year, $182M extension in Tampa seems about the only comparable here, so why not?
2023 PREDICTION: The Orioles slow play this, hoping to confirm that they have a few young players ready to take that next step, formulating a true core to build around for years to come. This blockbuster extension comes next winter, but maybe at a cost.
Julio Urias (Dodgers, SP, 26)
Career WAR: 13.2 (3.7/162)
Urias remains one of the more underrated starters in the game, despite back to back Top 7 finishes for the NL Cy Young (3rd in 2022). He avoided his final year of arbitration on a $14.25M salary, placing him at a $24Mish valuation for a long-term extension. 6 years, $150M should be the starting point, but a trip to the open market next winter with multiple teams bidding him up could really drive this price north.
2023 PREDICTION: The Dodgers may be holding all of their chips (and tax dollars) for a run at Shohei Ohtani next offseason. Allowing Urias to hit the open market would be a mistake, but we bet they get something done here once the season starts, keeping him at the $14.25M price tag for 2023. 6 years, $150M sounds fair.
Aaron Nola (Phillies, SP, 29)
Career WAR: 29.6 (5.0/162)
After a few years that had many of us wondering if he was already in decline, Nola jumped back to the top of the mountain last year, compiling a 6.0 WAR, with 235 strikeouts, and a 125 ERA+ in 32 starts. He’s on an expiring contract for 2023, set to earn $16M, but there’s an easy path to him doubling that for the foreseeable future.