Warne: Would Twins lock up a young standout? It has happened before
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- It's become a bit more popular over the past few seasons, and it's something the Minnesota Twins have dabbled in a bit in the past: extending pre-arbitration eligible players in the hopes of getting a good deal on that player's prime years while offering him some guaranteed financial security.
The Chicago Cubs did it over the weekend with power-hitting first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The Tampa Bay Rays have basically made it a routine with players such as Evan Longoria, Matt Moore and even 2012 AL Cy Young award winner David Price.
For some intra-divisional flavor, the Royals did one with catcher Salvador Perez. And this isn't necessarily a phenomena restricted to small-market clubs -- the New York Yankees did it with impending free agent second baseman Robinson Cano back in 2008.
Doing it isn't without risks. Teams have made significant financial commitments to players who were injured or rendered ineffective and simply have to pay out the deal regardless of if the player hangs with the club long-term.
For instance, the Pittsburgh Pirates not only own the rights to Jose Tabata for three more years, they owe him $11 million. In the interim, Tabata has bounced back and forth from Pittsburgh to Triple-A Indianapolis as his professional and personal life have both scuffled a bit.
The Twins have had some less-than-ideal applications of this concept as well.
Nick Blackburn signed a multi-year deal prior to 2010. Since then, he has given the Twins 408 innings in which he's accumulated a 5.56 ERA, a 1.57 WHIP and just 4.1 strikeouts per 9 innings. The Twins still owe Blackburn $5.5 million this year even though he was outrighted off the 40-man roster and is out with an injury to boot.
A similar instance occurred with Joe Mays, who got an extension after he went 17-13 in 2001, only to earn $19.5 million the next four years to go 18-26 with a 5.81 ERA, 3.5 strikeouts per 9 innings and a 1.52 WHIP. He missed the entire 2004 season.
But the overall record shouldn't reflect poorly on the Twins doing those types of contracts. The Twins haven't necessarily done the Longoria types of deals -- signed just six days after the third baseman debuted -- but the club has shown a willingness to ink players to long-term deals as a measure of good faith rather than taking the player to court every year via arbitration.
Joe Mauer (four years, $33 million, signed in February 2007), Johan Santana (four years, $39.75 million, February 2005) and Torii Hunter (four years, $32 million, signed in January 2003) are all examples of the Twins taking care of their own before the system would mandate.
Even Denard Span could count, as he got an incredibly team-friendly deal for five years and $16.5 million six days after he signed his one-year tender in March 2010.
"Each club has their own policy, and each club has their own personnel," general manager Terry Ryan said. "Some guys will sign -- and you'll see some more of those -- and some don't have interest in having the discussion during the season.
"Some clubs have a policy against it. Some agents have a policy against it. It's an individual club's preference, though certainly the player would have to be receptive if you wanted to do something of that nature."
While the Twins haven't been as aggressive with them in year's past, it's not something they'd shy away from. They don't have a strict policy.
"I don't think that's good to have a hard-and-fast policy on about anything," Ryan said. "I think you always have to create flexibility. If you want to do something, I think you should be able to and not have a policy that you have to worry about breaking. There's a few things that clubs do that we don't -- one of them is have too many policies."
Even manager Ron Gardenhire was willing to chip in his opinion. Of course, managers have pretty much nothing to do with a player's contractual status, but there's something to be said about a manager fostering relationships with players over a period of time.
"There's always a risk of long term contracts with younger players rather than veterans," Gardenhire said. "Each club is going to be different with how they handle themselves."
The biggest thing Gardenhire noted was how the economics of the game have changed.
"The game has changed so much in the way they deal with contracts," Gardenhire noted. "It used to be a three or four year contract was a big contract; now you get into eight, nine, ten year deals. I think baseball's always taking a look at the risks and benefits of those contracts."
Gardenhire didn't downplay the magnitude of offering a young player a sizeable chunk of money.
"It is a huge decision by each party, how much you want to invest in one player," Gardenhire said. "I know our club always does look at it, and I would imagine a lot of other clubs are the same way."
The Twins don't necessarily have a lot of candidates for such a deal. Scott Diamond could be worth considering, but with a skill set similar to Blackburn's and a fair number of pitchers coming up in the pipeline, the club may be best suited to sit tight.
Similarly, groundball pitchers don't frequently perform well enough to merit exorbitant raises via the arbitration process. As a result, there isn't much added financial incentive to make such a move.
On the offensive side, Oswaldo Arcia could be worth considering. However, that would seem extremely premature. For as well as he's played, he's certainly not of the ilk that Longoria was when he inked his deal (Baseball America's No. 2 prospect in all of baseball).
But this situation could prove worth watching as the Twins work guys such as Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano through the minors and into the big leagues. If the Twins see enough out of them in their first few big league days -- of course, granted that they get there -- it might make sense to explore that sort of deal.
We'll just have to see.