Spare Parts: Extension season is upon us, maybe

Springtime is when a front office’s thoughts turn to extensions, and while several players could theoretically be reasonable candidates, two tend to come to mind. There’s Lucas Giolito, who is embarking on his first arbitration-eligible season, and would become a free agent after the 2023 season without a deal. The other is Andrew Vaughn, mostly because the White Sox’s other highly touted prospects haven’t been able to crack an Opening Day roster without agreeing to control the costs of their first six years, plus a year of free agency or two.

The likelihood of extensions are harder to ascertain for different reasons. Giolito would be a natural candidate, but he’s driven hard bargains in the past, and he’s an active member of the union. Vaughn, meanwhile, hasn’t played a game above A-ball, whereas Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert excelled at both levels of the high minors before signing their record pre-MLB extensions.

There still isn’t much in the way of clarity, but there is a little more noise. At ESPN, Jeff Passan mentioned both cases in his season preview:

Vaughn hasn’t taken a big league at-bat, but that hasn’t stopped Chicago from trying to do with him what it did with center fielder Luis Robert, who signed a six-year, $50 million deal with two club options before his major league debut. Vaughn, chosen one pick after Bobby Witt in 2019, has been a revelation this spring and will only strengthen a lineup filled with players on long-term deals: Robert, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada — and before that, Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, whose club-friendly deals kick-started their rebuild. Thus far, despite engaging with Vaughn and Lucas Giolito, the White Sox haven’t been able to lock either down, according to sources.

Bob Nightengale tagged along, but couldn’t advance the story any further.

Any outcome wouldn’t surprise me, and I’m not really fixated on one or another. After the Sox pointed to their other contract extensions as a reason they couldn’t shop at the top of the free agent market, I more or less consider all other options irrelevant to the task at hand. Whatever happens on the field over the next three years is going to have a whole lot more to say about what the Sox can do from here.

* * * * * * * * *


Michael Baumann provides a good summary of how Lance Lynn became the pitcher he is today, with reflection from Lynn himself. I suppose Lynn is another extension candidate.

James Fegan goes into great detail about the evolution of Aaron Bummer’s sinker, which was inspired by Zack Britton, but morphed into something else entirely after tinkering with grips to match Bummer’s somewhat unorthodox delivery.

“The correlation between the two of us begins and ends, almost, with ‘left-handed’ and ‘sinker,’” Bummer said. “I would say 100 percent of people are trying to stay behind the baseball, stay on top of the baseball, to create vertical ride, to create spin efficiency. I’m kind of the opposite. I do a lot of things that coaches wouldn’t recommend by throwing the side of the baseball. But that’s what works for me, and that’s what creates the vertical movement that I have, which I think is from having a lower slot. And having a lower hand placement, to where I’m not necessarily on top of the ball, but I’m throwing … I don’t know the right verbiage of what it is to say what it is, but I throw the ball different.

“The way that the ball comes out of my hand, the spin axis is significantly different than most.”

One of my more misguided notions about the pandemic season was that games would be shorter. Not without a reason! The fanless game in Baltimore moved along at a brisk pace due in part — or so I thought — to the lack of a crowd, the in-game production aimed at it, and the foul balls into it. Alas, the average game took 3 hours and 7 minutes, with the strikeout rate setting a record for a 15th consecutive year.

Ben Clemens takes a good look at Eloy Jiménez’s opposite-field power, noting that he registers a crazy percentage of barrels for hits going the other way, especially in the air. Jiménez does a ton of damage for a guy who hit more than half his batted balls on the ground, so imagine what it’d look like if he could wrestle that down to below 50 percent.

As the White Sox open a season on a new flagship station, Jon Greenberg wonders whether ESPN 1000 could ever capture the magic of Chris Rongey’s postgame show, and the regular callers that made it special. Twitter gives White Sox fans the release valve they need, but as somebody who blogged through it — and occasionally sparred with Rongey while doing so — it’s more fun when somebody knows how to be a foil and facilitator.

