The Milwaukee Brewers have no more obvious extension candidate than Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes. They also have no more expensive extension candidate. What would an extension have to look like for the Brewers to keep Burnes in a Milwaukee uniform?
When it comes to building the parameters of a contract extension, it's important to look at what comparable players are being paid at his position. If you're better than Player X and Player X is earning X amount of money, then you should be paid more than Player X. There's also age, experience, and injury history to play a role in these valuations.
Recently, there were two big contracts in free agency that reset the top of the starting pitching market: Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander.
deGrom signed a 5 year, $185MM contract with the Rangers coming off back-to-back injury plagued seasons. When healthy, deGrom is the most dominant pitcher in the game. But he's going to turn 35 in June and his recent injury history could be cause for some concern, yet the Rangers went five guaranteed years at a $37MM average annual value (AAV). Burnes is younger at just 28 years old and does not have health concerns, and for those reasons, Burnes is likely to beat deGrom's contract in both years and AAV.
Justin Verlander has had a long and dominant career. He just won the AL Cy Young in his first year back from his second Tommy John surgery at 39 years old. He signed a 2 year, $86.6MM contract with the Mets with a $43.3MM AAV, matching Max Scherzer's AAV at the top of the market. Verlander has earned that high AAV because of his career success and the fact he's on a shorter term deal. More years can lower the AAV but because Verlander went shorter term because he's almost 40, the AAV went up. Burnes is not likely to top the $43.3MM AAV unless he goes short-term which is unlikely because the point of an extensino is for the long-term.
How much would a Corbin Burnes contract extension cost for the Milwaukee Brewers?
Based on these deals, where the market is at, and Corbin Burnes' dominance on the mound, any sort of extension for Burnes will end up being the largest contract in Brewers franchise history. That much is certain.
The minimum length for a Burnes contract extension will have to be six years. Rumors are Carlos Rodon is lookin for seven years on the free agent market. If he does get that, a Burnes extension may then have to go seven years as well, possibly eight. But the absolute minimum is six years. Frankly, it's difficult to see the Brewers being willing to go beyond six years for a pitcher, but if there's anyone to do it for, it's Corbin Burnes.
The money will have to be substantial. He'll likely beat deGrom's AAV on his youth and track record of health, but is unlikely to top Verlander/Scherzer in AAV because they're on shorter contracts. So we're looking at a maximum ballpark of $38-43MM AAV over 6-8 years.
However, if an extension will be done by the Brewers, we're likely looking at the lower end of that range, most likely in the $38-40MM AAV range. That's still substantial.
Over six years, that would be a $228MM contract at $38MM AAV. Then it's up to $234MM at $39MM AAV and all the way up to $240MM at $40MM AAV.
Over seven years, that's a range of $266-280MM total.
Over eight years, you're into the $300MM category at that AAV. I would not anticipate the Brewers entering this category and going to eight years. If they do go this many years, it'll only be if they can get serious compromise on the AAV of the deal, taking them out of the $300MM range.
It remains to be seen if Burnes is prioritizing AAV or total dollars. If it's total dollars, the Brewers can go longer on the contract and spread out the money more easily that way, allowing a lower AAV and more flexibility on payroll to build the rest of the roster. If it's AAV, the Brewers will likely max out the length at six years.
Simply put, this is not going to be easy for the Brewers. They typically shy away from contracts that big and watch other teams sign those players and win a World Series with them while the trophy case in Milwaukee remains empty.
The Brewers generate just slightly less revenue than the San Diego Padres, and the Padres have been shelling out huge contracts left and right in their pursuit of a World Series, including taking Josh Hader off Milwaukee's hands. If the Padres have the ability to do it, the Brewers can do it too, especially for the best starting pitcher in franchise history. The question is, are they willing to do it? Are they willing to do what it takes to keep Corbin Burnes and give themselves their best possible shot at winning a World Series?