Would an Extension Change Pirates Fan Relationship With the Team?

Before I dig in on this subject, there is nothing that will have real lasting effect on the fan base like winning. While it doesn’t feel like it at times, I think it’s easy to accept that Ben Cherington wants to do exactly that. I just don’t get the impression that fans have an issue with what he and his team are doing, their beef is largely with Bob Nutting and ultimately the fervent belief that he won’t support Ben’s efforts when the time comes.

I can’t argue that, I won’t even try.

So on that note, would an extension or two be enough to buy some good faith?

Well, I think it kind of depends on who. For instance, should the team manage to extend Ke’Bryan Hayes beyond 2026 what would that do for you as a fan? Let’s say they get it done, give him say 8 years, that takes them through 2029, and this isn’t exactly crazy, the Pirates have done this with Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, I mean, I could keep going. That said, what this extension would really do is ensure Hayes is here not just during the window, but through it.

It gives the Pirates cost assurance, meaning they find a way to avoid the possible outcome of Kris Bryant like arbitration numbers in the 2025-2026 range of his career and they don’t have to make a decision much like the Cubbies will face this season. See, even the rich Cubs are in a position where they need to decide should we trade potentially our biggest chip for prospects as all of their core pieces reach contract maturity together, or should they hold onto him and try to take advantage of a weak NL Central to see if they can’t get one more playoff series with this group.

Now, keeping Bryant will probably hurt the ease with which the Cubs turn the page, difference is they have the money to not have it set back the franchise for a decade.

That’s why to me it’s important the Pirates are able to get something done here with Hayes, not so we can have some nearly non-existent feel good “he’s a Pirate for life” stuff. I’d really rather not see the team forced to make a decision that will hurt the franchise regardless of the choice.

At 24 years old, he’s not getting a Tatis type deal from the Pirates, or any team really. Somewhere in the 8-10 year range is the sweet spot I believe and 8 would be smart for him as well, he’ll still be young enough to score big in free agency, whereas 10 might push it a bit too far and force him into Josh Donaldson type territory for his first big post Pirates contract.

Now if they did get this done, something at least, I can’t see anyone thinking the team did the wrong thing here. I think just about everyone would see this as a good call, and regardless of who they give credit to it certainly can’t hurt the credibility of this management group. Even if it results in people believing Ben Cherington is a miser whisperer and tricked Nutting into compliance the desired result would be apparent.

So, I think the benefits to getting this done with Hayes make total sense, I mean, let’s not pretend it’s a stretch to sell this to you. Who doesn’t want to see Hayes in Black and Gold for the majority of the decade?

Let’s translate this to some other players.

Bryan Reynolds would be another easy sell, maybe not quite as much money but the timeline is super close. Reynolds is done in 2025. I’d be making most of the same arguments here, but maybe a step back in dollar amount which I’m not touching to begin with. None of these are going to be the 20 Million per year behemoths we’ve seen for players like Mookie Betts. Extensions like that are really a lot more closely related to full on free agent deals than they are to extensions that buy out rookie and arb years.

Let’s see, how about the flavor du jour Adam Frazier? Nobody wants to see him leave, even those of us who think it realistically will happen. What could they get done here? He has one more year of team control so the decision must almost assuredly come either this trade deadline or at latest this off season.

4.3 Million dollars this season and if he continues to play like this who knows what he could get in arbitration. My best guess would be a touch over 7, believe it or not this wouldn’t be a concern for even the Pirates, running out of control certainly is though.

There isn’t anyone viable on the near horizon to replace him. That’s not to say nobody can play the position or even that it matters particularly given the current timeline they’re on, but another way to look at it could be buying time. Let’s say they can convince him to extend for 4 or 5 years. Is Adam going to be Adam when he’s 35 or 36? Likely not. But the Pirates wouldn’t really be looking for that out of him, they’d be looking for him to play well for a couple seasons to bridge the gap to whoever’s next.

They could always move him a bit later in the timeline, but depending on how the deal looks and how much he’s lived up to whatever the cost is would of course effect his value. Now would it cripple this franchise to not get the return they could get for him now? Eh, probably not, but what the Pirates really have to do is balance the risk reward.

What will he provide the Pirates on the field versus what could he provide the franchise in future talent? That’s the question, and a question for that matter the club has to answer repeatedly over the years to come.

Baseball’s system isn’t evenly applied across all baseball. When you say Bob Nutting is cheap, you’re dead on. But how much can he or any Pirates owner truly spend? We just don’t know without open books, but we can reasonably assume it’s far less than the Yankees or Dodgers.

These conversations and things to think about I outlined in this piece are for the most part not even topics in the top ten markets MLB has to offer.

I fully understand the hate directed at this owner, but I also think you need to realize a new owner changes the equation less than many would care to believe.

To me, it’s incredibly boring to stop every conversation with chanting the name of public enemy number one. He’s part of the story, he isn’t all of it. Regardless of whether I’ve opened your mind enough to actually consider these questions the fact remains they exist. No matter how much easier it is to name a boogieman and point at him for every distasteful thing this team does, some of these things don’t make sense for the team, some do. Take the time to evaluate as though you were the GM working under the constraints you know exist.

Every time a player approaches his last two years of team control the open choice is going to be on the table. Extend or trade? For each instance here are some questions we should ask.

  1. How old will the player be when team control expires?
  2. How long can we reasonably expect his performance to not drop off?
  3. Is there anyone remotely close to filling the hole that might be left?
  4. Does this player have a history of staying on the field?
  5. What is his value on the market?

Answer all those questions honestly and put on your GM hat, rather than scream and cry for an extension because someone hit a homerun or pitched 7 shutout innings.

Think of this like your car. When you get it paid off and the warranty has expired, every time something happens to the car you have to ask yourself many of these same things. If I fix this how much more time can I get out of this car? Is it worth dealing with things not being perfect in order to not have a car payment? If I put this money in and it breaks down again in 3 months can I afford to fix it next time? Can I afford to get a new one in 6 months if I was wrong?

Again, money is an issue, but nothing is more dangerous than dead money. This isn’t a market that can afford to have a 37 year old who contributes nothing on their bench making 15 million a year.

I like to discuss what goes into decisions like this rather than just tell you what I think they should do with a wall of stats because if you put yourself in the position of thinking through things like this, chances are you’ll understand the choices and when you tell me Cherington was wrong or right, it won’t just be based on how it made you feel.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Would an Extension Change Pirates Fan Relationship With the Team?

  1. Putting on my GM hat:

    My overall goal, to be competitive in 2023 through 2028 (assuming no 2022 season due to lockout/strike) and using in-division comps where possible.

    Fraizer is 29 and will be 30/31 upon expiration of his agreement (dependent on tolling for a strike/lockout). He may be looking for Wong money but would hope we could extend him for 3 years at $5-6M per year.

    Reynolds is currently 26 and done in 2025. To keep him here through 2028 let’s give buy out the arb years and give him a Bote-like extension of $15M to cover now through 2028.

    Hayes, ideally I would want to give him an Acuna-like 8 years $100M extension but realistically he is going to wait to see what the market is after Bryant hits free agency and see if he can peg his number somewhere between Bryant and Arenado. Can’t blame him but maybe he will value certainty over AAV.

    Liked by 1 person

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