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Could Anthony Rizzo Get The Next Reworked "Salvador Perez" Deal?

In the wake of the Royals' "re-extension" of their star catcher, could the Cubs' star first baseman take a similar extension?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In the aftermath of Salvador Perez signing a new extension with the Royals to keep him in Kansas City through 2021 and all of the national media attention surrounding similarly wildly underpaid stars like this one from Ken Rosenthal, Al asked if I'd be willing to tackle a piece on whether the Cubs might pursue a similar deal with star first baseman Anthony Rizzo. I told him the truth: I'd love to...but it might take a bit of time given that I had recently accepted a job 1,000 miles away and we were preparing to list our house.

Well, it took a while but here we are.

There's a bizarre notion floating around the internet that the Royals did Perez a solid by extending him long before they needed to. In fact, although they did extend him years before doing so was necessary, the Royals only did so because the new deal makes just as much business sense as the old one did. In order to fully appreciate this reality, let's take a look at the amount's due to Perez under his previous extension versus those due to him under his new deal, listing the amount due in his first extension first and his second extension second:

2016: $2M v. $8M (includes $6M signing bonus)
2017: $4.75M v. $3M
2018: $7M option v. $7.5M
2019: $8M option v. $10M
2020: Free Agent v. $13M
2021: Free Agent v. $13M

A quick note on those 2017-19 figures from his first deal: they may not match exactly with what you've seen elsewhere, but the contract contained $5 million worth of escalators that Perez easily earned (based on All-Star appearances, Gold Gloves, and Silver Slugger Awards). I allocated them as $1 million in 2017 and $2 million apiece in 2018 and 2019.

During the period of 2016-19, it's undeniable that Perez will make more cash under his new arrangement as he could have made a maximum of $21.75 million under his old deal but he'll make $28.5 million under his new deal. Who wouldn't take an extra $6.75 million?

Well, I'll tell you who: lots of other people in Perez's shoes. The cost of that additional $6.75 million (and locking in his non-guaranteed option years) was astronomical. Perez has a three year All-Star streak, a three-year All-Star streak, and he was named the MVP of the 2015 World Series. He struggled offensively in 2015, but he nonetheless posted 1.6 WAR in his career-worst season and averaged 3.0 WAR per year for the three preceding years. And he doesn't turn 26 until May.

Yet here we are with Perez selling his age 30 and 31 seasons for a combined total of $26 million. When we add in his additional $6.75 million in new money, he really sold those years for about $16.4 million per year with some of that money accelerated. In doing so, Perez lost the opportunity to hit free agency at 30 as his first free agent season will now be his age-32 year with something in the neighborhood of 1,400 Major League games caught at that point. Needless to say, teams are unlikely to be lining up to pay a catcher with so many games on his knees into his mid-30s.

In case it isn't obvious by now, I'm of the opinion that Perez made another truly poor deal for himself. But such is the nature of making a deal with a party that has all of the leverage (in his case, the Royals).

Which brings us, mercifully, to Rizzo. It's no secret that the Cubs would love to possess all of the years of Rizzo's career and that glorious first extension (if you're the Cubs and not Rizzo) bought up a lot of his projected useful years. As a refresher, here are the remaining years on Rizzo's deal:

2016: $5 million
2017: $7 million
2018: $7 million
2019: $11 million
2020: $14.5 million club option
2021: $14.5 million club option

At first glance, Rizzo's deal doesn't seem nearly as egregious as Perez's. But upon further review, it's actually much worse for Rizzo for two reasons. First, Rizzo has been significantly more valuable than Perez, averaging an elite 5.6 WAR over the last two years. Second, the Cubs already control Rizzo through his age-31 season unlike the Royals who only controlled Perez through his age-29 year.

It's the second factor that makes a second Rizzo deal tougher to envision. Rizzo has already sold four arbitration seasons (2015-18) for a grand total of $24 million, likely about half of what he would have received going through the arbitration system. To make matters worse, he has already sold three of his free agent seasons, his age 29, 30, and 31 seasons, for a total of $40 million. For reference, the Orioles' Chris Davis, a decidedly inferior late-blooming first baseman, just sold his age 30-36 seasons for an average annual value of approximately $21 million per year (after accounting for the deferrals in his contract). It stands to reason that Rizzo would be able to secure an AAV of approximately $25 million in the 2020s through his mid-30s, but front offices are consistently smarter about not giving deals to players through their late-30s (and beyond). Accordingly, Rizzo could probably get a deal covering 2022-28 that pays him about $25 million per year if everything broke just right for him, he stayed healthy, and his current production level did not drop. Given the unlikeliness of that factual scenario, perhaps Rizzo could anticipate earning approximately $147 million over that same span, just like Davis will do for a handful of younger player seasons.

