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Extension Candidates: Follow One Number

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MLB: Spring Training-San Francisco Giants at Oakland Athletics
“Watch this extension!”
Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports

Dun dun DUN! I love headlines that keep you in suspense. To me it’s not "click bait," it’s the equivalent of Snoopy starting his latest and greatest novel with "It was a dark and stormy night." Having read all of Snoopy’s manuscripts, I’m assuming he lives in Seattle.

Recently, a dapper young gentleman named 510SportsTake wrote a piece about possible early extension candidates for the A’s. Marcus Semien was highlighted, but to my calculation Semien’s chances are lowered by two factors. One is that he hits arbitration next season and the A’s have yet to announce the transition from Blue Ribbon Committee to Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

Of course that could still happen before Semien reaches arbitration, but you can’t blame A’s fans who wonder if it will happen before Smash Mouth releases a good song. (Notice that I didn’t say another good song.) The other factor is that Semien is already under contract through his 30th birthday, meaning that an extension would risk coinciding with the start of a natural decline.

However, let’s say that finally the A’s get some actual movement on a new stadium and that maybe Semien represents the last generation of young players to mature for an A’s organization still run on a shoestring budget. A new A’s business model still won’t hand out extension like they’re skittles (that’s what they pass out to me on International Blvd., right?).

In predicting whom the A’s might try to lock up early and perhaps beyond their contract controlled years, I would think that a key number will be age. Let’s take a look at two natural candidates, Franklin Barreto and Matt Chapman.

Barreto is still just 21, likely to begin the 2016 season at AAA Nashville and to stay there long enough for Oakland to keep 6 years of control after 2017. What that means is the A’s are probably going to have Barreto up in the big leagues for his age 22-27 seasons. That makes him an excellent candidate for an extension if the A’s believe in him, because they could lock him up through his age 28-29 seasons at an affordable rate.

In contrast, while Chapman also has a chance to be very good he is turning 24 in April and his likely arc has him under contract control for ages 25-30. If both were to star at the same level and if the amount needed to extend each player were to be the same, or similar, you would opt for Barreto and his age 28-29 seasons over Chapman and his age 30-31 seasons, just based on expected prime and decline years for a typical player.

Other natural possibilities:

  • The case for Marcus Semien is made in 510SportsTake’s piece, and certainly where Semien has the rest beaten is that he is the only one who has already established himself as a big leaguer for a full season, not to mention two seasons. He is also under control through age 30 and may or may stick at SS over the time of his contract. Hmm...
  • Sean Manaea, still with 6 years of control ahead of him, will turn 25 in a month and has already had a forearm scare to go with previous lower-body owies. Hmm...
  • Ryon Healy, also with 6 years of control ahead, turns 25 next week but is mostly a hitter and not a defensive plus. Hmm...
  • Jharel Cotton is 25 later this month and has a small frame, but has yet to show signs of injury. Hmm...
  • Frankie Montas will turn 23 in March, has been limited to 31 IP in 2 years thanks to injury — but that also means far less mileage in his arm, and the injuries were not arm-related. Hmm...
  • Matt Olson doesn’t turn 23 until the end of March, but also is far from a sure thing to thrive in the big leagues. However, if he does he is the youngest player after Barreto in the immediate mix. Hmm...

In the lower minors, it’s worth noting that despite being farther up the minor league chain Grant Holmes (turning 21 in March) is actually more than a year younger than A.J. Puk (turning 22 in April). However, both are far enough away to keep any extension talk on hold for several years. It’s Barreto, Chapman, Manaea, Healy, Cotton, Montas, Olson that may test the A’s soonest.

Let’s say there is movement on a new stadium and the A’s have the budget to offer extensions -- maybe 1-2 years beyond free agency — in the next couple years to, say, two of these players, which two would you select? Or would you elect to offer it to only one, or to none, putting that money to use elsewhere?

For me, I predict age will be an essential factor and that if two players are locked up soon it will be Barreto and perhaps Montas if he proves he can success as a SP in the big leagues. After all, when he hits his late 20s Montas will still have relatively few innings on his ledger, giving him somewhat of a Samardzija-type "low mileage" appeal.

But cases can be made for various options, from "give it to pitchers" to "stay away from pitchers," from "save it for Puk" to "blow it on Chapman"...So make your case in the comments!