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Chris Sale is underpaid, but he's no Sal Perez

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Kansas City catcher receives restructured deal to make up for unfavorable extension, but his example is too extreme in multiple ways

The tension between being and becoming.
The tension between being and becoming.
Jon Durr/Getty Images

Over the last decade, a heaping helping of prominent young ballplayers have locked in a lifetime's worth of money in exchange for earning potential. They're making enough money that it'd be tacky to complain about more, but it creates a natural tension between philosophies.

We saw that play out with Gavin Floyd and John Danks, the latter of whom showed the value of forgoing the early payday and betting on himself for more. Jeff Samardzija was actually vocal about it, eschewing all attempts at an extension and benefiting handsomely in the form of a five-year, $90 million contract with the Giants. On the flip side, Ian Desmond can tell you all about the perils of waiting for free agency, which is the kind of cautionary tale that makes signing unfavorable extensions understandable.

Even in this climate, Salvador Perez has always served as the most extreme of examples, and there's nobody close. Over the last three seasons, Perez has made three All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves and played an integral role in Kansas City's consecutive World Series appearances ... and all on a five-year, $7 million contract (with three club options).

Over the course of the last two seasons, there was some minor grumbling over the commitment, mostly because Perez's new agents inherited a lemon. But it was tempered by the realization that nobody forced Perez to sign it. While he might have deserved better, David Glass was under no obligation to rewrite the terms.

But winning the World Series MVP tipped the scales, and now Perez will earn a salary that's more in line with his role, starting with a $6 million signing bonus, which effectively "corrects" his salary even though only a prorated amount of it counts toward the Royals' 2016 payroll, which is now pushed to a projected franchise-record $136 million (corrected). After that, the Royals picked up the options and tacked on a couple more guaranteed seasons, resulting in quite the renovation:

Old New
2016 $2M $8M (after bonus)
2017 $3.75M CO $3M
2018 $5M CO $7.5M
2019 $6M CO $10M
2020 Free agent $13M
2021 Free agent $13M

If Perez weren't the favorite player of Kansas City's new favorite team, this would be a risky signing since Perez has logged a ton of time behind the plate. But he is, and so Rany Jazayerli summed it up rather concisely:

Ken Rosenthal also called the restructuring right and just, and he's not alone in that judgment. Rosenthal then took it a step further by wondering if it might start a trend. He identified six contracts that compete for the team-friendliest now that Perez is earning commensurate pay, and guess what? Chris Sale makes the cut:

*Chris Sale, White Sox. Entering fourth year of five-year, $32.5 million contract. [...]

Many in the industry viewed Sale as a breakdown candidate when the White Sox awarded him his current deal in March, 2013. But the team took the chance, and Sale recently told the Chicago Tribune that he considered all of the possibilities at the time and remains comfortable with his deal.

Sale, had he gone year to year, would have been a free agent after this season. Instead, he will make $9.15 million in what would have been his final year of arbitration, then $12 million in what would have been his first free-agent year. His deal also includes club options of $12.5 million and $13.5 million for 2018 and '19.

Of course, Perez's club had to win a World Series before he could get a far less lucrative deal reworked, so the conversation is pretty much a nonstarter for everybody else, except for maybe Madison Bumgarner. Sale has never used any of the myriad opportunities to complain about money, which affords him the opportunity to note the lack of meaningful games the Sox have played despite the incredible surplus value he's provided since 2012.