Posted at 11:32 AM on May 15, 2008
by Chris Dall
The MLB players association must be very happy right now.
The Milwaukee Brewers announced this morning that they've inked young star Ryan Braun to an eight year, $45 million contract extension. Braun is coming off a rookie season in which he batted .324 with 34 home runs and 97 RBI in 113 games, and he's gotten off to a pretty good start this year (.287/9/29). This contract comes on the heels of the six year, $17.5 million Tampa Bay gave to rookie third baseman Evan Longoria this past Apri. Longoria, by the way, is now hitting .216 with 4 home runs and 15 RBI.
Clearly, the Brewers and the Rays view Braun and Longoria as cornerstones of their franchise. But isn't this jumping the gun just a bit? Braun isn't arbitration eligible until the 2010-2011 offseason, and he isn't available for free agency until the 2013-2014 offseason. Same goes for Longoria. I can understand the Brewers wanting to commit to a young player they feel is special, but signing a rookie to a long-term deal in the middle of April? I think maybe the Rays should have given that one a little more time.
Are teams that afraid of arbitration? They shouldn't be, considering the fact that they have a winning record in arbitration cases.
The bigger question is whether this is the route that more small market teams are going to take with their young players, and how wise a strategy it is. Sure, Braun and Longoria may go on to prove the wisdom of these deals, but they could also turn out to be busts. Can you imagine if the Twins had signed Liriano to this type of deal in the middle of his fantastic 2006 season?