With Spring Coaching a matter of days away for many golf equipment (and already underway for the Dodgers and Padres), the time of 12 months throughout which groups start to deal with extending their gamers is almost upon us. A handful of groups have gotten a head begin on extension season already because the Tigers signed prime infield prospect Colt Keith to a pre-debut extension, the Astros locked up franchise face Jose Altuve for an extra 5 seasons, and the Royals dedicated greater than $288MM to Bobby Witt Jr.in current weeks.
As famous by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, one membership that has typically eschewed extensions for its gamers lately is the Nationals. Regardless of a pipeline of stars that included the likes of Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, and Juan Soto over the previous decade, the membership solely managed to increase one participant from that period of normal playoff rivalry: right-hander Stephen Strasburg. With that being stated, Zuckerman does level out that the membership could also be on the verge of fixing its popularity for hardly ever extending gamers. Catcher Keibert Ruiz signed a $50MM extension with the membership final spring that might preserve him in D.C. by means of the 2032 season, and as Washington hopes to take one other step in direction of rivalry Zuckerman argues the membership ought to contemplate the same deal for shortstop CJ Abrams.
Abrams, 23, is maybe greatest often called the previous prime Padres prospect who headlined the blockbuster deal that despatched Juan Soto from D.C. to San Diego on the 2022 commerce deadline. Previous to the 2022 marketing campaign, Abrams was a consensus prime 10 prospect within the sport. Whereas the then-21-year-old struggled in his first style of massive league motion, slashing simply .232/.285/.320 in 46 video games within the majors previous to the commerce, the teenager’s 80-grade pace, plus hit instrument and skill to stay at shortstop have been sufficient (alongside a number of different prime prospects) to persuade the Nationals to half with a generational hitter getting into his prime.
Since donning a Nationals uniform for the primary time on August 15 of that 12 months, Abrams has largely held his personal however not fairly reached the tantalizing potential scouts noticed in him throughout his prospect days. Throughout 195 video games with the membership, Abrams has posted a .248/.295/.393 slash line that is available in as a contact beneath common by measure of wRC+ alongside protection at shortstop that Statcast’s Outs Above Common grades as nicely beneath common with a -15 determine, although Fielding Bible’s Defensive Runs Saves paints a barely rosier image with a roughly scratch -1 determine.
Troublesome because the begin to Abrams’s huge league profession has been, it’s value noting that he’s steadily improved as his time within the majors has gone on. Over the teenager’s closing 88 video games final season, Abrams slashed .265/.325/.442 with 33 additional base hits in 381 journeys to the plate. That efficiency on the plate was good for an above-average wRC+ of 105, which when mixed with an astonishing 41 stolen bases in 43 makes an attempt over that point span made Abrams a top quality offensive contributor out of the leadoff spot for the Nationals. Abrams’s protection at shortstop loved some stage of enchancment throughout the 2023 marketing campaign, as nicely: the 22-year-old posted a +4 DRS final 12 months, a determine that put him in the identical dialog as regulars on the place similar to Bo Bichette and Javier Baez when it comes to glove work.
Given his minimal observe document on the huge league stage, an extension for Abrams comes with loads of danger. On the similar time, Witt’s extension in Kansas Metropolis earlier this offseason showcased how dear even pre-arbitration extensions can grow to be after younger abilities set up themselves on the huge league stage. The potential financial savings within the occasion that Abrams breaks out and reaches his ceiling is appreciable sufficient to make the prospect of an extension one which’s a minimum of value contemplating for Washington. As a younger, proficient infielder who has proven flashes of success however struggled with consistency over the course of his first service 12 months within the majors, one participant particularly stands out as a possible level of reference when contemplating a hypothetical Abrams extension: Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes.
Hayes, very like Abrams, was a consensus top-10 prospect within the sport when he misplaced prospect eligibility throughout the 2021 marketing campaign. After slashing an unbelievable .376/.442/.682 throughout his first 95 journeys to the plate within the huge leagues throughout the shortened 2020 season, Hayes got here again right down to Earth in 2021 with a .257/.316/.373 slash line whereas being restricted to only 96 video games by wrist points. That mediocre slash line nonetheless left Hayes as a profession .280/.340/.432 hitter within the huge leagues, nonetheless, a slash line good for a strong 106 wRC+ that dwarfs Abrams’s profession determine of 84. Whereas the pace Abrams has flashed so far in his profession dwarfs that of Hayes on the time, the latter makes up for that together with his elite glove on the scorching nook. In 2021, Hayes posted a whopping +12 OAA at third base, good for the 98th percentile amongst all certified fielders. Abrams, against this, was within the 4th percentile final season with an OAA of -9.
All that’s to say that Abrams seems unlikely to surpass and even match the eight-year, $70MM assure that Hayes managed to safe from the Pirates simply after the 2022 season started, whilst Abrams is 2 years youthful than Hayes was on the time of his cope with the membership. One other potential level of comparability for Abrams can be the seven-year, $58MM extension shortstop Andrelton Simmons signed with the Braves again in 2014.
Simmons was coming off a 2013 marketing campaign that noticed him earn a Gold Glove award and even some down-ballot NL MVP votes for his superlative protection at shortstop, an space the place Abrams’s profile is severely missing. That being stated, Simmons’s profession 94 wRC+ on the time of the deal is in the identical ballpark as Abrams’s determine, and Abrams is each youthful and a far larger risk on the basepaths than Simmons, who stole fewer bases throughout his first six seasons within the majors than Abrams did in 2023 alone. Maybe most significantly, nonetheless, Simmons’s cope with Atlanta shall be a decade previous later this month.
Given these components, it’s truthful to imagine that any deal between Abrams and the Nationals would would seemingly assure the teenager a minimum of $60MM, giving him the biggest assure awarded to a shortstop with between one and two years of service time within the majors. Speculatively talking, an eight-year deal within the $60-65MM vary would look like cheap extension for each side, seemingly with a membership choice or two on the finish as has grow to be typical of early-career extensions for gamers who aren’t already established stars. Such a deal might enable the Nationals to increase their window of management over Abrams, who’s presently slated to hit free company following the 2028 season following his age-27 marketing campaign, by means of his early thirties.
In fact, it’s truthful to marvel if Abrams can be interested by a deal of this kind. In spite of everything, gamers who enter free company of their mid-to-late twenties are likely to have considerably extra incomes potential than those that hit the open market after their thirtieth birthday. Whereas the extra monetary safety supplied by this kind of deal can definitely be interesting to some gamers, it’s additionally value noting that Abrams, as an early first spherical decide within the 2019 draft, acquired a wholesome $5.2MM signing bonus from the Padres. What’s extra, Abrams seems to be in line to grow to be a Tremendous Two participant subsequent winter. Tremendous Two gamers, outlined any participant with between two and three years of service time who falls within the prime 22% of his service bracket, get pleasure from the good thing about reaching arbitration a 12 months early, that means that Abrams is probably going in line for a major pay elevate subsequent winter with or with out an extension, as long as he avoids being demoted to the minor leagues in 2024.