Adalberto Mondesi Might Be the Next Extension
You might be asking yourself if he should be. Me too.
Between the end of the 2020 season and now, the Royals have done some work. They went out and signed Carlos Santana, Mike Minor, Greg Holland and Michael A. Taylor. They shopped for some minor league deals that figure to be a part of the big league club. And they’ve extended Hunter Dozier and Salvador Perez as the only two players now under contract beyond the 2022 season. But it sort of sounds like they aren’t done.
After the Perez extension was announced, I tweeted this:
Then yesterday Jon Heyman tweeted this:
I’m not going to say that I beat Heyman to the punch. Not yet anyway. I won’t say anything until there’s a deal and then I’ll gloat. But the nice thing about a deal not yet in place is that we can talk about everything surrounding that potential. Like should they do it? How much would it be? And, seriously, should they do it?
Here are some facts about Adalberto Mondesi:
At his best, he’s about as good as anybody in the game.
At his worst, he might be the worst hitter in the game.
But even at his worst, he still plays very good defense.
And he can really run, so he steals a ton of bases.
But he also hasn’t stayed healthy for a full season yet (other than the short 2020).
But maybe that full season of health can carry over.
Of course, he’s also missed time this spring already.
But when he’s at his best, there aren’t many better.
If you haven’t subscribed yet, I have to wonder why not, but I’ll make it easy!
Seriously, though, should they do it?
In free agency, you’re often paying for past performance in the hopes that it will carry over and continue at least in the beginning of a new deal. Teams do understand the last part of long deals might be a problem, but they largely don’t worry too much about it for the right player. In extending a player like Mondesi, you’re hoping for future value. You wait too long and they want more money than you’re comfortable giving. The key is to get there at the sweet spot of having some kind of idea of what you’re getting from a player but with their best yet to come.
The Royals at least do have some idea of what they’re getting from Mondesi. It can be maddening at times, but they know that at any given moment, he can take over a game. Sometimes those moments are too few and far between, but they still exist. So maybe this is the perfect time to extend him. They know what the top end is. They know what the bottom end is. And because they’re not alone in that, it might behoove Mondesi to get some guaranteed money just in case the bottom end starts to come up a lot more than the top end.
It’s easy to look at Bobby Witt, Jr., recently demoted to the minors (probably AA once the season gets going) and think that extending the guy who plays his position is a bad idea, and I can understand that. It sure looks like Witt will be a more consistent performer than Mondesi, who never really had the opportunity to succeed anywhere before getting called up. Witt is a sound defender who got work at second this spring, but it sounds like will work at third and even some outfield in the minors before he eventually works his way back to the big leagues. Maybe the calculus here is that Witt at third and Mondesi at shortstop is better for the team than Witt at shortstop and Mondesi elsewhere on the field or even on another team.
I’m honestly not sure what I think about that. I can see it all ways, which is kind of interesting. On one hand, the kid is unproven. On the other hand, every report about him is so glowing that he’s almost, gulp, can’t miss. But on the third hand, Mondesi has shown he can play shortstop defensively at a high level. Can he play third? I don’t know. Can he play outfield? I don’t know. And neither do you. So that makes it tough to answer.
In my opinion, Witt’s presence should not impact a Mondesi extension. The Royals will be at their best in the future if Mondesi and Witt are producing at a high level and Mondesi’s arbitration numbers might get artificially inflated by some big stolen base numbers. So that brings us to what the deal might look like. And it can be all over the place. Whenever I talk about contracts, I like to look at some comparable players. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton. You just don’t see a lot of 25-year old players with Mondesi’s talent but inconsistency in this conversation.
What would the deal look like?
Anyway, here are a few shortstops who have signed and other players sort of in the same boat as Mondesi:
So, uh, that’s quite a range. They’re not all perfect comparisons but these are players who signed deals who either play Mondesi’s position or had some similarities to him at the time of their deals. Let’s just keep those in mind while we think about where Mondesi is now.
Heading into his age-25 season, he’s scheduled to make $2.525 million in what is his first year of arbitration eligibility. To look at his best case scenario for the next two years, the guy to point to his probably Marcus Semien who earned about $3.1 million as an arb1, $5.9 million as an arb2 and $13 million as an arb3 after an MVP-caliber season. So at the very most, we’re looking at $19 million for the next two seasons for Mondesi.
