The Reds and catcher Devin Mesoraco have reached agreement on a contract extension that will pay the 26-year-old catcher through the 2018 season, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting. Rosecrans also reports that Mesoraco has already taken a physical and will sign the deal later today. Other sources say the contract is for four years. Financial details are not yet available. [Update: Reports that the terms are $28 million for four years, with incentives of $2 million more. No option year. Year-by-year and incentive details here.]

Devin Mesoraco was already under team control through 2017, so the extension covers just one year of his free agency. Mesoraco will now be under contract with the Reds until the age of 30. 2015 was to be the first of three years he was eligible for arbitration to determine his salary. Mesoraco had filed for a $3.6 million salary this year while the Reds offered $2.45 million. The arbitrator would have chosen between those two figures. That’s moot now, as the extension sets his salary beginning in 2015. Mesoraco made $525,000 last year.

It’s smart for teams to lock up their above-average players through their late 20s. It’s vital for small-to-medium payroll teams. I’ve explained that case in general and specifically for Mesoraco. The Reds have adopted this strategy in recent years with Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto to the team’s great benefit. Homer Bailey’s extension isn’t quite the same, but does cover the pitcher’s age 28-33 seasons. This sort of deal provides payroll certainty for the club, security for the player and one added year of team control during the players 20s.

Mesoraco enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2014. He changed his approach at the plate. Mesoraco became more patient, saw more pitches and swung at the first pitch less often. Most importantly, he hit the ball harder and farther. Yes, he missed more often and struck out more. But the tradeoff was well worth it.

Mesoraco’s 2014 season was one for the ages, hitting .273/.359/.534 and 25 home runs. Previous Redleg Nation articles from Nick Kirby and Jason Linden put the young catcher’s accomplishments in historical and statistical context.

Will Mesoraco sustain his breakthrough? That’s what the Reds are gambling on. With only a one-year extension, the risk is limited, however. The numbers say the odds are with them.

By the end of 2014, Mesoraco’s stats had become a credible indicator for the future. His BABIP fell back into line with what one would expect with Mesoraco’s batted-ball profile. Players at his age stand a pretty good chance of maintaining their batted-ball distance gains. Mesoraco’s home runs didn’t come at the expense of doubles, he hit more of both. And finally, Mesoraco’s minor league pedigree is another positive indicator, as he mashed through the minor leagues in 2010.

If the Reds are looking for stronger locker room accountability – Mesoraco’s battering-ram style of play and vocal leadership certainly qualify – then the club took an important step in that direction. They promoted the locker room status of a player in the prime of his career who is also going to produce on the field. That makes a lot more sense than trolling for leaders in the stagnant pools of washed up free agent veterans.

With this extension, the club has taken an important step for the franchise. It would have been better to add one or two more years, but owner Bob Castellini and general manager Walt Jocketty have locked up a legitimate upper-deck slugger through the prime of his career. It’s good news, certainly the best Reds fans have had this offseason.

63 Responses

  1. THEGAFFER

    The key is to get the FA year. I would not have extended him without that but need to see the numbers.

    • Steve Mancuso

      I would have preferred a second free agent year. We don’t know all the details yet, maybe there is an option year. That’s what the Reds did with Bruce and Cueto.

      • THEGAFFER

        Mesoraco will receive a $28MM guarantee

      • THEGAFFER

        Steve, I agree but they may have refused as they want him to be young enough to get a second longterm contract. I still think 1 FA year for a 30 year old catcher is the least I wold be happy with.

  2. THEGAFFER

    He can earn an additional $2MM worth of performance bonuses for a max of $30MM over the four-year term.

    • THEGAFFER

      If they pay him 3 mill this year (arb #), and you assume 6 mil, then 9 mil. That leaves 10 mil and 2 mil in incentives for teh lone FA year. Looks good.

      • Thegafffer

        The FINAL numbers: He receives a $500K signing bonus and will earn $2.4MM in 2015, $4.9MM in 2016, $7.2MM in 2017 and $13MM in 2018. The contract also contains an additional $2MM worth of performance bonuses for a max of $30MM over the four-year term. He also gets a bonus based on 502 PA (400K per year).

  3. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I agree, smart move. I could understand if Walt waited until after this coming season, to make sure Devin can repeat his numbers (the sophomore season jinx; even though Devin finished his third season, it was essentially his first as a regular catcher in the bigs). And, I would have preferred 1-2 more years, also. But, I can take this very well.

