Let’s just say it: this has been one boring baseball offseason. The subpar free agent class did not help, but other than Jerry Dipoto’s wheeling and dealing in the Pacific Northwest, there have not been many big moves to speak of. Things only get so exciting when Rich Hill is the top free agent on the market.
Luckily, things have perked up. This week alone, a couple of marquee free agents signed with teams; Jose Bautista is heading back to Toronto, while now-former teammate Michael Saunders signed with Philadelphia. Even the Detroit Tigers (!) had a rumor.
Perhaps even more notable are the major contract extensions signed by Danny Duffy and Wil Myers. Both players received hefty raises that will keep them in Kansas City and San Diego, respectively, for the foreseeable future. Duffy’s extension may yet prop open Kansas City’s window of contention, while Myers becomes the face of a franchise that is now the only show in town.
While neither of these contracts qualify as bargains — both players will earn more than $15 million per year in their peak seasons — they provide some security and savings for the club. The Tigers might do well to ink one of their players to a similar extension, but who?
This week's question: Which current Tigers player would you most want to see signed to a contract extension and why?
Brandon: With a team like the Tigers, it can feel as though everyone is already signed long term. Ideally, I would sign J.D. Martinez to a long-term extension. Victor Martinez isn't going to be here too much longer, and it's uncertain just how valuable he will be in his remaining two years. Meanwhile, I think J.D. will be a great power hitter for years to come. Since the Tigers have been unable to move him for a high quality prospect or younger player, I would prefer they lock him up for another four years, especially since his defense and injury in 2016 leaves him in poor negotiating position.
Peter: I would extend Michael Fulmer. The kid is going to be a special arm. I know pitching is so risky to sign long-term, but locking up pitchers early allows you to gain a significant cost advantage over years to come. The Royals just did this with Danny Duffy, to a certain extent. The Tigers could and should give Fulmer a six-year deal. The cost for arms is going up every year.
Kyle: Though he still has a couple years of arbitration remaining, locking up Nick Castellanos could be a good idea for the Tigers. He should not demand a contract that will break the budget, and he one of the few young, quality position player starters on the team. Castellanos is still on the rise and showed a glimpse of his potential in 2016. Finding someone with his talent and age on the market would cost significantly more than simply extending him now.
Grace: The Tigers should extend J.D. Martinez for many reasons. He fills a hole in right field that the Tigers have no immediate fix for — Christin Stewart is not MLB ready, sorry — and keeping Martinez there for an extra two or three years would allow the prospects to grow in the minor leagues and not be rushed (see: Castellanos, Nick). J.D. is also a fan favorite and has made it clear that Detroit has become his home away from home since signing here in March of 2014. In addition, he adds a jolt of offense in a lineup that is somewhat anemic without his name in it. The lineup struggled to produce runs when he was injured for a month and a half in the 2016 season.
Rob: Most of our writers are likely to pick younger players like Nick Castellanos in this exercise, but I’m going the other way. The Tigers should sign Ian Kinsler to a short-term extension. He is already under club control through 2018, his age-36 season, but seemingly wants to play beyond that. He has stayed productive into his mid-30s, hitting .286/.332/.443 in his three seasons with the Tigers. He has accumulated a whopping 17.8 rWAR during that time, easily the best on the team. While middle infielders tend to age poorly, Kinsler has a long way to fall. His current contract is well below market value, and I imagine the Tigers could tack on a couple more years with only a modest increase in salary. Above all, the Tigers have nothing in their farm system behind Kinsler. I don’t want to see a repeat of the Will Rhymes/Scott Sizemore/Ryan Raburn years, and I’m sure you don’t either.
Cameron: I think the smartest extension the Tigers could make as of today would be Nick Castellanos. Although I would rather see them extend J.D. Martinez, Castellanos is younger and has yet to truly break out, making him a cheaper and possibly smarter long-term investment. He has been a starter since 2014, and has shown improvements at the plate and on defense every single year. Since coming to the league, he has put up a line drive percentage of over 25 percent, while the league average is only about 21 percent. According to FanGraphs, line drives have a wOBA of .684, which is stupendously high. His fly ball percentage is also 39 percent for his career, and has increased from 36 percent to 43 percent since 2014. Fly balls have a wOBA of .335, which is also pretty good, and he has hit fly balls at a rate higher than league average for the past two seasons.
His defense at third base has gone from being unfathomable to not the worst thing in the world, but an extension would be made with the thought of moving him over to first base when Miguel Cabrera can no longer handle playing the field everyday. While it seems like Nick has been around for a little while now and has yet to have a big season, let's not forget that he's not even 25 years old. His peripheral statistics show that he's a hitter whose best days are most likely still ahead. In only 110 games last year, he hit a career high 18 home runs. As he gets older and continues to gain strength, more of his fly balls and line drives are going to turn into home runs and doubles, and I'd prefer the Tigers be the team that gets to enjoy those spoils.
Patrick: I would most like to see the Tigers extend J.D. Martinez. There are plenty of Tigers that I would like to see sticking around for a few seasons, but the prime candidates for an extension would be J.D., Jose Iglesias, and Castellanos. They have just one, two, and three seasons remaining under club control, respectively. J.D. has the shortest amount of time remaining, making his case more urgent, and he brings the kind of offense that would be hard to replace if he is lost to free agency. The potential loss is magnified by the opt out clause in Justin Upton's contract. In the current market, where Jose Bautista has to settle for a one year contract, and the Pirates can't trade Andrew McCutchen, conditions could be favorable for a three or four season extension.
Fielder’s Choice: When signing a long-term contract, your primary concern should not be simply locking in the best player, but rather finding the best _value._ J.D. Martinez, Nick Castellanos, and even Michael Fulmer have all established themselves as capable, above-average major league players, and their contracts would reflect that. They would be expensive, and the odds of getting great long-term value from any of them aren't great.
In my opinion, the best bang for your buck would come in the form of Daniel Norris. After only making 13 starts in each of the past two seasons, and showing a few flaws along the way, now may be the time to lock him in through his arbitration years and beyond. Ideally, you want to sign a guy _before_ his breakout season, and I think 2017 will be the year Norris shows why he was once top-20 ranked prospect.