It's time to get Kyle Seager signed to an extension.
The second wave of young Mariner prospects have mostly arrived, and while Brad Miller and Nick Franklin are excelling, it's Seager who has quietly become one of the best players in Major League Baseball. The Mariners should look to get something done with Seager before his price tag gets any bigger.
Seager has almost reached his second year of service time, and will play 2014 near the league minimum without an extension. He's totaled 301 games over the past three seasons and has proven to be durable and consistent. This season, he's taken massive steps forward offensively from an already solid 2012.
His walks are up, his power is up, and his strikeouts are down. He's more disciplined at the plate. He remains a plus fielder as well as a plus baserunner. Look at the progression across several crucial categories this season.
This could just be the beginning. Seager has the potential to be a superstar, if he already isn't one. There's no crazy spikes in Seager's UZR (+3.9), and yet his overall contributions have him at 3.6 fWAR, which ranks #20 among all position players. Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia are both at 3.7. Seager is on pace to break 6 fWAR. He's a star, even if the national recognition isn't quite there yet.
Things are still improving too. There's a good chance he isn't done growing yet, and his price tag is only going to go up as it happens. It's the perfect time to start talking extension with him, to give him some guaranteed millions well before he hits his arbitration years, buying out those seasons and tacking on a team option on the end. By all indications, the Mariners have quite a bit of cash to play with, and should earmark a portion of that future payroll on shoring up some of the major building blocks on this young team, the biggest of which is Seager.
Despite the risks of signing any player to a bundle of guaranteed money, Seager has proven to be durable and is likely past the point where major regression or collapse is a major concern. A six year extension would buy out all of Seager's arbitration years and tack on a couple more at the end, still leaving Seager to hit free agency at 31 (age 32 season) for another payday.
Ian Kinsler signed his pre-arbitration deal in 2008 after his age 25 season, at similar offensive levels of production, though the deal came with less service time and worse offensive production. Kinsler received $5 years/$22 million and the Rangers bought out two years of free agency. Paul Goldschmidt's extension is a similar situation, though his came at a different position and before his 3rd season, while Seager's would be coming in the middle of it. Goldschmidt was on the same age path to free agency as Seager, and he received 5/$32, with an additional $14.5 mill team option on the end.
Seager won't come as cheap because there's some recent precedent at a less premium position. Goldschmidt's deal is widely viewed as a steal especially in hindsight, and Seager woudn't be putting pen to paper until later in his career where the price tag only goes up. That being said, power is still the sexy money maker, and Seager's overall excellence could make his extension a bargain, even if it's more than Goldschmidt's.
Five years, $35.5 million would be a competitive offer and have the following breakdown.
|2018||$13.0||FA yr 1||30|
|2019||$15.0||Team option, $2 mill buyout
|Total (with option)||$50.5|
Seager essentially receives a million dollar signing bonus in 2014, because it's a pre-arbitration year where he'd still be making barely above league minimum otherwise. This offer eclipses Goldschmidt's deal, but also puts Seager on a path to free agency at age 31/32. If all goes right, it becomes a six year, $50.5 million extension, keeping Seager around through the 2019 season, two extra years beyond the team's current club control.
There's risk in signing any player to a long term extension, especially before or during the arbitration years (Gutierrez) but Seager has shown everything the Mariners should look for in a cornerstone player. Durability, all-around game, and constant improvement. Get it done before he gets any better, because there's a pretty good chance he's going to. He's worth the investment.
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