Surely you have heard by now that the White Sox and their young shortstop Tim Anderson have agreed to a 6 year $25 MM contract extension.  This deal, for a player with under one year of service time, is quite rare.  The details of the contract are as follows:

2017  $850,000 0.115 Pre-Arb
2018  $1,000,000 1.115 Pre-Arb
2019  $1,400,000 2.115 Pre-Arb
2020  $4,000,000 3.115 Arb Year 1
2021  $7,250,000 4.115 Arb Year 2
2022  $9,500,000 5.115 Arb Year 3
*2023  $12,500,000 6+ FREE AGENT
*2024  $14,000,000 6+ FREE AGENT
 *Team Option, $1 MM Buyout

The deal comes with two team options that allow the White Sox to gain two extra years of team control beyond the default 6 years.  The two columns on the far right match up Anderson’s projected MLB service time and arbitration years with the guaranteed money in his new contract.  For Anderson, the deal gives him both guaranteed millions of dollars and peace of mind going forward.  Peace of mind not only for guaranteed wealth, but also specifically with regard to the salary arbitration process that can be stressful on both clubs and players; Anderson won’t have to deal with that process in his career.  For some players, that is invaluable.  Of course, in the future, if his career trajectory would have warranted a higher earning potential through salary arbitration, it is likely that Anderson will be asked if he regrets signing the deal instead of going year-to-year.  We have seen a similar line of questioning with Chris Sale recently.  While Anderson has his reasons for agreeing to this deal, the White Sox certainly had their own incentives for getting a deal done as well.

Reward Player

As a homegrown first round draft choice, Anderson is someone who the White Sox are extremely proud of.  Anderson’s contract rewards him for his performance, hard work, and drive to pursue excellence.  Speaking to Bruce Levine of and 670 the Score, Rick Hahn said,

“[Anderson] is not a finished product yet.  We reward him for the progress he has made in a White Sox uniform so far. We think there will be a lot of good things to come as he grows as a big league player. We certainly feel he will play a major role for us over the next decade.”

That the White Sox have made such an investment shows they have extreme confidence in his future.  This confidence comes from both historical performance and knowing Anderson as a person.  Anderson has proven that he can get it done offensively and that he will continue to work on his bat.  Even more so, he has worked his tail off to become an above average defensive Major League shortstop, using the critics who insisted he would never be a Major League shortstop as motivation.  Beyond that, Anderson has spoken on the record about his desire to be a role model for youth and a Chicago sports icon.  Speaking to the Chicago Tribune in July Anderson said,

“I have a lot of things in mind.  Just have a successful career, be one of those guys that the younger group looks up to, that has that Derek Jeter impression on people.  I want to be homegrown and stay in Chicago, be the next guy in Chicago that everybody loves.  Like a Michael Jordan thing.”

Aspiring to be a Michael Jordan-type figure is very ambitious and conveys that he strives for greatness.  He already has shown to “Be like Mike” with an extreme drive for excellence and will to succeed.  Hopefully his passion will be infectious and he will be a team leader for the foreseeable future.

Low Risk, High Reward

Anderson’s contract has the potential to be very rewarding for the White Sox.  For 2017-2019, Anderson receives significant raises over what are typically near or at league minimum salaries for players with 0-2 years of service time.  Without digging too deep, his arbitration year values seem reasonable.  If Anderson continues to produce as he did last season, they should be a fair value.  If he continues to improve offensively, as I expect he will [ I projected Anderson’s 2017 performance here: ] the salaries will seem like a great value.  However, the potential great value comes in the two team option years for 2023 and 2024 that, if exercised, would buy out two of Anderson’s free agent years.  Again, if Anderson continues to develop offensively, his value on the free agent market at age 29 in 2023 could be astronomical.  The ability to control Anderson at a fraction of his market value for two more years of his prime would be invaluable.  This is probably the biggest potential club reward for this deal.  The probability of Anderson underperforming and the club overpaying for his services in this deal is very low.  The potential reward in surplus value is incredibly high.  Seeing the ball jump off his bat, and watching signs of improved plate discipline this spring, it’s clear to see why the Sox were so motivated to lock up this potential perennial all-star.

Cost Certainty Going Forward

While the White Sox would have controlled Anderson through 2022 regardless, forecasting salaries for a player through the arbitration process is an inexact science and is no substitute for guaranteed cost certainty.  Rick Hahn emphasized the importance of cost certainty when speaking with Scott Merkin of

“Having the cost certainty helps.  It lets you know as a certainty what you have going forward, and certainly if you have a number of players outperforming what they’re paid, it makes more free money available to go out and augment the roster.  That’s certainly the intent.  There is great benefit to Tim, in terms of locking up the security, not having to worry about this again in terms of his family and certainly if he’s the player we all expect him to be, there will be a very nice payday waiting for him on the backside of this contract given his age and ability.  But from our standpoint, it gives us the added control which is important in terms of building something.”

Hahn is cognizant of future free agent classes and other commitments, as well as the White Sox mid-market payroll spending considerations.  Going forward forecasting future rosters and payroll commitments, the more cost certainty the club has, the more accurately they can project available dollars to spend.  And certainly, Anderson outperforming this deal would contribute to payroll flexibility in the future.  With a new core of talented, inexpensive young players expected in Chicago in 2017-2019, the White Sox should have the flexibility to add salaries of key players where needed via trade or free agency.  Specifically, I would not be surprised if Mr. Hahn has his eyes on the post-2018 season free agent class.  This class may include few players such as Josh Donaldson, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Andrew McCutchen, A. J. Pollack, Garrett Richards, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado.  Perhaps you have heard of a few of them – it’s a stunning class.  While the White Sox have traditionally not pursued marquee free agents, they have shown they will be aggressive in the right situation as was the case with an apparent aggressive pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka in 2014.  If the rebuild plays out as planned, don’t be surprised if in the next few years the White Sox make an aggressive play on the free agent market for a marquee player or two.  And if they do, Tim Anderson’s new contract could be a big reason why a marquee signing is possible.

In conclusion, all any of us can do at this point is speculate about Tim Anderson’s future performance.  However, especially with this extension, it is clear that the White Sox view him as one of the keys to their rebuild and a leader going forward.  He has shown in his short time with the White Sox to be a special combination of talent and heart.  I certainly look forward to watching the ball jump off of his bat with the Pale Hose for years to come.  With Opening Day just around the corner, let’s sit back, relax, and strap it down, and enjoy watching this special player continue to develop in Chicago. -DV


Photo:  Dan Vroom

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