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.