The Colorado Rockies and Charlie Blackmon announced on Tuesday that the two sides had reached a six, $108m deal. According to Spotrac, he will earn $12m in 2018, $21m during the middle four years of the deal, and $10m in he last. The contract also includes a player option in the final two years of the deal.
Keeping an MVP candidate
Charlie Blackmon finished fifth in the NL MVP race in 2017, and for good reason. He recorded a .331/.399/.601 slash line and marked a .414 wOBA and 141 wRC+. Even with adjustments for playing half his games at Coors Field, Blackmon was 41% better than the average MLB hitter. He also set a record for RBIs from the leadoff spot in a season with 102 and hit the third most home runs from that spot in a season with 37. In the first five games of the 2018 season, he has already hit 4 home runs. Blackmon hit historically well last season, and he has shown no sign of slowing down.
For Colorado, this means mean they keep one of, if not their best, hitters for a minimum of four years. The Rockies also avoid the uncertainty of finding a replacement, but signing Blackmon also comes with some risks. Reasonably, the team expects Blackmon to keep producing, if not at his exceptionally high level at an above average level. If Blackmon replicates his 2017 season, the Rockies still have one of the best hitters in baseball for a relatively low price.
But Blackmon turns 32 in July, so expecting him to remain a six-WAR player throughout the life of his contract would be unreasonable. Fortunately for the Rockies, he need not keep his six-WAR value for the club to get a reasonable return on their investment. If Blackmon produces “only” three wins of value, meaning he is “merely” an average player, in each of the next three seasons, his contract would have a value of $7 million per win in 2019 and 2020. That's not bad considering that a win was worth approximately $10.5 million in 2017. But while he might still provide value financially, even with a drop in performance, the Rockies might still need him to be a six-win player for the Rockies to remain a playoff team.
Impacting Other Players
Since the Colorado Rockies play baseball in the real world, it means they have a scarcity of resources, and signing Blackmon may constrain the club's ability to re-sign other players. By signing Blackmon to a long-term deal this season, the Rockies might be showing their feelings about second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season. By signing Blackmon, Colorado makes less room for LeMahieu, who the Rockies arguably do not need to re-sign. The Rockies have one of the best middle infield prospects in Brendan Rodgers and he could arrive in the majors as early as this season.
Signing Blackmon also has ramifications for Nolan Arenado, who becomes a free agent after 2019. Having Blackmon could help the Rockies keep Arenado, even at a high price tag, because Blackmon will help the Rockies win more games in the next two seasons. If the Rockies remain a competitive team with Blackmon around, Arenado might take a small discount to stay in Colorado. Blackmon’s contract could also impede the Rockies' ability to sign the third baseman since Arenado could very easily receive a $40m per year offer on the open market. Unless the Monfort’s are willing to let the Rockies’ payroll to keep swelling, having $60m per year tied to two players might cost too much.
Avoiding Free Agency
By signing with the Rockies, Blackmon himself avoids uncertainty. Even though he would have entered free agency at 32 years old, a player of his caliber would have easily attracted several teams' attention during free agency a few years ago. But after a tepid offseason for free agents where teams waited patiently, entering free agency might have turned into a riskier choice for players.
Additionally, the free agent class will not have a shortage of outfielders. Bryce Harper tops the class. Yasiel Puig, AJ Pollock, and Adam Jones have all consistently provided at the least above average production. Michael Brantley, Carlos Gonzalez, and Marwin Gonzalez could all attract attention if they perform at their maximum levels in 2018. With so many free agents available, Blackmon’s price would decrease, as any team that needed a free agent could just go to another outfielder if Blackmon’s price is too high. By signing with the Rockies, Blackmon avoids the risk of receiving less than pleasing offers in the free market.
As with every contract, both sides have to understand that risk is involved. The Rockies risk paying Blackmon and him suddenly performing poorly afterward. They also risk the ability to pay other players such as LeMahieu and Arenado. For Blackmon, he risks the opportunity of receiving even more money in free agency. But with the six-year, $108m deal, the Rockies and Blackmon have struck a mutually beneficial deal. The Rockies get a player who will likely play well, and Blackmon receives the payday he deserves.
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