    Now, Todd?

  4. Jeremy Conley

    Wow, that’s a really solid deal for the Reds. If Mesoraco is a league average catcher for 4 years making $7mil per, that’s a bargain. If he’s anything close to what he was last year, this deal will end up looking as good as Cuetos has.

    On the open market, Mesoraco probably could have gotten McCann money (5 years, $85mil) or more.

  5. Steve Mancuso

    Don’t want to hijack the thread, but the case for extending Frazier not so clear. Reds already have him through age 32. Maybe one more?

    • Brian

      Agreed given his age and the fact the Reds have control through his prime years already. I can see a deal, only if he is willing to do what Bruce did and take a bit of a home town discount wanting to be a “Red for life” but again only through like age 33 so not sure of the worth.

      • Thegafffer

        Agree on Todd, and he has only had one 3 month stretch of being an AS player. He has gone in and out of slumps based on chasing pitches outside (but I think he is improved a lot).

      • zaglamir

        While I agree with your sentiment, I think it’s worth noting that he has been an AS level defender for every game. His slumps are there, but his glove is a constant and that has a lot of value.

      • THEGAFFER

        Love Todd, but is he worth 7 yrs/$100M which is what Seager got from Seattle at the same level of arbitration?

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      Similar status to what Devin had. And, it would avoid arbitration.

      • Steve Mancuso

        They can avoid arbitration with a series of one-year deals like with most players (Mike Leake, for example). Or they could negotiate a three-year deal that covers his arbitration years. Question is whether you think the Reds should offer Frazier after age 32.

        AND Frazier may not want a short extension beyond age 32. He’ll be looking to cash in for a multi-year deal at that age. Probably last chance. Don’t see a deal getting done with Frazier that covers a free agent season, for a number of reasons.

      • WVRedlegs

        Some of those reasons are named Seth Mejias-Brean, Taylor Sparks, Alex Blandino, and Gavin LaValley.

    • unc reds fan

      The only reason I would agree to a 4 year deal with Frazier is to avoid arbitration for the next few years but don’t want to be stuck Phillips style with him either

      • Thegaffer

        The advantage of arbitration is payroll flexibility. If someone blows out an arm, knee, or vision goes bad then you can just release them. No reason to want to avoid arbitration. Reds have been burned by 2 year deals in arbitration years time and time again ( Ondrusek, E5, LaRue, Lincoln, Cairo, Massett, and on and on.)

      • Jeremy Forbes

        They’ve had some pretty darn good arbitration deals too, though.

        Joey Votto got his 3 arbitration years bought out for $38m. He put up 18.6 bWAR/18.2 fWAR during that contract.

        Johnny Cueto got his 3 arbitration years bought out, plus one more year for $27m, with another option year for $10m. He’s put up 17.5 bWAR/11.8 fWAR with his $10m option to go.

        Also, Cairo was 36 when he first played for Cincinnati. His arbitration years were long since passed.

      • Thegafffer

        Cueto is the kind of deal I love, meaning you get free agent years added (like Mes here). THAT I dont mind buying out. But, not ONLY arbitration years.

        You got me on Cairo, but you get my point on the others.

      • lwblogger2

        One could argue that the EE and LaRue deals weren’t horrible and they are the only other position players on the list.

  6. sultanofswaff

    Great move. Too bad it’s going to be a while before we see the Reds make one of these deals again. Outside of Hamilton and Suarez (still way too risky), I can’t think of a single player where this would make sense.

    • Brian

      may be a few years but at the same time the team should get younger and still be very talented if not better in the coming years. so a few years down the road you could see something for Hamilton, Winkler, Stephenson, etc. provided they continue to develop and not have any further setbacks.

  7. WVRedlegs

    This is very good news indeed. Good for both parties involved. A leader is born.
    Next up, Mike Leake since it appears as though its a no-go with Cueto. No more than a 4 year deal for Leake. It’d be nice to have a little continuity to the rotation after this season.

      • Redsfan48

        Re signing Leake is a waste, he’s been a solid pitcher but nothing special. With Iglesias, Stephenson, Travieso, Lorenzen all possibly ready next season, unless you could extend the ace (Cueto), save the money and try out these new guys

      • JB WV

        Agree. Especially if Cingrani can realize his potential. Love this deal for Mes and the Reds. He’s strong as a bull and improved every year with diligence and hard work.

