On Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Jose Berrios to a seven year, $131MM contract extension. With one of the big, young aces in the league getting a fat contract, what does this mean for the Brewers chances to extend co-aces Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes?
Berrios, 27, has been in the big leagues for six seasons and was a year away from entering free agency. He came up in 2016 as a top prospect with the Twins with a lot of hype. With free agency coming up soon, it’s not surprising to see the Blue Jays sign him to a big deal, because he would’ve earned big money as a 28 year old on the open market.
So what does this mean for the Brewers and their hopes to sign Brandon Woodruff, 28, and Corbin Burnes, 27, to extensions this winter?
The Jose Berrios extension may have helped shape the framework for a Corbin Burnes extension for the Brewers, but may not have much impact on Brandon Woodruff.
Berrios’ AAV of $18.7MM is solid, but not an insurmountable price tag if the Brewers were able to get one of their starters to something similar. However, with Brandon Woodruff already being a year older than Berrios and three years away from free agency whereas Berrios had just one year left, Woodruff isn’t as affected.
Woodruff, in all likelihood would sign for fewer years and dollars than Berrios, just based on age and team control left. Woodruff, statistically, is the better pitcher, but that’s not the only factor in these types of negotiations. Woodruff is currently set to reach free agency at 31, and it will be extremely difficult to find a seven year contract at that age.
However, this does have more of an impact on Corbin Burnes and sets a baseline for comparison. Burnes just finished his age-26 season, so he’s a year younger than Berrios and is slated to reach free agency at age 29, where Berrios was going to at 28. So they’re pretty close in age and when they would reach free agency.
Also, even though Berrios has been around longer, Burnes is a far better pitcher. Berrios has been solid and shown flashes of dominance, but has never had a truly dominant season, and hasn’t won a Cy Young or even received a single Cy Young vote. Burnes was 6th last season and is a finalist in 2021.
If the Brewers are going to sign Burnes to an extension this winter, look for his representatives to ask for something similar to the Berrios’ contract in terms of years and dollars. The Brewers will want to gradually work the money up and backload it a little, considering the next three years are supposed to be arbitration.
The AAV on a Burnes deal may end up being somewhat similar to Berrios’ $18.7MM AAV, but with a likely backloaded deal, some of those later years are going to be a bit higher than the AAV, most likely pushing into the $20+MM range.
The cost of pitching is high and only getting higher. If the Brewers want to sign their co-aces to extensions, their prices won’t be getting cheaper, and when lesser pitchers are getting deals like Berrios did, it gets more and more difficult to justify not paying them what they have earned.