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Oakland A's recent history with extensions

Safe to say extensions look great on Reddick.
Safe to say extensions look great on Reddick.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There has been much talk about a Josh Reddick extension, something that has been extremely rare for the A's to do in recent history. The possibility of extending Reddick is based on a variety of factors including his age, his general goodness, and the A's lack of outfield depth after 2016. For more on the possibility of extending Reddick, check out Jeremy's great piece on why talks are just starting or his piece on what an extension for Reddick would actually look like.

Extensions are rare for the A's these days. Here's a look as to why.


To start, here are all the extensions the team has given out since 2000, the first year which MLBTR's excellent extension tracker seems to have data available.

Player Date of signing Age Years Dollars () bWAR for relavent years Notes
Sean Doolittle 4/18/2014 27 4 (+ 2 option) 10 0.1 In process, team friendly
Coco Crisp 2/7/2014 34 2 (+1 option) 22.75 -0.7 :(
Trevor Cahill 4/11/2011 23 5 (+2 option) 30.5 1.0 Traded
Kurt Suzuki 7/23/2010 26 4 (+1 option) 16.25 3.1 Traded
Brett Anderson 4/16/2010 22 4 (+2 option) 12.5 4.1 Injured
Michael Wuertz 1/29/2010 31 2 (+1 option) 5.25 -0.7 Woof
Mark Ellis 10/20/2008 31 2 (+1 option) 11 6.6 Mark is the man
Nick Swisher 5/11/2007 26 5 26.75 11.3 Swish is also the man
Mark Ellis 1/1/2006 29 2 6 8.8 Mark is still the man
Dan Haren 9/1/2005 24 4 12.65 23
Mark Kotsay 7/1/2005 29 2 15 .1
Rich Harden 4/1/2005 23 4 9 11.4
Eric Chavez 3/1/2004 26 6 66 9.2 Honestly not that bad
Barry Zito 5/1/2002 24 4 9.3 15.8
Ramon Hernandez 1/2/2002 26 4 9.5 12.8
Mark Mulder 9/1/2001 23 4 14.2 8.5
Eric Chavez 8/1/2000 22 4 11.75 21
Tim Hudson 8/1/2000 24 4 9.1 26.6

Per usual, a few assorted thoughts and a caveat:

-As the deals get older, the less certain I am of the exact deals. MLBTR doesn't seem to list any options prior 2007 either.

-Eric Chavez gets a lot of flack for not living up to his contract, but man does he not compare to some other bad extensions these days. Vernon Wells made almost twice as much money!

-In the same vein, wow has money exploded in baseball. Each of the Big 3 signed a four year deal, the highest topping out at 14.2 million dollars. If the A's ever do extend Sonny, it'll probably be for five times that amount.

-The following analysis is, per usual, my opinion so feel free to let me know if you disagree at all!

A quick reminder on why extensions happen

The early 2000s A's extended in a manner very typical to the rest of baseball: signing young talent prior to arbitration. Why do teams do this? They can gain control of the player for a long period of time with low financial risk. Why do players do this? They gain financial stability to mitigate the risk of injury. Players make near the minimum salary for their first two to three years regardless of how good they are. Signing an extension means they are financially secure prior to hitting arbitration (year three) or free agency (year six).

There are, of course, other reasons and times for extensions. The Royals just inked Sal Perez to an interesting new deal and Reddick is talking extension just prior to hitting free agency. For the most part though, extension happen in the early portion of a player's career.

The A's have lacked extendable players

The A's didn't extend as much starting in 2007/2008, and then really slowed in 2011. Is it a reflection of strategy? Hard to say without asking someone in the front office, but there are a lot of factors at play here. The extensions slowed some around 2007/2008, coinciding with the A's becoming terrible for 5 years. It would make sense the A's wouldn't make extensions if there's no one to extend. To see if this is the case, let's look at all players who put up 3 or more bWAR in a season from 2007 to 2011, excluding players already under contract extension.

Year Player Age bWAR bWAR following contract w/ A's expiring (# of seasons) Notes
2007 Jack Cust 28 3.3 0.2 (1) The world would have exploded
2007 Joe Blanton 26 3.6 2.4 (6)
2008 Brad Zeigler 28 2.8 9.1 Extension would have worked
2008 Justin Duchsherer 30 3.9 0
2009 Rajai Davis 28 3.3 6.2 (5)
2009 Ryan Sweeney 24 3 1.1 (3)
2009 Andrew Bailey 25 3.7 -.2 (1) Injuries
2010 Daric Barton 24 5.5 0 (1)
2010 Cliff Pennington 26 4.5 0 (1)
2010 Gio Gonzalez 24 4 N/A Extension would have worked
2011 Brandon McCarthy 27 3.2 .6 (4)

So not a lot of talent there, and even less of that talent really falls under the extendable realm. By my count, there are two players who would have been worth an extension with the benefit of hindsight: Brad Ziegler and Gio Gonzalez. While both players would be wonderful additions to the current squad, the A's can't be perfect in their extensions and not even the richie riches can extend all their worthy players.

