It seems as if the Cincinnati Reds and 1B Joey Votto have agreed on a 10 year, $225 million extension to keep him with the Reds. And Matt Cain, an impending free agent, just agreed to a 5 year, $112 million deal to keep him in San Francisco. It was not too long ago that several teams were handicapped when it came to retaining their own players. Its nice to know that more teams have the ability to keep their own stars. Prior to this recent surge, it was only the very high market teams, i.e. Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and until recently Mets that had the resources to bring in the big free agents. All with little help from the Dodgers, Cubs, Angels and Rockies.
Added to this is the potential extension between LHP Jonathon Niese and the New York Mets, this is showing a change in the way teams are handling their homegrown players. Teams are now taking advantage of the opportunity to extend their own players while they still have contractual control. They have chose to pay closer to market value in the arbitration years in exchange for a couple, and in some cases more, free agent years. Sluggers such as Troy Tulowitski and Ryan Braun signed contracts in the neighborhood of what Votto signed for, keeping them off the free agent market indefinately and in some cases, for the length of their careers.
As few as five, six years ago, teams had to approach their stars differently. The question was never about if the team could re-sign the player, it was more of a matter of when the player would be traded to maximize the amount of prospects they would obtain. The Padres did it recently with Adrian Gonzalez and Mat Latos and of course, the Athletics did that with Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahill. San Diego did lock up CF Cameron Maybin. More teams seem to be interested in keeping their key players now. Hopefully, this trend continues. I enjoy the parity and would like to see as many teams stay competitive as possible.
The main reason I like this line of thinking is it keeps the top heavy teams from adding to already stacked teams. Cain hitting free agency would have given teams like the Yankees and Red Sox the biggest odds of signing him. Votto would have been an interesting free agent, being the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Tigers and Phillies all have franchise first basemen and would probably not be interested. The Texas Rangers would have probably been the favorites to land Votto had he hit free agency. But Cincinnati is a huge baseball town and deserve to be competitive, if for nothing else, their fans. Votto staying with the Reds is best for baseball.
This also helps teams focus on their own player development. The small market teams can put a focus on developing their own future stars with a good possibility that they can be retained. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates made a committment to their star CF Andrew McCutchen. The Royals have done the same with C Salvador Perez, even before his first full season in the majors. The Nationals did the same with 3B Ryan Zimmerman.
I hope the trend keeps up with future stars such as Ike Davis, Adam Jones, Dustin Ackley, Starlin Castro and Freddy Freeman becoming more known. I look forward to this trend continuing and every team having a chance, not just before opening day, but during the season as well.