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Thinking about a Vinnie Pasquantino long-term deal

How much would it take to sign the Royals slugger?

Kansas City Royals v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

If there has been a bright spot in the Royals’ lineup this year, it has been Vincent Joseph Pasquantino. Playing in his first full season in the big leagues, Vinnie has been the on-base machine and run-producer the Royals have hoped he would be when they selected him in the 11th round of the 2019 draft out of Old Dominion. The “Pasquatch” has hit .257/.342/.469 with 8 home runs in 47 games with the tenth-lowest strikeout rate in baseball, and a team-leading walk rate of 10.5 percent.

But with any talented player that comes through Kansas City, the first though becomes “how long until we lose him?” Pasquantino would not be eligible for free agency until after the 2028 season - he would turn 31 after the season - unless the Royals sign him to a long-term deal. Pasquantino was recently asked whether he would be willing to commit to a long-term deal in Kansas City.

“To answer your question directly or to answer that direct question, I’ll say what I said on MLB Radio that I think for every player, you dream of playing for the same team your entire career,” Pasquantino said. “I really enjoy this organization. So on the surface, yes, I’d love to stay here. But there’s way more that goes into it than that. “There has to be want from the other side as well, to want me to be around, so I don’t really know how to answer that, to be honest. Short answer, sure. Yeah, that’d be great. But you know, there’s two sides to that.”

The Hunter Dozier contract was a recent long-term deal the Royals signed that turned out to be a dud, which may give the team pause before committing to another player whose contributions are almost entirely on the offensive side of the game. But there are a few key differences. First, Dozier signed his deal coming off a mediocre season in 2020, having only put together one good season in 2019. His career OPS+ was 106 when he signed his deal, while Vinnie currently has a career OPS+ of 130. Pasquantino has demonstrated much better on-base skills, and walk and strikeout numbers, with a much better minor league track record as well.

Second, there is the matter of age. Dozier was a late bloomer who was nearly 30 when he signed his deal. Pasquantino is still just 25 years old and entering his prime years. I took a look at which first basemen have hit the best in their first two seasons in the big leagues since 2000, and Vinnie compares pretty favorably.

Best OPS for 1B since 2000, first two seasons (min. 400 PA)

Player Years PA HR BB% K% BA OBA SLG
Player Years PA HR BB% K% BA OBA SLG
James Loney 2006-2007 486 19 7.4% 11.9% .310 .372 .543
Pete Alonso 2019-2020 932 69 10.3% 26.2% .252 .350 .559
Jose Abreu 2014-2015 1290 66 7.0% 21.0% .303 .364 .540
Joey Votto 2007-2008 678 28 9.4% 17.3% .300 .367 .511
Mark Teixeira 2003-2004 1214 64 9.2% 19.5% .270 .351 .520
Cody Bellinger 2017-2018 1180 64 11.3% 25.2% .263 .347 .522
Mike Jacobs 2005-2006 632 31 8.7% 20.1% .271 .334 .515
Chris Shelton 2004-2005 487 19 8.8% 20.7% .288 .355 .486
Paul Goldschmidt 2011-2012 764 28 10.5% 24.0% .278 .353 .487
Prince Fielder 2005-2006 710 30 8.6% 20.0% .272 .344 .481
Vinnie Pasquantino 2022-2023 498 18 11.2% 11.4% .279 .366 .457
Bobby Dalbec 2020-2021 545 33 7.0% 35.8% .243 .308 .511
Justin Morenau 2003-2004 427 23 8.7% 19.7% .259 .326 .492
Ike Davis 2010-2011 750 26 11.9% 22.5% .271 .357 .460
Ryan Mountcastle 2020-2021 726 38 7.2% 26.3% .270 .324 .488

What would it take to sign Pasquantino to a long-term deal? Dan Szymborski at Fangraphs called on the Royals to sign him to a seven-year, $54 million deal, using his ZIPS projection system to predict a productive Vinnie through 2030, when he would be 32, although with eroding power after 2026.

Pasquantino is not a superstar, but the Italian Breakfast has turned out to be the most developed of the team’s hitting prospects. Whit Merrifield is gone, and Salvador Perez is entering his mid-30s, and as the Royals continue to shift away from the last of their World Series winning roster, Pasquantino should spend the next five or six years hitting in the middle of the order. Locking him up now keeps him at a Royals-friendly price throughout his likely prime years.

If the Royals think Pasquantino will be a productive hitter for the next several seasons, now would be the time to lock him up. I took a look at the long-term deals signed to pre-free agent first basemen in the last decade. Clubs that signed a player too early - before he had done anything - typically got burned. Clubs that signed a player too late - once the player had established MVP bona fides - had to pay in excess of $100 million. But teams that signed a player after one good year generally got a very good bargain. Here is the guaranteed money (not counting options and escalators) for recent long-term deals.

Pre-FA long-term deals for first baseman since 2013

Player Date signed Age Service time Years AAV PA BA OBA SLG
Player Date signed Age Service time Years AAV PA BA OBA SLG
Allen Craig, STL March 8, 2013 28 2.077 5 years, $31 million $6.2 million 857 .300 .348 .515
Paul Goldschmidt, ARI March 29, 2013 25 1.059 5 years, $32 million $6.4 million 764 .278 .353 .487
Anthony Rizzo, CHC May 12, 2013 23 1.045 7 years, $41 million $5.9 millon 685 .253 .330 .432
Freddie Freeman, ATL February 5, 2014 24 3.033 8 years, $135 million $16.9 million 1,908 .285 .359 .466
Jon Singleton, HOU June 2, 2014 22 0.000 5 years, $10 million $2 million 0 - - -
Brandon Belt, SFG April 9, 2016 27 4.135 5 years, $72.8 million $14.6 million 2,069 .271 .348 .455
Evan White, SEA November 22, 2019 23 0.000 6 years, $24 million $4 million 0 - - -
Matt Olson, ATL March 15 ,2022 27 4.159 8 years, $168 million $21 million 2,369 .252 .348 .511

*-mid-season service time numbers are estimates

I agree with Dan that a seven-year deal, worth around $7-8 million per years would make the most sense for both sides. You would probably need escalators and maybe a mutual option to make the deal enticing enough for Vinnie. There is still some risk involved - the Royals already have Pasquantino for five more years after this year, with the flexibility to drop him if he gets hurt or craters in performance. A long-term deal removes that flexibility. The only way it makes sense for the Royals is if they get an extra year or two of club control AND they feel he will be productive at that age.

With his plate discipline, it seems like Pasquantino would be a fairly good bet to age well, even is his power erodes a bit in his 30s. But I also don’t blame the Royals if they feel like the risk is not worth it. If Pasquantino’s offensive performance falls off a cliff, he really provides no value to the team. Small market teams can’t afford to carry too many unproductive 30 year old players.

If the Royals want to keep Vinnie in Kansas City, now is the time to do it. He has demonstrated he should have some staying power, but has not yet exploded enough to warrant a mega-deal. Whether or not owner John Sherman is interested in long-term deals remains to be seen.


Would you sign Vinnie Pasquantino to a seven-year, $54 million deal?

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