Big news around baseball. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman just signed an eight-year, $135 million contract. Freeman has had exactly one "big" season in his career. He is just 24.
Why is this relevant to the Astros? Put a pin in that and let's explore Grant Brisbee's take on the extension, where he looks at the history of players who received $100 million extensions. Read it, get familiar with it, because we're going to use it to jump off on our Astros tangent.
A fact and two quotes are relevant from the article here. Here's the fact: of the players on Brisbee's list, only three received extensions this lucrative before their Age 25 season. Those were Freeman, Albert Pujols and Elvis Andrus?
Now for the first quote:
Of the players with one big season, most of them are lumbering first basemen with poor defense, and while the Prince Fielder contract isn't even in its second act, it's hard to see that ending well.
And the second:
The Freeman deal is something of an outlier, and it's probably going to be something of a trendsetter. It's all nine-figure deals and ball bearings these days, and teams are going to speculate a little more with the $100 million deals, especially with the under-25 set, because they want to avoid the $200 million deals. When Freeman's deal is over, he'll be 31. I would take the bet that he'll still be valuable then.
See where we're going yet? Maybe not. One more piece of information is necessary here. Behold Freeman's stat line from the 2013 season:
- .319/.396/.501, 23 home runs, 10.5 percent walk rate, 19.2 percent strikeout rate, 150 wRC+, -8.7 defensive WAR component
His defensive value puts Freeman right around top 10 for the position, meaning he's good defensively, but he's just good for a first baseman. The rest of his numbers are very good, but the most important is that walk rate and that on-base percentage. Though his home run total puts him in second base territory for much of the Steroid Era, it's pretty respectable now.
Let me list for you another line and see how it compares:
- .284/.396/.497, 21 home runs, 15.9 percent walk rate, 23.5 percent strikeout rate, 148 wRC+
Similar on-base percentages and wRC+'s, right? Slightly higher walk rate, but slightly higher strikeout rate, too. Power is down slightly, but the (unmentioned) defense rates out comparably well for a first baseman.
The second line, of course, is from Jonathan Singleton in 2012 at Corpus Christi. Like Freeman, Singleton is the standout first base prospect at a position particularly barren of them. Like Freeman, Singleton is young and about to seize a job at the major league level. Like Freeman, Singleton is one of the top 50 prospects in the country.
Look at Freddie Freeman's numbers and check out Singleton's minor league stats. Couldn't you see Singleton putting up similar stats? He's got the plate discipline to post a high on-base percentage. He's got some pop, even if it's not 65-70 on the scouting scale. He strikes out slightly more, which will hold down his batting average. But, his higher walk rates suggest he can maintain that high on-base percentage even with slightly less contact.
What Freddie Freeman's extension means for the Astros is that Jonathan Singleton could be signing his own $100 million extension in the 2015 winter. If he debuts this season and has a breakout year in 2015, his age (24 at that time) puts him in position to be in this extension territory.
Put another way: in two years, you may be dumbfounded that Singleton just got an eight year deal while George Springer still sits at a pre-arb salary. When you're wondering how that happened, look back on the Freeman deal here to see why.
Dream about the Astros pulling off an Evan Longoria-like extension, but remember reality is much closer to the Freeman deal these days. A lot has to break right to get there, but that reality could be very good for JSing in short order.