(Lucas Giolito portrait by Carl Skanberg)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Articles like that Jon Greenberg article make the athletic worth the price of admission. Absolutely phenomenal piece.

As far as as Vaughn extension goes, he is different than Jimenez and Robert in two ways. As mentioned, he doesn’t have the minor league track record they both did. Secondly, he’s a first basemen/DH where as Robert plays a premium position and Eloy at least can hide in LF.

1B Evan White signed a 6/$24M deal in 2019 with the Mariners after putting up a 132 wRC+ season at AA. He also plays gold-glove caliber defense at 1B. White was ranked the #58 prospect in baseball according to in 2019.

Eloy signed for 6/$43M right before the 2019 season after a bonkers 168 wRC+ between AA/AAA in 2018. Eloy was the #3 prospect in baseball in 2018 according

I think a fair deal for Vaughn would be somewhere in the middle of White and Eloy. So 6/$34M seems fair to buy out his arbitration years. He is more comparable to Eloy as a hitter but since he’s a 1B/DH he will have to solely rely on his bat for value.


Good point. I wonder how much value his 4 Gold Gloves played into his arbitration settlements.

karkovice squad

The cost, number, and structure of option years are probably the bigger sticking points since they’re the place where teams are most clawing back leverage from the players with the extensions. White gave the Mariners 3 club options for $10m, $11m, and $12.5m. Jimenez gave the Sox 2 for $16.5m and $18.5m.


There was a conversation on Fangraphs the other day that touched on a Vaughn extension. Even though the arbitration process is evolving, Vauhgn is still set up to post the “wow” numbers that get you paid in arbitration, even if he doesn’t end up accruing as much WAR as Robert does.

As Cirensica

Seriously…what a fantastic piece that Greenberg article.


Am I the only confused by the conflation of being pro-union and anti-extension? Has the union specifically come out against this practice, and I just missed it? It seems to me the union should be pro-extension or at least publishing guidance to help their players understand risks and rewards, time value of money, and service time considerations.

To me, the best reason the union should be pro-extension is that it overcomes the challenge of service time manipulation from the players’ perspective. Sure, they “pay” something in order to do that but once it’s off the table then the players can start their clock as soon as possible to get to their second contract. You can argue that teams shouldn’t manipulate service time, but the fact is they do, and extensions are one avenue to work around (or at least with) that roadblock.

The second reason the union should be pro-extension is that it locks in guaranteed money, usually measured in eight digits. Say what you will about the extensions potentially resulting in below-market salaries, that’s a life-changing amount of money for most players and eliminates the short-term risk of injury. I know Danks did just fine compared to Floyd, but if I was a pitcher especially I’d be looking for as much long-term certainty as I could manage. I don’t know if Rodon was ever offered an early extension (before his injury history became apparent), but I imagine he wishes he’d have taken one now if it was offered. He’s almost certainly going to earn less than what he could have in a hypothetical scenario where he was offered a Sale-like contract.

I don’t know if Vaughn deserves an extension or not (I’m not a talent evaluator) and I don’t know if Giolito needs one (he’s already made a lot of money he could live on for a long time if he manages it right) but I wouldn’t see signing one by either player as an anti-labor move even if it caps their earnings in the short term.


That all makes sense. This is the key in my mind:

 there’s the matter that they should have been given better advice in real time

Financial numeracy is an all too often overlooked educational need. If the agents’ and the players’ incentives aren’t aligned (as you outline) then the union has to take it on themselves to provide some guidelines.

karkovice squad

I’d add that a part that’s increasingly cause for concern is how teams have accelerated how early in the process they try to capture the bargaining advantages from service time now that they’re making promotions contingent on extensions.


Now now, only the Mariners are doing that. Every other team has perfectly legitimate baseball reasons that prevent promotions and any relationship between signing an extension and promotion to the majors is purely coincidental.


