Another day, another extension given to a pre-arbitration star.
Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Tampa Bay Rays and Blake Snell have agreed to a five-year, $50 million contract extension. The deal runs through Snell’s age-30 season and does not include any options. It covers this season, all three of his arbitration seasons and the first year in which he would have, potentially, been a free agent.
Snell, the reigning Cy Young Award winner in the American League, recently had his contract renewed for $573,700, which is barely above the league minimum. He did not take too kindly to that at the time. He will, obviously, will be paid much more now. At the same time, a pitcher of Snell’s caliber would be worth far, far more than $10 million a year for his age 26-30 seasons either on the open market or even by going through arbitration and then hitting the open market, assuming he remained healthy. He can only be had for that discounted amount thanks to the complete lack of leverage on his side. It’s a tradeoff, obviously — money know for the chance of money later, with some risk thrown into the equation — but it’s a tradeoff born of the relative power between the player and the club.
Such has also been the case with multiple other pre-arbitration players this offseason, with Eloy Jimenez and Alex Bregman most prominent among them. As we’ve noted several times lately, until a player gets to arbitration, he has no leverage. Through arbitration, he has limited leverage. The pre-arb and arb period lasts for 6-7 years. Teams, meanwhile, have placed greater and greater emphasis on building their teams around players in that window, thereby maximizing their leverage.
Which is why, however nice a payday $50 million is, Snell will make considerably less money than he could have if he had not taken the deal. His choice to be sure, but one strongly influenced by a Collective Bargaining Agreement which favors the clubs and their current patterns of player usage.