      • reaganspad

        Agreed. Leake will cost 12.0 mil per year and we will have a lot of young pitching due to arrive. I will take his 2015 season performance and the draft pick.

        I think Leake has been good. We have guys on the way who will also be good, some will be great

      • MrRed

        But let’s not assume all of those kids are going to pan out much less be as effective as Leake has been. Cueto will be gone this year or next and then they’ll just have Bailey and Leake. If they can secure him at 12 per, I would have no qualms taking that deal into his early 30’s. He’s been durable and more importantly, he’s been improving each year.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        I believe I would have to secure Leake for a couple of more years at least. First, Cueto will be gone after this season. If Leake is gone, also, that leaves Homer and then everyone else. I’m not so secure about that. Those pitching studs we have, they have barely if even tasted AAA ball yet. Any of them are still probably at least a year away. And, there’s no guarantee that 4 of them are going to be able to adequately fill the starting rotation spots. Don’t get me wrong. I hope they all can do it this year. But, odds are great that none of them aren’t going to do it until 2016, if not later.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Leaving aside the issue of whether Leake wants to keep playing for the Reds or wants to move back to CA, I doubt he would sign a contract for a couple of years. He’s looking for a 3-5 year deal. Depending on where the Reds are at the trade deadline and what the market looks like for Leake, the Reds can keep him and make him a qualifying offer, even at $16 million and be fairly confident he’ll turn it down. So they’d get a compensation pick out of it. Or they could trade him at the deadline. Depends on if they are in the race.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        It would also depend if the young studs we have are ready or not. If they aren’t ready or aren’t developing to a “major league ready level”, then we are going to want all the “known commodities” of arms we can get. And, that would include Leake.

      • Drew

        So lets see…you know you have a quality major league starter with Leake who you should be able to sign at a reasonable deal…instead you want to “hope” these unknown players can produce? Sorry I invest in Leake and know I have a durable quality arm in the rotation for the next 5-6 years.

      • lwblogger2

        I tend to agree with Drew and a few others that signing Leake actually could be a good move. Great injury history and one of the lower stress deliveries I’ve seen. He’s also been consistent and improving. He’s a solid #3 on a lot of teams and could be probably had for Lohse kind of money. I think if he could be had for 4yrs/$50-million or so, the Reds should do it.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Not to mention, you could use him for a pinch runner, pinch hitter, possibly even play an emergency SS or 2nd if needed.

  8. zaglamir

    I actually really like the only 1 year of FA. The ageing curve for catchers looks even worse than the one for 2nd basemen (excluding the magical injection years of the late 90s to early 00s). Unless they get him out from behind the plate in the next 2 years, his main value by age 30 will be as a DH, and the Reds might be able to sell high by then if his career trajectory is good.

    This reeks of well-thought business. I’ve been quazi-vocal about my perceptions of Jocketty’s failings… but this makes sense on all levels and for all parties.

    • lwblogger2

      Agree… There have been a few catchers that have aged well though and seemingly without chemical assistence. I would say that those guys are the exception to the general rule though.

  9. lwblogger2

    Should be a nice deal for the club and provides Mes some financial security. It also gives Mes a chance to hit free-agency and hit it big at age 30. I like this deal for the team and for Mes as a player. Glad they were able to work something out.

  10. Mark Bradford

    Good move signing Mes. I would extend Frazier if possible. I would try and trade Leake because he would likely take the tender.

    • Thegaffer

      Even if he took the tender, which I doubt, we could still trade him. A big money team would love a guy on a one year deal.

    • jessecuster44

      How can the Reds sign Mez and extend Frazier if they are broke and don’t have any money?

  11. Jeremy Forbes

    I like this deal a lot. An extra year or two might have been nice since I think he has enough power to fend off the aging curve for a bit, but I can’t argue with getting a big time bat and passionate player locked up for his age 28-30 seasons.

    Hopefully this isn’t the end of the big news Walt has waiting for us. A 4th OF would be awfully nice.

    • lwblogger2

      What? You don’t like Schumaker as the 4th OF? All that grit has to be worth something, right?

      Honestly, I think Boesch has a shot at an OF job too. I don’t see a move for a free-agent 4th OF, especially since they moved Heisey to save money.

      • Jeremy Forbes

        Honestly not even sure I like Schumaker as a 5th OF. It’s almost impressive to get -1.1 WAR in only 271 PA/~550 innings in the field.

      • Thegaffer

        Luckily, it looks like Schum will not be ready to go early on after recovering from shoulder surgery.