I’d think the union would be applauding any long-term extension for a reliever. Those types of deals seem like a huge risk unless you’re an Aroldis Chapman type. Look no further than Craig Kimbrel.


Ought Lynn not be mentioned in this conversation?


Lynn doesn’t have a lot of incentive to sign an extension (he can wait 8 months and become a free agent), and the Sox don’t have a lot of incentive to offer him one (even if they extended him by only one year, he’d be 35 by the end of the deal).

Last edited 2 years ago by AshnodsCoupon

I disagree, both have an incentive. For Lynn, the incentive is capitalizing on the best 8 months of his career. An extension would likely be the largest contract of his career. Without it, an injury or down year would put his market in rough shape.

For the Sox, the incentive is filling a gap in the rotation at a reasonable price. This winter showed the risks in waiting for FA: shell out for Bauer, or the next best option was a 31 year old with a 6.59 ERA in 2020 (Odorizzi).

3 years/$45m (so, extending him by 2 years) makes sense for both parties. It insulates both from unnecessary risks.


Awesome points Ashnods and HallOfFrank. Scary time for players who aren’t superstars as it seems to me so many serviceable MLB players had to settle for: playing overseas, taking a MILB contract to re-establish their value, or settle for below their perceived worth in recent off-seasons. Factoring his age and the climate of the industry over the last several years, Lynn IMO, probably would be smart to secure an extension if offered to him. A down year this year may force him into retirement if he doesn’t want to go down the alternative roads (MILB, KBO, etc.) to continue his baseball career.

With the internal options I’d be really surprised the Sox attempt to extend Lynn though. However, TLR may have enough pull with Reinsdorf if Lynn does well ????. A full year experience for Cease, then Kopech, Crochet, Lopez, Stiever, Lambert as possible internal options. And hey, Rodón looked really good the other day. No longer throwing across his body ???? Katz. Don’t know what his velo was, but got some forward and backward K’s with the FB against the Padres. We’ll see if he can stay healthy


I don’t think the White Sox should be offering anymore than one year to any non-hall-of-fame-bound pitcher (and even then I’m wary) over the age of 35. The drop-off is coming at some point soon.


Great to see a player who’s willing to bargain hard, but also damn it would suck if Giolito left.


I wonder if they can take a page out of the Boras book and structure Giolitos extension as a “swell-opt”, like Arrieta or Kikuchi. I imagine the impasse is that the Sox only want to commit to something like 4-5 years (2 arb + 2-3 Free agent years) and Giolito wants needs long term security for it to be worth it to him.

So I’m imagining something like 6 years guaranteed (8/12/31/31/20/20), where you buy out 2 free agent years at market value and then have another two on the books at a discount. There’s a player option after year 4 but the Sox can supercede that opt out by exercising a club option for like 175/5 ($35M AAV) instead of the $40/2

Worst case for Giolito, he gets hurt or underperforms and he is still locked in for $152M over 6 years. Best case, he forces the club to pay up (in which case he earns $237M for 7 of his free agency years), or if they aren’t willing to pay, i.e. Jerry still owns the team, he can test free agency at age 30.

The Sox get the benefit of control without having to bid against anyone else. And their downside is limited in the meantime.

Last edited 2 years ago by MrStealYoBase

It’s possible I’ve missed something, because I’m seeing the Sox have 3 more years of control (so 6 guaranteed years would buy out 3 FA years, not 2).

But, I can’t see the team being interested. If we assume Giolito keeps dominating without injury, the Sox probably end up paying him 3 years, $30m ($10m AAV) without an extension.

On your extension, there are basically three options:
A – Giolito is meh/bad & so doesn’t opt out so he ends up at 6 years, $120m ($20m AAV);
B – Giolito is good/great & wants to opt-out, so Sox exercise the option so he ends up at 8 years, $257 ($32m AAV);
C – Giolito is good/great & wants to opt-out but the Sox let him, so he ends up at 4 years, $82m ($20.5 AAV).

