One of the cornerstones of the Rockies franchise has already received his massive payday, before ever touching his anticipated free agency. The club announced on Wednesday that center fielder Charlie Blackmon agreed to a 6-year contract worth a guaranteed $108 million, with the deal possibly reaching $116 million if all incentives are reached. The last two seasons of the deal include player options, but as of now, it is almost certain that they will be exercised when the time comes.
I have the details on Charlie Blackmon's extension: Six years, $108 million with escalators that can take it to $116 million. Deal runs through 2023. Last two years are player options. Limited no-trade clause. https://t.co/h8nIG66Ddw via @HardballTalk
— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) April 4, 2018
Even in a class of free agency that is expected to see Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Daniel Murphy, Josh Donaldson, and might see Clayton Kershaw and David Price opt out of their current contracts, Blackmon was still among the top possible free agents after this season. Blackmon, a 2-time All-Star, 2 time Silver Slugger winner, and reigning batting champ, could have been in line for a huge bidding war. He instead opted to sign a long-term deal with his current team only a week into his contract season. He doesn’t have to look far to see what could go wrong with turning down an extension, as teammate Carlos Gonzalez turned down a 3 year/$45 million deal prior to his contract season a year ago, and ended up back with the Rockies on a 1 year/$8 million deal. However, Blackmon doesn’t seem to be as likely to experience the extreme regression that Gonzalez showed last year. While he suffers from the obvious home/road splits of Coors Field, he still is an above average hitter on the road; his four home runs on the year have all come on the road thus far. And while Gonzalez struggles mightily against left-handed pitching, Blackmon hits very well lefty on lefty, in fact, his slash line favors that against righties. So why would he choose to sign now instead of waiting to hit the open market?
The easy answer could be plainly that Blackmon doesn’t want to leave Denver. He’s never known another organization and has been on the big league roster with the Rockies since 2011, so it could just be a feel thing for him. Blackmon tends to do whatever he’s comfortable with, shown by his lumberjack beard and flashy outfits at both of his all-star appearances. However, from a business perspective, there is a larger issue that became a problem for many of the bats on the market last season. Charlie Blackmon is 31, and he would hit the free agent market going into his age 32 season. According to Jon Morosi, there was only one free agent from the previous offseason who signed a contract of 3 years or longer: Zack Cozart, who signed a deal with the Angels for 3 years/$38 million.
Why did Charlie Blackmon sign a long-term deal, so close to free agency? One reason: He turns 32 in July. This offseason, only one position player signed a deal of 3+ years at age 32 or older: Zack Cozart to the Angels at $38 million over 3 years. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) April 4, 2018
The market was not particularly kind to players over 32 last season. Names like Jose Bautista, JJ Hardy, Melky Cabrera, Aaron Hill, Matt Holliday, Mark Reynolds, Brandon Phillips, and Seth Smith all are without jobs over a week into the season. Most of the names listed had serviceable seasons at the least, while Mark Reynolds and Melky Cabrera had very good seasons as a whole. Blackmon is incredibly intelligent, graduating with honors from Georgia Tech with a degree in finance. He may have seen this as his greatest opportunity after observing the slowness of the market last year. While he might have been one of the biggest names available even in a class full of superstar talent, he most likely chose job security and comfort over the chance to break the bank. The market does not typically favor hitters who are leaving Coors Field, as it is often unknown what kind of production they will have if they aren’t playing half of their games in a hitters’ paradise. There are obviously some exceptions to the rule, as Matt Holliday produced at a high level for the Cardinals after leaving and Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu should have a lot of interest once they hit free agency, but history does not favor the ones who leave.
Featured Photo: A smaller bearded Charlie Blackmon warms up for a game | Photo by Jennifer Zambrano via Flickr