Buster Posey and the San Francisco Giants aren’t in a position where they need to agree on a long-term extension.
However, as Posey gains leverage, and he already has a lot of it, the two sides will play the numbers game, which would involve making comparisons to past deals that similar players garnered. In Posey’s case, Joe Mauer’s name is often brought up as a comparison.
Before we delve into that, let’s get some details straight.
Posey and the Giants avoided last week. The National League’s reigning MVP will earn eight million dollars in 2013, the largest settlement in baseball history for a player in the first year of arbitration.
And the Giants have the option to continue to go through this same arbitration process until after the 2016 season, when Posey is eligible to become a free-agent. But, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the two sides have “mutual interest” in reaching terms on a long-term extension. I’m just reading between the lines, but it certainly sounds like the Giants want to make Posey a lifetime Giant.
So, what will measures will the Giants have to take in order to keep Posey in San Francisco for a long, long time?
Well, they could use Mauer’s path as a template. Take a look below at Mauer’s and Posey’s stats at the age of 25.
Stat Mauer at 25 Posey at 25
Batting Average 0.328 0.336
OPS 0.864 0.957
OPS+ 134 172
oWAR 5.9 7.1
dWAR 0.2 0.5
SLG% 0.451 0.549
DRS -7 0 0
Posey noticeably has an edge in all seven categories listed above. He hit for a bunch more power, and his defensive ability was statistically better judging by DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), albeit the general eye test may tell differently. This isn’t to say that Posey is a Yadier Molina-esque backstop, but he’s no slack. His offensive talents are simply his identified niche, and deservingly so.
Now, let’s turn the focus to their award cases…
In 2008, Mauer finished fourth in MVP voting, was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove and won the Silver Slugger award. Similarly, Posey won the MVP award, was an All-Star and won the Silver Slugger award.
So in reward for his efforts, Mauer got paid in big-time bucks two years later (March 21, 2010). He signed an eight-year, $184 million contract, which to this day remains the biggest contract ever given to a catcher. With a $23 million annual sum, Mauer is also the sixth highest paid player in the Major Leagues and makes nearly nine million more than Molina, who’s the second highest paid catcher in baseball.
So the question is, does Posey deserve an annual salary close or more than Mauer’s $23 million?
Based solely off of his first three years in the majors, then yeah, Posey should make more than Mauer, especially in this day and age when money practically falls off of trees for a certain group teams. The new national TV deals will also provide a surplus amount of money to the wealthy. It’s just another source of cash flow which the Giants can put towards Posey. And they will surely have to save their pennies.
In each full season—or relatively close—Posey’s played, the Giants have finished the season as champions. He essentially sets the tone for them, thus making him an irreplaceable asset that San Francisco would like to keep around.
It should be noted, however, that Mauer wasn’t immediately rewarded. Mauer padded his portfolio in three years prior to 2008 (the season he was 25), much like Posey has already done with a couple of World Series rings and an MVP. But the difference is that followed 2008 with two even more impressive seasons in 2009 and 2010. He won the MVP in 2009, was named an All-Star in both years, won the Silver Slugger award twice and won the Gold Glove award twice as well.
There was little doubt in the Twins’ minds when they offered him such a risky deal. He had proved his durability (average of 133 games between 2005 and 2009), and his numbers clearly sealed the deal.
With Posey, the Giants might be wise to see what he does for an encore. Remember, 2012 was technically his first full year, as he suffered a season-ending injury in 2011, and was called up in late May during 2010.
Like most catchers, Posey’s durability could be a troublesome area a few years down the line. Eventually, he will likely make the switch to first base to ease the burden on his body. Still, this switch would happen regardless of whether the Giants extend him now or in a couple years. Meaning, a foreseeable changing of positions shouldn’t factor into the details of the extension.
Mauer, for example, now spends a good amount of time at first base. He compiled a total of 30 games at first in 2012, but also acted as the Twins’ designated hitter in 42 games. Or in other words, he’s no longer a full-time catcher. And you’d be foolish to say that Minnesota expected Mauer to remain a full-time catcher through all eight years on his contract.
But the Giants can take this process as it comes. They have years to crunch numbers, so there’s no rush at all.
However, the Giants can’t base Posey’s potential extension off of what Mauer received in 2010. There are plenty of similarities between the two, but to base Posey’s extension off Mauer’s extension, they’d have to wait at least one more year to net a larger sample size, even though Posey’s somewhat small sample size is pretty impressive, to boot.
Until then, Buster Posey will still be the Giants’ catcher regardless of when they choose to extend him.