Option A is bad for the Sox because they effectively tack on 3 years, $90m for a not great version of Giolito. Option C is also bad for the Sox, because even though Giolito was good, they effectively paid him $52m for the 4th year. Option B works out okay, but it includes them paying market rate for a pitcher when they don’t have to. And this is not even considering the risk the Sox would be absorbing in guaranteeing a pitcher $120m.

The swell-opt could work, but I think the guaranteed money would have to be lower. Maybe something like: 5 years, $80m guaranteed ($10m/$15m/$15m/$20m/$20m); after year 4, Giolito can opt out – or – Sox pick up a 5 year, $150m option.


Based on what I’m seeing, Giolito is guaranteed* to be on the White Sox in 21, 22, and 23. If we don’t extend him and including this season, we probably have him on a 3 year, $25M deal unless he goes out and wins a Cy Young or two which is possible. For reference: DeGrom went $4.05M, $7.4M, then won a Cy Young and jumped to $17M in his trips through arbitration.


Right. I estimated 3/$30m above, but that’s generous.

I used DeGrom as a template in making that estimation (plus inflation), but it was scary to me how difficult it was to find a pitcher that was really good and really healthy through his arb years. There aren’t many. I guess pitchers are more likely to sign extensions early, but there’s a good reason for that.


I’m not including this year in those calculations. The first year of the extension would be 2022. So it’s $20M for the last two years of arbitration. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

Your analysis of option A is fine except that the same thing can be said for any extension or free agent acquisition. Why give guaranteed years when you don’t have to? It’s because the player has the leverage. You have to dangle that guaranteed money carrot in order to get them to sign. He’s clearly not going to accept $80M/4, otherwise I would guess that the deal would be done already.

The difference with option B is not that they are simply “paying market rate.” They don’t have to commit to that full contract until they’ve seen what Giolito looks like at age 30, after the next 5 years of pitching. And it’s “market rate” for a top end pitcher in 2021. They are locking him in at that price if they want to extend him at that point. Who knows what the new CBA will do to player salaries, but if things continue in the way they’ve been going for the last few years, 175/5 for an elite pitcher at age 30 is going to look like a steal.

Option C covers 2 years of arb and 2 years of free agency. So it’s $62M for two years of free agency (31M AAV), not $52M for one extra year.

I think you can make the argument that my numbers are a bit high across the board, but I think that they represent the general type of commitment that would be needed if the Sox are serious about getting this type of deal done.

Last edited 2 years ago by MrStealYoBase

Well, that’s even more confusing because then the 6 years guaranteed would actually be the next 7 seasons, thus buying out 4 years of FA. I must be missing something?

But, no, the same can’t be said for any extension or FA, because option A, with the swell-opt, only happens only if Giolito is bad/meh. If he’s good, he uses the opt-out and option A doesn’t happen. You’re only correct if option A is a straightforward option without a swell-opt.

The player really doesn’t have the leverage you seem to think. The Sox have him for at most 3 years/$30m (and that’s generous) during what will almost certainly be the best 3 years of his career. Not only that, but they have him with no risk attached. If he needs another TJS in August, the Sox can finish his $4m payment and walk away. And there is just so much risk for pitchers.

I’d guess the only way this deal gets done is if the Sox guarantee him $80-100m and he gives up 2 FA years. That seems reasonable to me for both sides.


I think we are talking past each other here on the years of control, so I’m just going to drop that. Let’s just focus on the dollar value guarantee.

I’d say a guy who will hit free agency as a TOR arm going into his age 29 season and who got a generous signing bonus has plenty of leverage. He could be in line with a Gerrit Cole type deal if he continues his trajectory, and is probably in the Wheeler+ range even if he plateaus or regresses slightly. If he was willing to accept <$100M guaranteed in exchange for pushing his free agency back two years and reducing the likelihood of a big payday, the ink would already be dried on a deal.