Chicago White Sox: Who are the other extension candidates?

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Sep 22, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia (26) at bat against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago White Sox GM Rick Hahn has proven himself to be quite the savant when it comes to free agency and the trade market, but his most skilled area may in fact be somewhere else: Crafting extensions.

Adam Eaton‘s extension is merely the most recent example. The center fielder’s five-year, $23.5 million deal officially solidifies Eaton as a core member of what is shaping up to be the best nucleus the White Sox have had in years.

The contract also contains two team options, which could extend Eaton’s stay on the South Side to a total of 7 years. The contract is a steal, especially if Eaton can generate more of those.

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Pair Eaton’s extension to the Chris Sale and Jose Quintana contracts, and Hahn has constructed a trifecta of cost-effective deals that position the White Sox well for the foreseeable future.

Chris Sale: 5-year/2 team options ($32.5 million/$57.5 million)

Jose Quintana: 5-year/2 team options ($26.5 million/$47.5 million)

Adam Eaton: 5-year/2 team options ($23.5 million/$43.5 million)

See a pattern? All of these extensions were signed when the above were pre-arb players. Hahn has done an excellent job buying out the arbitration years, a couple years of free agency, and then adding the option to continue the relationship even longer.

Financially, the deals have escalating annual salaries, assuming that the player follows the traditional prime arc. To me, the greatest part about these contracts is that Hahn was able to add two years of control via team options.

Rick Hahn has essentially locked up three all-star caliber players for 18 years of team control at the price of $148.5 million

This puts the White Sox fully in the driver’s seat, and with inflation and naturally rising MLB salaries, even the money owed during the option years will be considerably less than the average qualifying offer. Plus, this gives the team cost-certainty, and makes it easier for Hahn to envision financial commitments to core pieces, without having to project arbitration salaries.

If all players remain with the organization from this point forward through the option years, then Hahn has essentially locked up three all-star caliber players for 18 years of team control at the price of $148.5 million. For perspective, the Chicago Cubs inked Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal this offseason. Feel free to use that as ammunition during the Crosstown Classic.

The difference is that Lester’s deal was a product of free agency, while the others were signed pre-arbitration. The fact is, you can get players a lot cheaper through the latter method. We saw it with the Miami Marlin’s recent extension of Christian Yelich, and the trend is likely to continue.

There’s an art to these pre-arb extensions, because the team gets a discount at the cost of the player netting security.

Eaton is injury prone, and while I think he’ll have a much healthier ’15, the fact remains that his style of plays lends itself to DL stints, and this was probably Hahn’s main argument.

“Hey, you’ll be worth way more than this if you stay on the field, but if you run into a wall again, you’ll still walk away with $23.5 million guaranteed. And if you sign at a discount, we can afford to put more talent around you.”

Eaton, himself, touched on the latter portion as outlined in ESPN Chicago’s Doug Padilla’s article:

"“‘I’m going to be making quite a bit of money, but with that being said, this is the cheaper route for the team,’ Eaton said. ‘I think I’m going to play more than that contract is worth, but again, we want to win here and there’s money to go elsewhere. The next three, four, five years, if I can be a savings to bring some guys in, that’s key for us.'”"

Not all players are like this, and it’s commendable for Eaton to put the gratification of winning above the utility of a heftier contract

Yet, it’s part of the culture Hahn is building, and even Chris Sale accepts the notion that if a certain extension candidate is signed, his salary will balloon in comparison to his own. That extension candidate is the first one we will discuss: Jeff Samardzija.

Next: White Sox: Jeff Samardzija