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2014 MLB Contract Extensions: Who's Winning?

Translation: Who is spending the most money in the most effective way possible?

Jamie Squire

We're just three-and-a-half months into the 2014 calendar year, and we've already seen 26 extensions throughout the majors. As expected, many of the deals cover multiple seasons and essentially all of them add up to pretty lucrative sums. With that in mind, let's look at a brief refresher of all the extensions signed since January 1, then see which teams are "winning" the contract extension "race" thus far.

Name Team Years Amount ($) Option? Date of Extension
Jedd Gyorko Padres 5 35,000,000 Yes (1 yr) April 14, 2014
Jason Kipnis Indians 6 52,500,000 Yes (1 yr) April 4, 2014
Chris Archer Rays 6 20,000,000 Yes (2 yr) April 2, 2014
Yan Gomes Indians 6 23,000,000 Yes (2 yr) March 29, 2014
Mike Trout Angels 6 144,500,000 No March 28, 2014
Miguel Cabrera Tigers 8 248,000,000 Yes (2 yr) March 27, 2014
Starling Marte Pirates 6 31,000,000 Yes (2 yr) March 26, 2014
Jose Quintana White Sox 5 21,000,000 Yes (2 yr) March 24, 2014
David Ortiz Red Sox 1 16,000,000 Yes (2 yr) March 23, 2014
Glen Perkins Twins 2 14,137,000 Yes (1 yr) March 14, 2014
Matt Carpenter Cardinals 6 52,000,000 Yes (1 yr) March 8, 2014
Brett Gardner Yankees 4 52,000,000 Yes (1 yr) February 23, 2014
Andrelton Simmons Braves 7 58,000,000 No February 20, 2014
Homer Bailey Reds 6 105,000,000 Yes (1 yr) February 19, 2014
Craig Kimbrel Braves 4 42,000,000 Yes (1 yr) February 17, 2014
Julio Teheran Braves 6 32,400,000 Yes (1 yr) February 14, 2014
Michael Brantley Indians 4 25,000,000 Yes (1 yr) February 10, 2014
Coco Crisp Athletics 2 22,750,000 Yes (1 yr) February 7, 2014
Freddie Freeman Braves 8 135,000,000 No February 4, 2014
Jason Heyward Braves 2 13,300,000 No February 4, 2014
Joaquin Arias Giants 2 2,600,000 No January 24, 2014
Sam LeCure Reds 2 3,050,000 No January 24, 2014
Jordan Zimmerman Nationals 2 24,000,000 No January 17, 2014
Ian Desmond Nationals 2 17,500,000 No January 17, 2014
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 7 215,000,000 No January 15, 2014
Josh Collmenter DBacks 2 2,425,000 Yes (2 yr) January 15, 2014

The first thing that stands out is the realization that it costs a darn big lump of cash to sign even the non-elite MLB players these days.

For example, Reds starter Homer Bailey might have two no-hitters to his name, but is he really a deserved $105 million man after just two seasons of proven success? Indians outfielder Michael Brantley put up a few pretty batting averages during the last couple of seasons, but his otherwise average numbers (.713 career OPS, 6.5 WAR in just over three years of service time) indicate that it costs several million dollars just to sign an above-average position player. The times they are a-changin'.

But you know that. And you also probably know that the Braves are killing it with their contract extensions. It certainly didn't come with a cheap price tag, but to lock up a promising young starter along with the best defender and closer in the game within a week, not to mention the re-signing of Freeman and Heyward earlier in the month, is simply phenomenal.

At the very least, the Braves will have an extremely solid core for many years to come. Sure, the starting pitching will have to stay healthy for Simmons and Kimbrel to become Jeter and Rivera, but with the most important pieces in place, the Braves are built for long-term success.

Who else is on the right track? The Rays made a potentially huge money saver by locking up Chris Archer, and the Angels silenced concerns by signing Mike Trout to a long-term deal as well. The Nationals also secured two key players, Jordan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond, for at least the next couple of seasons.

Perhaps more interestingly, who is making the wrong sorts of moves? The first instance that jumps out is the long-term extension of Miguel Cabrera.

It's not necessarily that the contract won't produce good results over the next few seasons, or even the next several years for that matter. But consider this: Cabrera will earn $64 million between his age 39 and 40 seasons. Rarely are players successful at that age unless they're pumping steroids, and that doesn't even take into account the $60 million Cabrera will make in his age 37 and 38 seasons. In short, the Tigers will owe Cabrera $124 million, a huge chunk of their payroll, during the seasons where an extremely low percentage of players remain productive, much less provide $30 million-value each season.

Is the Cabrera contract doomed? Absolutely not. Miggy is still the best hitter in baseball, and until that changes, the Tigers have themselves a solid deal. But historical precedent has shown that those lengthy deals (see Rodriguez, Alex and Pujols, Albert) don't always come up roses.