On March 5, the Chicago White Sox inked third baseman Yoan Moncada to a hefty, five-year contract extension. How does this extension compare to the five-year deals signed by Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco last offseason? Let’s dig in and take a closer look.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the White Sox and Yoan Moncada came to terms on a five-year contract worth $70M ($14M AAV), with a club option for a sixth year at $25M.
While at their base, their contract lengths were equal to that of Moncada, the salary attached to Kepler and Polanco’s deals were significantly less. Last offseason, the Twins signed Max Kepler to a five-year, $35M deal ($7M AAV) with a club option for a sixth year at $10M. In turn, Polanco signed a five-year, $25.75M deal ($5.15M AAV) with a sixth and seventh year club option at $10.5M and $12M, respectively.
Clearly, in terms of money, the Twins came out ahead of the White Sox with these contracts. Even if you combined the total salaries from Kepler and Polanco’s extensions it would still equate to less than the total value of Moncada’s extension with the White Sox.
Moncada is 24 years old with just over two years of MLB service time under his belt. By signing his extension, the White Sox are buying out Moncada’s final year on his rookie deal as well as all three years of his arbitration. If the Sox pick up Moncada’s sixth-year option, this contract would also buy out the first two years of the third baseman’s free agency and allow him to become a free agent at the age of 30.
At the signing of his contract extension, Kepler was 26 years old and was arbitration eligible as a Super Two prospect. By extending Kepler, the Twins bought out his arbitration years as well as up to two years of his free agency. Polanco signed his extension as a 25-year-old in his last year of pre-arbitration and was put under team control for up to three free agent years.
While each of the players were at a similar spot in terms of service time, what really separates the Moncada extension was the fact that he was signed at the absolute peak of his value, coming off of a season in which he posted career highs in BA, HR, RBI and OPS.
Conversely, when Kepler and Polanco were signed to extensions, they were coming off of very disappointing seasons. In 2018, the season before signing their extensions, Kepler posted career lows in BA, SLG and OPS. Similarly disappointing, Polanco was coming off of a season in which he served an 80-game suspension. The timing of these contracts allowed the Twins to get their guys for an absolute bargain, while the White Sox had to pay a premium by signing Moncada off of a career year.
Coming off of a 2019 season in which he was worth 5.7 fWAR, one could argue that Moncada is already the best player among himself, Kepler and Polanco. In 2019, Moncada finished 10th in the American League with a .915 OPS along with an exit velocity which was seventh best in baseball. After posting strikeout percentages in the 30s in his first two full seasons in the majors, Moncada improved in his plate discipline and trimmed down his K%. Moncada had a great 2019 season at the dish, but with that came a good amount of luck as he posted an unheard of .406 BABIP, which was by far the highest in baseball.
In the field, Moncada still has some area to improve, as he has posted a negative DRS in each of the past two seasons at third base. While he hasn’t put it all together in the field yet, Moncada has all the tools to be a great third baseman with his strong arm and great athleticism.
Moncada is an excellent player who just got handed a really good contract by the Chicago White Sox. Although the White Sox have to miss out on the bargain that is his arbitration years, they get to delay Moncada’s free agency by two years and keep him under team control through his peak seasons of speed and athleticism.
The issue for the White Sox, and where the Twins get to claim victory over signing the better extensions, is that they are paying a premium by extending Moncada after a career year. The Twins were able to extend Polanco and Kepler before their breakouts and as a result were able to sign them to extremely team-friendly deals.
Comparing that to the amount of money that the White Sox had to shell out to Moncada, you can see just how good of a deal the Twins got.
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