More likely, though, we’re looking at maybe around $5 million in 2022 and $8 million in 2023 if he’s solid. Then maybe you’re looking at the top end of the two year deal for $28 million that Didi Gregorius signed, but if you look at a guy like Andrelton Simmons who just took $10.5 million. It’s probably closer to two years and $18 million or so based on his current production. With that deal, you’re looking at something like four years and $31 million.
But that doesn’t take into account a lot of the issues he’s had, both with health and, to be candid, his PED suspension from a few years ago. If you look at Dozier’s deal, while he is older, that might give a nice roadmap. Dozier is also an arb1 player for the Royals and had agreed to $2.72 million for this season before his new deal. He ended up getting the four years and $25 million you see above when it could be reasonably surmised that he could have made a bit more in arbitration and free agency but opted for the guaranteed money. Plus, he has tons of incentives that can raise the deal significantly higher.
The Royals would be buying the beginning of Mondesi’s prime years compared to picking up in the middle of Dozier’s, but in my scenario, they’re not altering his 2021 contract, and Dozier’s final three years are worth $21.75 million, so maybe we need to go a touch higher on Mondesi and give him a four year deal worth $32 million guaranteed that includes a fifth year option for $13 million and a $2 million buyout. You could see the structure as follows:
2022: $4.5 million
2023: $7.5 million
2024: $9 million
2025: $11 million
It ends up being most similar to the first four years of the Kiermaier deal above (around $28 million), and I think that makes a lot of sense as a player who is a very good defender at a premium position but has some trouble with both staying on the field and offensive consistency.
There will need to be incentives based on playing time (and non-IL time) and also someone I trust has told me that with his PED suspension, there would likely be some language regarding that. I would have no problem with plate appearance incentives that could make this deal get close to the Jean Segura deal you see above.
This has been really long and I haven’t even given you fun Mondesi gifs. So as a reward for making it this far. Here you go:
Okay, but for real now, should they do it?
Look, there’s risk here no doubt. But there’s also the potential for some serious reward. This isn’t a Jose Ramirez situation where the Indians locked him up, got flack for it and then he went on a rampage. Nobody really knew what Ramirez could do. We all know what Mondesi can do. But if they wait until he shows it over a full season, there’s no way they can get the kind of top end talent signed at the rate he would likely take right now.
A deal like the way one presented here likely doesn’t hurt the team in any way. Those last couple years or kinda sorta expensive, but with the new television money in place, it shouldn’t impact much of anything. At the very worst, he can be a super sub as we’ve seen him play second and short and I would assume with an off-season, he could pick up outfield and third base. As a switch hitter with his speed, he could be very valuable in that role. Even if you decide Witt is the better option at shortstop long-term, move Mondesi over to second and have the most athletic middle infield in baseball.
It’s inexpensive enough that I think, yes, they absolutely should. And by all accounts, it could be progressing in that direction. My line in the sand on a four year deal for Mondesi that would pay for his age-26 through 29 seasons is probably around $38 million. More than that, I dislike it. Less than that, it has the potential to be a steal and is likely fine even if it’s not. So now we wait.
So let's say the royals are offering 4 years 38 mil and mondesi's camp is countering with 4 years 62 mil....would you take the middle and ask 4 years, 50 mil (i know it's over your bottom line)? Or no thanks, we're good?
So almost exactly two decades ago the Royals drafted another highly regarded prospect, rushed him to the majors and he struggled mightily with the mental drain of the bigs (mostly losing in the bigs) and then he spiraled and they essentially paid to get him counseling for a year while he took a sabbatical.
In my opinion, I think the Royals recognized they had some responsibility in the issues for the young man and did the conscionable thing and granted him the trade he wanted. The rest has been history for all parties.
For me, the Mondesi situation is similar to Grienke. We rushed him up as well, the difference is we rushed him so we could win now and we didn't win squat when we rushed up Zach except for a few of the games he pitched. Mondesi's issue are due, in part, to us rushing him to the bigs and I think the Royals should acknowledge that and do the right thing by the kid, just not via trade.
If I'm the Royals I go all-in on Mondesi. 4 years is good, but 5 years or even possibly 6 is better. I'd sit him down, tell him that you have all the faith in the world in him and, seeing as how we're from the Show-Me state, show him by offering a looonnnggg term deal.
IMO this would allow him to relax, know he is our guy no matter what and become the best version of him and as a Royal.
A Royals future anchored by the young guns, BWJ, Mondesi and at some point an Eric Pena and a few other surprise/developed stars along the way IMO all but guarantees us years of being competitive.