While impending free agents get most of the attention when it comes to the offseason, there are always players that teams like to try and lock up with extensions before they hit the open market. Not only does it guarantee that they don't have to compete with the other 29 franchises for the services of their potential free agent, but it also can provide financial flexibility. Below are five players that are undoubtedly worthy of an extension.
Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
When the Cubs traded Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger away to the Orioles in 2013, Pedro Strop seemed to be the headliner of the deal, as he'd posted two consecutive years of sub-2.50 ERA's; however it's been Arrieta that's been the gem of that trade. Since 2014, he's been worth 9.1 fWAR and produced fantastic statistics across the board. He's thrown over 300 innings for the Cubs, and at this point, it seems fairly certain that Arrieta's success isn't a fluke, but rather the result of mechanical changes, and tweaks in his pitching repertoire.
He's already 30 years old, and is signed through the end of the 2017 season, but he'll be in his second year of arbitration, and it would make sense for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to try and negotiate a deal now. A five year deal would buyout the final two years of arbitration, and ensure that there's a solid number two starter behind Jon Lester for the majority of his contract.
The Brandons (Crawford, and Belt), San Francisco Giants
Crawford and Belt are both homegrown, and have become staples of the Giants offense.
Crawford is experiencing a breakout year at the plate, which earned him his first All-Star selection, while Belt has been one of the most valuable first baseman in baseball. Both are under control through the end of the 2017 season, and are undoubtedly worth extending now. If the Giants choose to try and sign them to multi-year extensions (and Crawford and Belt are receptive), they could conceivably have a controlled infield through the 2021 season, which would allow them to focus on other areas of concern.
Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
After his fantastic 2014 season, in which deGrom captured the NL Rookie of the Year honors, he's backed it up with a Cy Young worthy campaign, and of the Mets trio of starters, he seems like the best choice for an extension. Matt Harvey is coming off Tommy John Surgery, and Noah Syndergaard has only 98.2 innings of major league experience under his belt.
While deGrom is a safe bet going forward, the Mets will likely wait to potentially start any extension talks, as he's not arbitration eligible until 2018. However the benefit of signing him to a deal now could ultimately be tens of millions of dollars saved, depending on how he performs over the next two years.
J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers
Martinez has developed into a star over the last two years, and blasted 53 home runs in 223 games (14th overall). The Tigers have a new GM at the helm, and one of Al Avila's first moves could be to lock up their 27 year old slugger. He's making $3 million for this season, and he'll be in his second year of arbitration for 2016. Regardless of how it happens, Martinez is going to get a hefty pay raise, and will be in line for another in 2017; his third and final year of arbitration, before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
While Martinez doesn't have the same track record, he's almost the exact same age as Justin Upton (they were born four days apart), and could use his upcoming multi-year contract as a starting point to work from. He wouldn't be able to get an identical deal, but their AAV's could be somewhat similar, with Martinez getting fewer guaranteed years, and a lower overall monetary commitment.
Contract extensions are vitally important for franchises, and these five players could be key to providing their teams with financial flexibility going forward. In recent years we've seen players like Madison Bumgarner and Paul Goldschmidt sign incredibly team friendly deals, which makes it possible for their respective front offices to work on other areas of need.
Above are just five players that could potentially get extensions this offseason, but there are clearly more that are deserving. Let us know in the comments section who else you think could be a candidate to get locked up.