When is the right time to lock up a core player?

The San Francisco Giants made a move yesterday that seems to be playing to solid reviews, locking up one of their core players for the future.

They signed shortstop Brandon Crawford to a six-year contract extension worth $75 million. The Giants signed him for his two remaining arbitration seasons and bought out four free agent years.

Crawford is a homegrown player, drafted by the Giants in round four in 2008. He pulled off a rare trifecta this year when he was an All-Star and also won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. The Orioles’ J.J. Hardy pulled off that trifecta in 2013.

Last season, the 28-year-old Crawford hit .256/.321/.462 and posted career bests in homers (21) and RBIs (84). The Giants will pay Crawford $5.8 million next year and $15 million each season from 2018-21.

Manny Machado rounds bases white.jpgThey locked up la key piece long term. Many O’s fans feel the time is right for the Orioles to lock up third baseman Manny Machado. While Crawford was two years from free agency, Machado is currently three years away. He cannot be a free agent until after the 2018 season. A Machado extension - while it certainly could be on the horizon - doesn’t appear to be the O’s top priority right now with free agency just starting and holes to fill. That is understandable and Manny’s day is coming.

These long-term deals sometimes work out great and turn out to be bargains. Sometimes the player gets hurt and/or doesn’t perform as expected and the contract hangs over the team’s head for a few seasons.

The Orioles are probably now having or have recently had such internal debates about a long-term deal with Chris Davis and/or a Machado extension. With Machado three years from free agency, the Orioles could look to lock him up this time next year when he is two years away. That seems plenty of time in advance to me and they will have fewer of their own free agents then.

While some could counter that the price seems to never go down as a reason to extend Machado now, the Orioles also are taking advantage of a player’s early years when the salary is lower. If Machado gets the projected $5.9 million through arbitration this winter and has another big season, the Orioles will have paid about $6.4 million total for Manny in 2015-16. That seems like a bargain. Take it while you can team officials might say.

The Giants made the move with one of their key players yesterday. For the Orioles, Machado may have to wait while the club tends to other critical business this offseason.

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