The Houston Astros signed first baseman Jonathan Singleton to a five year extension worth $10 million guaranteed on Monday afternoon. The extension also includes three years of team options which could push the deal as high as $35 million.
This deal is significant because Singleton becomes the first player to sign an extension before making his major league debut. With service time no longer being an issue, the Astros will immediately call-up Singleton who will likely make his big league debut on Tuesday.
Despite their recent struggles at the MLB level, the Astros are a very forward-thinking organization, and have tossed around this idea to their best prospects in recent years. This offseason, reports surfaced that the Astros offered their top prospect George Springer a 7-year-deal worth $23 million. The 24-year-old Springer decline the offer, and has 10 homeruns after being called up to the big leagues early in the season.
Singleton is hitting .267/.397/.544 with 14 homeruns, 42 walks, and 52 strikeouts in 54 games at Triple-A this season. He is considered a top three prospect in an impressive Astros’ system, and is commonly thought-of as a top 100 prospect in all of baseball.
This extension feels very team friendly for the Astros, because they locked down Singleton long-term, while only risking $10 million. Those option years are key, because they allow the Astros a ton of flexibility before Singleton reaches costless agency.
While it is seems like a good deal for Houston, it also makes sense for Singleton. With legitimate contact and strikeout concerns, Singleton is far from being a guaranteed stud at the next level. If he never fixes the holes in his game and becomes a bust, he still collects that $10 million that is guaranteed in his contract. He would unlikely get more than $1 million if he did not sign this deal and flamed out. This deal gives Singleton security, but makes him wait longer to get paid if he becomes a star.
With the Astros breaking the barrier on this deal, expect other forward-thinking organizations to follow suit. This is a great way for a team bet on the early years of a young and talented player, while putting a delay on paying the premium price for elite-level talent.
On top of that, instead of waiting to bring up talented prospects due to service time, this allows teams to instantly promote prospects who they believe are ready. Right now, due to service times and Super Two statuses, talented prospects have to wait longer than they should to start their big league careers. Teams wait to bring them up for half of a season, to gain an extra year of control down the line. If a team signs a prospect to an extension like the one Singleton signed, there would be no reason to keep him in the minor leagues any longer. This is another reason for the player to sign an early extension, as they know they will immediately get their shot in the big leagues.
It will be interesting to see if this will have an effect on the development of prospects, either positively or negatively. The path to the big leagues is a long one, as baseball players need more time to develop than most athletes. If teams rush early extensions on prospects, and promote them too fast, this could easily have a negative impact on their development.
This will certainly not be the last time we see a contract like this one. Other teams are definitely going to see the benefit that the Astros are getting in this deal, and will likely consider similar offers to their top prospects immediately.
Regardless, this was a smart move made by a smart organization, and it could easily change how players are paid early in their careers.