January 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
Ken Rosenthal reported today that Martin Prado has signed a 4 year 40 Million dollar extension to stay with the Diamondbacks through 2016.
The first thing to note here is that this isn’t, in some sense, a 4 year extension. It’s 1 year of arbitration avoidance at 7 million, and then a 3 year extension at 11 million per year. As reported the breakdown is thus:
2013: $7 Million (age 29)
2014: $11 Million (age 30)
2015: $11 Million (age 31)
2016: $11 Million (age 32)
First, this is by no means a bad deal for Arizona. It could even be a discount. Sure, these will be what are for most players mild decline years. But they shouldn’t be a steep decline either. It is completely reasonable that in 2016 Martin Prado could be a 2.5 win player at age 32, meaning that at $5 million per win (the generally accepted free market rate) Prado would still be a mild value then (and that’s without taking probable player salary inflation due to the new national TV contract into account).
Does this change anything from the Braves perspective regarding the Justin Upton trade? Not really. First, it was always clear that Prado wasn’t demanding outlandish sums in an extension, he was simply demanding more than the Braves felt they could afford, with the looming extensions of Heyward, Medlen (both 2016) and possibly McCann (depending on his health and Bethancourt’s development). Further, if many of the Braves young core players perform up to the level we expect, guys like Simmons, Freeman, Heyward, Medlen, Kimbrel, etc could all be making fairly sizable salaries through arbitration over the next couple of years. It became clear that while Prado is somewhat of a bargain, he was still a player the Braves felt that they couldn’t afford.
Secondly, it is really unclear what Prado’s agent’s demands from the Braves were. There is some speculation that his agent initially high-balled Wren on both the arbitration demand from this year, and an extension demand, and only came down after it became apparent that the Braves felt that they could move on from Prado. Perhaps the original estimate of $15 million that Prado’s agent was demanding wasn’t inaccurate, we simply can’t know.
One further factor in these dealings is that the Braves may still be fairly high on Edward Salcedo. This is very much a make or break type year for a player, who has, frankly, underwhelmed to this point. The Braves have next to nothing in the system that profiles as an impact outfielder (Todd Cunningham and Matt Lipka profile more as fourth outfielder guys), but Salcedo, if he can get his act together, could be an impact player at third. Maybe the Braves felt more comfortable locking up their outfield long term than third base? I personally wouldn’t put a very high likelihood of Salcedo ever making the majors, but there are some that do, and the Braves themselves likely have the best information in this regard. It will be an interesting situation to watch. The Braves may even feel that Juan Francisco just needs more opportunities. There are simply too many factors to even really be able to begin to clearly know what the Braves strategy is long term at third base.
Getting back to Prado, this is an interesting extension for him. It might be a couple million per year below what he could get in free agency. However, it is one additional year that he doesn’t have to worry about some freak injury (or massive regression) seriously impacting his value. Further, it potentially allows him to hit the market again for one last big contract right before he hits what are usually the precipitous decline years of 33-37. His agent could have been seeking to time the market to give Prado one additional chance at a really good free agent contract. A six year extension would have deposited Prado into the free agency pool during years where free agents typically see their salary drastically reduced.
For one final note, let’s use this news to consider an angle that hasn’t much been discussed regarding Justin Upton. Much has been, and is being, made of the value Arizona got in the ‘exclusive bargaining window’ with Prado. That is, Arizona seemed to save at least some money because they were able to negotiate with Prado outside of a fully developed free agency market. How much exactly? That’s really anybody’s guess, especially since some of the discount was also likely due to Arizona taking on the additional year’s worth of risk of major injury or major regression. However, it shouldn’t be overlooked that if anything ‘exclusive negotiating window’ rights are actually in the Braves’ favor, as they now have three years of exclusive negotiation window with Justin Upton. Remember that Upton will actually be younger at the end of his current contract than Prado is right now. The Braves can take this year and see how he rebounds, and then possibly consider extending both he and Heyward into their early thirties and lock up a dynamic pair of corner outfielders, both possessing multiple MVP talent throughout their entire prime years. This is certainly an upside that didn’t exist with Prado. The Braves also have the bargaining chip that BJ Upton is signed longer than Justin is, so they can potentially further leverage a discount to extend their playing time together, which both brothers seem to highly value.
In the end, this extension is certainly good for the Diamondbacks, salvaging what otherwise may have been a disastrous trade by extending a player at a mild to significant discount. It’s good for Prado (though perhaps not as good as it maybe could have been), as it allows him to play one position, which he’s wanted for a while, and gives him financial security, while still allowing him to likely get one more big free agent contract (or extension). And it isn’t damning for the Braves either, as they have an even more valuable exclusive negotiation window with Justin Upton, if they want to work on an extension. Nobody, outside of disgruntled Atlanta Prado fans delusionally hoping he might sign with the Braves after this season should be upset with this news.