The A's did have some extensions during this time, though

Of course, the A's did make a few extensions during the down years from 2007-2011. Cahill, Suzuki, Anderson, Wuertz, Ellis, and Swisher were all signed on longer term deals. For the most part, those extensions failed and the A's more recent lack of extensions is likely related. Four of those six seemed like obvious extension candidates: Cahill, Suzuki, Anderson, and Swisher were all young in both age and service time. Sometimes, it just doesn't work out.

What about from 2012-2015?

The A's lack of extensions in the late 2000's is at least in part due to the fact that team was bad. That changed in 2012, but there were even fewer extensions from that point on. To a similar but wildly incomplete chart:

Year Player Age bWAR bWAR following contract w/ A's expiring (# of seasons) Notes
2012 Jarrod Parker 23 3.9 N/A Injured
2012 Yoenis Cespedes 26 3.9 N/A
2012 Josh Reddick 25 5 N/A Hey! Maybe!
2013 Josh Donaldson 27 7.7 N/A
2013 Bartolo Colon 40 5 N/A Old
2014 Derek Norris 25 3 N/A TBD, but durability
2014 Sonny Gray 24 3.2 N/A Hey! Maybe
2015 Stephen Vogt 30 3.5 N/A

It's hard to evaluate the A's decisions to not extend any of the above players until they're further in their careers.

Still, it's possible to draw some conclusions from it. In spite of owning one of the best regular season records for a three year span, the A's really weren't loaded with extendable talent. Colon was old, so we can toss him. Norris is a good ballplayer but his durability is a major question mark going into just his fourth big league season. It's pretty easy to see why the A's didn't strike a deal with him and why the Padres might move him. Parker fit the profile of extendable Athletic, as he put up a nearly great season at the age of 23. But two years later, and it's clear the A's were lucky they didn't make make a move. Vogt, while possessing a face not even a Royals fan could hate is probably and sadly not an extension candidate.

So again with the benefit of hindsight, it's clear the A's had four extendable players during their recent run. Evaluating the A's extension strategy will depend highly on how Gray, Cespedes, Donaldson, and Reddick age. It's not clear if the first three would even be open to a reasonable extension nor if the A's were interested. In a few years, we can look back and really know if the decision to avoid extensions was the right one. At any rate, the 2012-2014 playoff teams lacked a huge group of extendable players.

Is a dip in extensions unique to the A's?

Evaluating the A's success with extensions requires we do some comparison with the rest of the league. Here's how the rest of the league extended, broken down by the time periods relevant to the A's. These numbers neglect options (which can be a big deal) since MLBTR doesn't track them consistently.

Range of years Number of Extensions Avg Length Avg Dollars
2012-2015 (4) 230 4.3 48.57
2007-2011 5) 214 3.35 27.5
2000-2006 (7) 151 3.49 23.85

Compared with the A's

Range of years Number of Extensions Avg Length Avg Dollars
2012-2015 (4) 2 3 16.375
2007-2011 5) 6 3.67 17
2000-2006 (7) 10 3.8 16.25

I would warn taking too much away from these numbers, but it's clear the league hasn't shied away from extensions like the A's have. In recent years as the league has benefited from more money, the number of extensions, years, and dollars have all gone up substantially. The A's have stayed the same on their end, giving pretty much the same number of years and dollars on their extensions. To maintain these numbers, they've had to alter their strategy, opting for an aging veteran and an unconventional reliever instead of the young star pitcher. We'll have to wait to evaluate these and it's impossible to say if not extending Gray is a money or durability question, but the A's have avoided financially handicapping themselves.

The A's can't afford the long, expensive extensions the rest of the league can

No huge surprise here. The A's have stopped extending as the league has spent more money. The A's won't spend more than 20% of their payroll on one guy. A very simple but very big point.

A new hope?

If you're hoping for players to be around longer term, you might be in luck. The A's have more talent in the upper minors than they've had in recent memory and that talent could turn into an extendable group of big leaguers in a short amount of time. It's a different look than the older group that made three straight playoff appearances from 2012 on, and that could bode well for longer term deals.

Will the A's adopt a new strategy to fit their (hopefully) new look? We're getting ahead of ourselves a little bit here, since that group has to succeed in the big leagues first. But for the first time in a while, the A's might find themselves with young extendable talent. With payroll restrictions, the A's will have to be choosy about if and who they want to extend. The $90-$100 MM cap probably limits any major extensions to around 3-5 players, if you're really lucky. Do the A's take the Jonathan Singelton strategy? It all remains to be seen. Hopefully.

In conclusion

The A's have been reluctant to extend players in recent years, not just due to money but also due to a lack of extendable players. The next few years should be very telling on the A's decision to move players like Cespedes or Donaldson as opposed to trying to extend them. Many of the A's stars have been a little bit older than the rest of the league, a major reason for the lack of extensions.

The A's strategy going forward should be very interesting. With a minor league teeming at the top with high caliber talent, the A's should have more extendable players on their hands, even compared to the 2012-2014 run where they were objectively very good. With a payroll around the $90-$100 MM mark, extensions are probably only realistic for somewhere around 3-5 players and the A's approach to this should be very interesting.


I'll try and update this piece as more time goes on so we can properly evaluate the lack of extensions in the glory days from 2012-2014.