Lots of nice Pirates news today. Ian Snell shut down the Astros last night, beating Roger Clemens; Snell has already won a soft spot in my heart for the way he might get screwed Craig Wilson-style, so I hope he keeps this up. Tom Gorzelanny makes his first big league start today. Andrew McCutchen was named the top prospect in the Gulf Coast League.
And, most importantly, the Pirates have offered Jason Bay a four-year extension for an as yet unknown amount of money. Just a guess, but the contract will probably be for around $20 million or slightly less - richer than the long-term contracts recently signed by Rich Harden, Bobby Crosby and Victor Martinez, but along the same lines. Bay is closer to arbitration now than any of those players did when they signed their contracts and he's as good or better than all of them, which is why I think it will be more expensive.
All contracts are gambles, but this is a different kind of gamble than free agent contracts. It isn't just a prediction about Bay's performance, but also about what the Pirates would have to pay to keep him during his arbitration years. For Bay, it's not just about what he'd get during arbitration, but about setting himself up for life. If Bay is likely to continue to be very productive, and I think he is, now is a good time to sign him, because the Bay has to weigh the risk of getting badly hurt next year and making a total of only about $1 million playing pro baseball.
Baseball Prospectus' article on these sorts of contracts shows their potential risks and rewards. As with all players, young players who are athletic and have a broad base of skills are more likely to grow gracefully than players who do not. BP compares the Toronto Blue Jays' signings of Eric Hinske and Vernon Wells to similar five-year deals in 2003. Hinske is a third baseman who can't play defense or run; Wells is an excellent defensive center fielder and a good athlete. Hinske's contract has been a failure, while Wells' has been a success. Of the two players, Bay is a lot more like Wells.