It goes without saying that the above scenario comes with a heaping pile of risk for Rizzo given the time and performance requirements needed to get from March 2016 to November 2021 with this projection, but it's also his only real shot to reach free agency during something close to his prime years.

With all of that said: everybody has their number. If the Cubs offered to guarantee Rizzo, say, $30 million per year for 2022-26, he'd be hard-pressed to say no. Obviously the Cubs have no incentive to make such a deal given that such a deal figures to be in the vicinity of his market price for those years and those years are so far in the future.

The obvious first step to finding a second extension for Rizzo is guaranteeing his two club option years. Such a move has a few million dollars of value for Rizzo, though obviously it doesn't markedly change the situation. An extension that is directly comparable to Perez's really doesn't make sense for Rizzo as two additional years would push his first free agent season to age 34. This would be akin to a Zobrist extension, a deal that likely cost Zorilla at least $50 million and almost certainly more.

Considering all of this, it seems much more likely that the Cubs would either give Rizzo a one-year extension or an extension of at least three and likely four years.

The one-year deal would likely include a signing bonus or additions to his base salaries in upcoming years in addition to one relatively inexpensively priced additional year of club control. For example, perhaps the Cubs would agree to guarantee Rizzo's two option years (worth maybe $5 million, give or take a bit), include a signing bonus of approximately $4 million, and add an additional club option for 2022 at $18 million with a $6 million buyout. Such deal would add at least $15 million of new money and perhaps up to $22 million. If Rizzo wanted some extra upfront cash, such a deal would make sense.

The deal that makes even more sense would be the four-year (or longer) deal. Such a deal would also likely start with guaranteeing Rizzo's option years, include a signing bonus, and add those four years in question. Here's what I'd see:

2016: $10 million (current $5 million base plus new $5 million signing bonus)
2017: $7 million
2018: $7 million
2019: $11 million
2020: $14.5 million (guaranteed instead of club option)
2021: $14.5 million (guaranteed instead of club option)
2022: $20 million
2023: $20 million
2024: $25 million
2025: $25 million
2026: $25 million club option ($5 million buyout)

This would be reported as a four-year, $100 million extension though it would actually be worth more like $105 million thanks to guaranteeing the club options. If the new club option was exercised, Rizzo would pocket $120 million in additional money due to this extension for selling five additional years.

But I don't want to leave you here. You're already 1,400 words deep, so what's another 100 or so? A big chunk of the appeal of extending Rizzo again would be to suppress his salaries in the 2020s at a time when the Cubs likely need to have huge piles of cash available for paying the likes of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and whoever emerges from the growing prospect cache of guys like Willson Contreras, Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez, Eddy Julio Martinez, and company. So what if the Cubs got Rizzo to jump at a new contract by spreading out his new money much more equally, accelerating some cash now in exchange for minimizing Rizzo's salaries in the upcoming decade. Perhaps this would work:

2016: $10 million (current $5 million base plus new $5 million signing bonus)
2017: $10 million ($3 million new money)
2018: $12 million ($5 million new money)
2019: $15 million ($4 million new money)
2020: $15 million ($0.5 million new money)
2021: $15 million ($0.5 million new money)
2022: $17 million ($17 million new money)
2023: $17 million ($17 million new money)
2024: $18 million ($18 million new money)
2025: $20 million ($20 million new money)
2026: $20 million club option ($5 million buyout)

This would be reported as a four-year, $95 million extension that could jump to $115 million over five new years. It's plenty worthwhile for Rizzo to accelerate his income as well given the time value of money, but the real appeal here is for the Cubs to knock some $20 million and $25 million numbers way down to $17 million and $18 million.

Whew. That was a lot of contract numbers. I'd still be surprised if a Rizzo extension happened in the next few years, but that certainly doesn't make it impossible. What would you do and/or what kind of extension would you like to see?