In Patrick Saunders's weekly mailbag this week, he was asked if he would do over the CarGo and Tulo contract extensions given what has transpired in the last three years. He answered (correctly, I believe) that he would, but that brought to mind the fact that it really has already been three years since those deals were inked.
As it just so happens, I wrote at length about both deals when they were signed. Here's what I wrote then and what I think now:
Every deal is a risk-reward calculation. In this case, you have to weigh the risk of a 26-29 year old athlete at the height of his ability being severely injured and/or declining against the risk that a) his value will rise even higher if he does produce at the level he's expected to (or even better) and b) that Tulo's contract status would be a distraction on par or greater than Matt Holliday was in 2008 for Colorado.
In addition, the extension gives the Rockies the potential reward of having a Hall of Fame caliber player, which is entirely within the realm of possibility with Tulo, spend his entire career with the team. With that potential reward comes the many potential young fans around the world who will aspire to be Rockies thanks to their idol. If nothing else, this extension is a powerful marketing tool showing that the Monforts are committed to the values Tulowitzki brings as a player and as a person.
There's a lot of advice I'd have for three years ago me, but changing my opinion on what is written above wouldn't be one of those things. Tulo's been hurt more than I would have thought he would be back then (missing 19 games in 2011, 115 in 2012, and 36 in 2013), but he's still been an elite talent that has produced 11.9 rWAR over the last three years. I still maintain that he's the best all-around shortstop in the league.
Tulo's owed $130 million over the next seven years (plus a $15 million team option/$4 million buyout in year 8), an average annual value of $18.6 million. That's basically the same deal that the Texas Rangers just gave Shin-Soo Choo this off-season. Even given the injury risk, Tulo's obviously the player you would want given age, talent, and positional utility, right? In this marketplace (where a win on the free agent market costs about $6-7 million), Tulo's contract looks like a pretty good deal, paying him to be a three win player going forward. If healthy, he'll be worth double that on the front end of the contract.
Tulo hasn't been able to galvanize the team to greater success over the last three years, but he is one of the best players in baseball, signed to a reasonable contract (with escalators!), and is the face of the franchise. I'd consider his extension to be a pretty successful move three years in.
Gonzalez was the best hitter in baseball during the second half of the season, and to ignore that fact is to seriously underestimate his potential.
Furthermore, I see Gonzalez as the perfect Coors Field hitter, with excellent gap power that allows him to spray out extra base hits seemingly at will. In other words, he's more valuable at Coors Field than he would be at other parks. As a result, I see CarGo providing an average of 5.5 WAR per season to the Rockies over the life of the contract. He might not be worth it each year, and an injury could certainly gum up the works, but the potential is there for much more.
On this one I got a little hyperbolic. Gonzalez hasn't reached the 5.5 rWAR mark over the last three years, though he has produced over 4 rWAR twice (10.8 rWAR in the last three years). Still, CarGo didn't need to be a 5.5 win player per year to make this contract a great deal.
Gonzalez has 4 years and $63.5 million left on his deal. In the current win environment of $6-7 rWAR per free agency win, Gonzalez need only produce about 2.5-3 rWAR per year over the next 4 years to make this a reasonable deal for the Rockies. Obviously the club is hoping for much more production from a healthy star in his prime with the deal. I'm on the same boat with CarGo as I was with Tulo. He's an elite player with a reasonable (maybe even a bargain) contract who is firmly in his prime years.
Both CarGo and Tulo are firmly in Colorado's plans for the near future and in my mind that is unquestionably a good thing - and a move that I would do over again. If only the rest of the team gave me such a reason for hope...