Spring training has sprung and players have reported to camps across Arizona and Florida. Cactus League and Grapefruit League play began this past weekend and Opening Day is only four weeks away. I can't wait. Hopefully the pandemic cooperates. Fingers crossed, everyone.
Throughout spring training my fellow CBS Sports MLB scribes and I will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we handed out offseason awards. This week we're going to debate the next young star to sign a long-term contract.
Who will be the next young star to sign an extension?
R.J. Anderson: You could go any number of ways if you're looking for someone who hasn't debuted yet -- Wander Franco, Nolan Jones, whomever. I'll go off the beaten path and say Baltimore catching prospect Adley Rutschman. If the Orioles are committed to running the Astros playbook, then they're getting closer to the stage where they try to lock up as many of their up-and-coming players to long-term deals as possible. Whether or not Rutschman would be willing to sign away his arb (and perhaps some free-agent) years is anyone's guess, but the tradeoff here is obvious: the Orioles would reap long-term savings while the player gets instant security.
Matt Snyder: I'll go with Juan Soto. After seeing Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon walk, the Nationals can't let another superstar position player get close to free agency. The nucleus of the championship will soon be mostly gone, but he's young enough and good enough to be the bridge to the next championship-caliber core as a franchise centerpiece. The Nats have the wherewithal to get a deal done, general manager Mike Rizzo won't hesitate to tell you how much he loves Juan Soto the person and my hunch is that Soto would be very willing to work something out here, long-term.
Dayn Perry: I'll say Bo Bichette in Toronto. He's done nothing but produce since arriving in the majors, and the Blue Jays seem to be willing spenders these days. Obviously, Bichette isn't going to challenge Tatis' contract numbers, but he's a skilled young shortstop with a high ceiling. He'll command a huge number if any such extension buys out some free-agent years as opposed to just providing certainty through his arbitration years.
Mike Axisa: Shane Bieber. When I looked at extension candidates last month, I omitted Bieber and that was a total oversight. My bad, Cleveland fans. Anyway, Cleveland pioneered the practice of signing young players to long-term extensions and Bieber recently told reporters he's open to signing a contract. From the Associated Press:
"It's absolutely something I'd be open to," Bieber said on a video call from camp in Goodyear, Arizona. "In terms of conversations, it really hasn't happened yet, so that's something I'd love to dive into and hopefully that will be reciprocated as well."
Bieber is the reigning AL Cy Young winner and he's four years from free agency. Blake Snell signed his five-year, $50 million extension at the exact same point in his career (coming off his Cy Young and four years from free agency), so there's the contract benchmark. Bieber and his representatives can say they want Snell money plus more because there's two years of inflation to consider, plus Bieber's first two-plus years in the big leagues were better than Snell's. Whatever the contract terms, I bet this one happens soon. Cleveland has a long history of locking up young stars and Bieber's ready to play ball.
Katherine Acquavella: I agree with all these picks, and my first instinct was to go with Juan Soto. But for the sake of variety, I'll say Lucas Giolito will be the next young star to sign an extension. The White Sox have most of their young core (Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada) signed to long-term deals, so you would think that right-handed ace Giolito would be next in line for a big extension, especially if the club is looking to keep him as a cornerstone starter. If I'm to go with a slightly younger option (Giolito turns 27 in July), I'll say Jack Flaherty or Rafael Devers.
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