      • redmountain

        Agreed. No use signing an OF since Winker and others will be ready next year.

      • JB WV

        As we all know, Heisey had plenty of chances to take LF. Couldn’t do it. But I’m going to miss his defense, especailly late in games. Lutz has a small sample size, but seems athletic in the field. Big, strong cat. Like to see him get a hard look to stick coming out of ST.

  12. Carl Sayre

    This looks like a winner for both sides. I really like that the team is not tied to him as he ages. He also could sign the BIG contract with an AL team as a DH.

  13. Hotto4Votto

    This was a smart move. Mes is going to be a beast at the plate.

  14. ohiojimw

    This is legitimate good news. The only real down side is that they didn’t do another year; but as has been noted, it gives the player a shot at one more big payday. And don’t forget Votto was on was on a similar deal when they went on and locked him up to the true LT deal.

    I agree that Frazier is a late arriver and offensively is still inconsistent. Not sure I would go beyond his Arb years at this point.

  15. Shchi Cossack

    I can only echo the general sentiment. This was a simply outstanding contract for all parties. Mesoraco gets financial security for playing a very insecure position. That’s a big win for Mesoraco. The Reds get a good deal if Mesoraco stays healthy and a heavily back-loaded team to boot. Let someone else pony up for that big overpay on a 5-6 year contract in 2019. I think Mesoraco will still be a huge bargain @ $13MM-$15MM in 2018.

    I think we will see Votto and Mesoraco anchoring the lineup in the #3 & #4 holes, respctively, for the next 4-5 seasons and I can’t wait to see the results. I’m now officially stoked for pitchers and catchers reporting in 23 days.

    • Steve Mancuso

      The contract isn’t really backloaded. The first three years track what the Reds would have likely paid Mesoraco in arbitration. The fourth year is a year of free agency with a guess that he’ll earn about 2 WAR. Extremely team friendly deal.

    • Jeremy Forbes

      Honestly, I would consider going Votto, Frazier, Mesoraco. Both preventing Votto from getting to the plate with two outs nobody on, and giving Mesoraco a better chance of having someone on base when his .260 ISO walks up since Votto has a great OBP and Frazier has a better-than-average OBP..

  16. JMO

    Next up Frazier and Chapman. Leake, maybe. We shall see. I would offer Frazier a deal of 5/50 M.

    • Thegaffer

      Chapman, ha . . Ha. There is no way, no how.

      Frazier would be crazy to take that deal when Seager (similar player) got nearly twice that.

    • Jeremy Forbes

      Hesitant about 5 years for Frazier. That means you’re paying ~$10m for his age 33 season. Not sure how great of a bet that is.

      Good to buy out Mesoraco’s arbitration because he’s still young enough to keep improving that his arbitration could get real costly. I think heading into his age 29 season, Frazier doesn’t have much more up to hope for. He’s probably what he is right now, which is still a really good 3B, but he doesn’t have anywhere near Mesoraco’s ceiling.

      • Grand Salami

        Agreed. Buying out Frazier’s arbitration years makes good business sense because those are still ‘prime production’ years and they show a vote of confidence without committing dollars on his decline. I wouldn’t go further than that.

        If Mes only gave away one FA year the Reds shouldn’t be trying to obligate themselves to that or more on the older, Frazier.

      • Drew

        In 5 or so years $10 million a year may be close to the average salary for MLB at that time..

      • lwblogger2

        That’s not out of the question, although I don’t think it will be quite that high by then. It is about $3.5-million currently if I’m not mistaken.

  17. wvredlegs

    Somebody mentioned that Votto and Mes will now anchor the lineup, and I tend to agree with that. Do you realize that by Opening Day of 2017, two years away, that Cozart, BP, Byrd, and quite possibly Frazier, Bruce and BHam could all be gone. Byrd is gone after this year, Cozart and Frazier could be dealt as 2017 is their last arb. year, BP and Bruce could be dealt as 2017 is the last year of their contracts. And if BHam doesn’t rebound from his bad 2nd half last year and doesn’t hit well, then he’s expendable. Now add two new starters in the rotation this year (Cingrani can be considered new), and possibly two more new starters next year to replace Cueto and Leake. And there is always turnover in the bullpen.
    Wow. This isn’t a re-load or a re-build. It would be a re-transformation of the 25-man roster over the next two years. I’d like to see Bruce and Frazier being part of the long-term equation, but that might not be realistic.