Why did I choose Gray over Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily or Tommy Milone? I like new things, and I thought Gray showed something special in his 77IP in 2014. IMO, he may end up the best of the bunch. An extremely early extension would also be very unique as most players only get extended with at least one year of MLB service time.
The first Evan Longoria extension is the only other year one (1) extension I could find. It is widely thought of as the best team friendly contract in baseball. It was signed in 2008. 6/$19million plus 3 team option years. It ended up being a 9/$45m deal. So far (six years) he has produced 36 WAR.
A lot of teams who though early that they had a great player probably wish they had locked them up in year one. The Holy Fish is prime example A. I have seen numbers like 10/$300m being thrown around for Mike Trout.
The A's do have a little more information on Gray than the Rays had on Longoria. 64 IP. 140 ERA+, 2.92 xFIP. 13 IP playoffs at a 2.04 ERA.
Just to come up with a rough value for Gray, I extrapolated his regular season WAR over 200 IP to come up with 5war/200 IP. It's a starting point not a prediction.
Lets look at the top 30 starters by WAR in MLB last year.
# 1 was Clayton Kershaw at 6.5 WAR. #30 was C.J. Wilson at 3.3 WAR. There is your range for a number one starter. With all the injuries and down years, just 3.3 gets you into the number one starter conversation. If there was such a thing as a number one hitter, it would take a batter 4.8 WAR to get into that conversation.
The WAR graph below has been adjusted to show starting pitching values. I also included how many starters fall into the 2 WAR or better category's.
Role Player...........1 WAR
Solid Starter..........2 WAR (73 total pitchers had 2 WAR or higher)
#2 Starter.............2.5 WAR ( 55)
.............................3 WAR (43)
Star.......................3.5 WAR (28)
All-Star..................4.0 WAR (21)
Super-Star............5.0 WAR (10)
Cy Young..............6.0 WAR (6 total starting pitchers has 6 WAR or higher)
If a team has a pitcher that can fall into even the "solid starter" category, that is very valuable and puts them in a #3/4 starter range. Don't believe me? The #63 best starting pitcher WAR in 2012-2013 is none other than A's fan punching bag Tommy Milone with 4.0 WAR.
Part 2- Comparisons and details.
What do some other early pitching extensions look like? Here are three pitchers recently extended with only one year of service time:
Madison Bumgarner -Giants. 6/$35 million. April 2012. 337 IP. 6.3 WAR at the time of the extension. Bought out two remaining pre-arb years, three arb years, and one year of free agency. Two! additional years team options @ $12 million/y. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/bumgama01.shtml#contracts
Julio Teheran - Braves. 6/$32m. Feb. 2014. 211 IP. 2.4 WAR. Same six years as Bumgarner, One! additional team option @ $12m. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/t/teherju01.shtml
Martin Perez- Rangers. 6/$23.5m. Nov 2013. 161 IP. 2.2 WAR. Same six years. One! additional Team option @ $9million. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/p/perezma02.shtml#contracts
I'm going to use those contracts as a template for a Sonny Gray extension. I will use a Bumgarner WAR scale to roughly compare them. At the time of his extension, Bumgarner had pitched 337 innings.
Bum (6.3 WAR/337 IP) (4.6 WAR/2011)
Gray (7.9 WAR/337) ( 5.0 WAR/200 IP)
Perez ( 4.6 WAR/337) (2.1/200)
Teheran ( 3.8 WAR/337) (2.4/200)
Sonny Gray b. Nashville TN. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/grayso01.shtml
The earlier a team can get a star player to sign an extension, the more money they can save. I don't know if the A's have near enough information on Gray yet. But a roll of the dice, may end up nice. 2014 should still be Grays year one of MLB service time. I made my extension proposal salary higher than may be needed for a player with so few innings of experience.
Extension Proposal: 6/$24m. Covering his 3 pre-arb and 3 arb years. Plus (3) team options covering his first three years of free agency @ 12m/y.
Year 1- $1million. Y2- $2m Y3- $3m Y4- $4m Y5- $6m Y6-$8m
If completed: 9/$60m. Y7- $10m Y8- $12m Y9- $14m
Gray has less experience than all of them, I.E. less leverage. That's more $ than Perez, because it does not buy out a free agent year. Total F.A. years (3) are the same as the Bumgarner contract. The option year Salary's are the same or more than the other three.
What about a pitcher injury? Here is a link to a starting point on that: http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/2013-starting-pitching-dl-projections/. Since there are three team options, the only real risk is the $24 million over six years.
This post could just as easily be advocating five (5) early starting pitching extensions, not just one. What it highlights is how a 3 WAR pitcher has roughly the same rarity as a 5 WAR hitter. Do you or the A's think Sonny Gray is a 3 WAR pitcher moving forward? If the answer is anywhere from yes; to very yes, I say why wait.
What do you think Nation? Should the A's extend Sonny Gray now?
After looking at super-2 eligibility rules, I think Sonny Gray will NOT be a super 2. That would save the A's approximately $5 million on an early contract extension. Or, a non-extended non super 2 Gray could save the A's up to $15 million dollars over his arb years.
The A's could have controlled Jarrod Brent Parker through 2018 IF they kept him down in AAA for around two more weeks in late April of 2012. They didn't, so the A's only control him through 2017.
Thomas Andrew Pomeranz was in the same position as Parker in 2012. But the Rockies kept him down long enough in AAA so that now the A's control him through 2018.
Brandon Douglas Moss is a super 2. Fernando Rodriguez is a super 2. Sean Robert Doolittle should be a super 2.
Derek Russell Norris and Arthur Joseph Griffin are on the cutoff. My guess is both will not be super 2's.
Joshua William Lindblom, Sonny Gray, Ryan William Cook, and Daniel Steven Straily should not be a super 2.
If the A's call up Addison Russell in 2014 at the start of 2014, the A's should control him through 2019.
If they wait about 3 weeks, till April 25th or so, the A's could control him through 2020.
Extremely Early Extension: