On Friday, news broke that the Tampa Bay Rays had signed Matt Moore to a contract extension. The stud lefty was drafted in the 8th round of the 2007 draft and has developed into so much more than the Rays could have hoped. Moore was called up at the end of last season and logged 9.1 innings of big league work before being added to the Rays postseason roster. In the post season he pitched 10 innings across two games, gave up just three hits, and had a slim 0.90 ERA. This of course was against the offensive powerhouse Texas Rangers. The Rays were so impressed by his performance, they signed him to a 5-year, $14 million contract. A guaranteed deal after 9.1 innings of regular season works coupled with 10 innings of postseason work may be surprising, but this is how the Rays operate and succeed.
Such deals lock young, talented players in to long-term, affordable contracts for the Rays and allow them to get the most out of players before they become too expensive or become too hot a trade commodity not to deal. I’ve made comparisons to the Rays and Padres on multiple occasions in my time with Chicken Friars. And for good reason. The teams profile very similar. So far though, the Padres have not been able to replicate the Rays’ success with contracts for their young people, and the Padres have not been able to replicate the Rays’ success in the wins column. The team needs to take note of this Matt Moore contract and apply the same thinking to Mat Latos and Cameron Maybin.
While Tom Krasovic of Inside the Padres has indicated Latos is not untouchable but is also not being shopped, the team would benefit from a contract extension for him. And we all know the Padres need to make a Cameron Maybin extension first priority. The beauty of contract extensions either prior to or during their arbitration eligible years is the benefit both sides receive. The arbitration eligible player gets guaranteed money which can act as insurance against injury. If the player does not have this guaranteed money and is relying on arbitration for a raise, he opens himself up to the risk of injury and losing out on a contract altogether.
Mat Latos is pre-arb eligible, meaning the Padres need to work out an extension either this off-season or early next season. Latos could probably be signed to a deal very similar to Moore’s. In doing so, the Padres not only help themselves financially, but they also make Latos a more attractive trade piece if they do decide to move him. As for Maybin, I’ve covered his contract in detail before. Maybin is pre-arb eligible as well and becomes arbitration eligible in 2013. He also should have a contract in place either before the start of the 2012 season or very early during the season.
The Padres are not the Rays. The teams are similar, but the differences that separate them make a total duplication of the Rays’ process impossible. That being said, there are certain aspects of the Rays’ strategy that can and will work for the Padres. An extension for Latos and Maybin before they hit their primes locks both players into affordable deals for the Padres and is low risk should either or both flame out. Sometimes teams focus too much on saving money on the front end (i.e. paying Maybin and Latos about $460k each) rather than saving money on the back end. If they can get past this thinking and sign both players to contract extensions, the Padres will put themselves into a position to compete in the very near future.