In a year filled with ups and downs, one of the more consistent “ups” for the Royals this season was Brady Singer. He showed he could hold his own against the previous-years AL Central champs by holding the Indians to three hits in five innings in his Major League debut, and despite some mid-season struggles, dominated in his last four starts where he went 3-1, giving up 9 hits and 4 earned runs over 24 innings.
Singer has cemented his place in the Royals rotation next season, and likely for many seasons to come. He is under control through 2025, and is only 24 years old, so it would make sense for the Royals to want to extend Singer. But before we talk about the specifics of what it might take to lock Singer up, let’s briefly discuss extensions.
Players who reach the majors after being drafted by a team are under team control for six seasons, after which they become free agents. For the first three years of control, players are generally paid near the major league minimum ($563,500 in 2020), then are granted contracts yearly either through agreements or arbitration for the final three.
An extension, especially one given so early in the process, requires a lot of give and take. Generally, the team guarantees money for all of the seasons through the end of arbitration, or even beyond. In exchange for guaranteeing money to the player that they are currently not guaranteed, they typically offer less than what the player would expect to make if they went year-to-year. They will also often put in team options with buy-outs, giving them more potential control at a guaranteed rate in exchange for a (relatively) small buy-out.
For a baseline, we know that Brady Singer will earn around $1.1 million between 2021 and 2022, assuming he is on the roster the full seasons. From there, he will enter his first year or arbitration (arb1). What should we expect from his arbitration years?
Assuming he maintains his current baseline stats of about 8.5 K/9, about 3.2 BB/9, about 5 and 1⁄3 innings per start (30 starts, 160 innings), an imperfect, but close from a baseline numbers look who recently went year-over-year is Kevin Gausman. Kevin struck out about as many, gave up more home runs but walked less and pitched on average a few more innings per start. Singer will likely pitch more innings per start over a full season, so we can work with this.
Gausman made $3.45 million in arb1, $5.6 million in arb2 and $9.35 million in arb3, for a total of $18.4 million over his arbitration years.
There are some who think Singer may well improve, and with only 64.1 major league innings pitched there’s no reason to think he would, but $20-$25 million over the next 5 seasons seems like a safe number to work with, as one could easily argue it’s too conservative (he’s going to improve and contend for the Cy Young!) or too bold (he could get injured at any time and is really a middle-rotation or back-end reliever in long run), so it feels okay.
Given all of the potential variance, I would like to see the Royals make an offer based around this number, but it’s no fun to just give a flat offer (and would not incentivize Singer to sign it, for that matter, if he opts to bet on himself in arbitration), there have to be team options and buy-outs.
The Royals should offer something along the lines of 5/20 with two team options, incentives and buy-outs. I would also front-load it slightly so there more risk now than risk later.
2021: $5 million
2022: $5 million
2023: $4 million
2024: $3 million
2025: $3 million
2026: $12 million ($3 million buy-out, option 1)
2027: $16 million ($4 million buy-out if first option is selected, option 2)
For a total of 7/48 million possible. Throw in incentives for number of starts (starting at say 20-25 a year), all-star, gold gloves, cy young, MVP/LCS MVP/WS MVP, etc.
Brady Singer had a solid, good rookie season, and showed flashes of dominance. His age, attitude and performance, coupled with the current Royals financial flexibility make him the player I’d most like to see them take a chance on. Take the chance, make the offer and lock up a guy who may well be a center piece of the rotation for the next playoff run.