Move over, Atlanta.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have secured the potential face of their franchise for most of the next decade, extending top prospect Corbin Carroll for a reported eight years and $111 million, with a ninth-year club option that could bring the total value of the deal to $134 million.
The contract for the five-tool 22-year-old, who has played all of 32 big-league games, might have turned more heads if not for the Braves making the practice of extending talented pre-arbitration players now seem commonplace.
Carroll’s new deal is the largest for any major leaguer with fewer than 100 days of service time. It shatters the eight-year, $72 million extension the Braves gave to 21-year-old Michael Harris II last August, not quite three months into Harris’ major-league career. To be sure, they were three terrific months.
Harris, the youngest player in the majors at the time, went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors in a 5.3-WAR season. His deal bought out all of his arbitration years plus at least three years of free agency. The Diamondbacks are doing something similar with Carroll, who should be a frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year award in 2023 and who will now stay with the Diamondbacks through at least his first two free-agent seasons.
It cost more to do it, but it’s a win-win for the D-backs and for Carroll, who headlines an electrifying core of young players in Arizona.
If Carroll is as good as the Diamondbacks and many evaluators believe, the extension will be a steal considering what he’d make in free agency. An Arizona team with the lowest payroll in its division will have locked up a potential MVP-level player through his prime.
For Carroll, who has all of 115 major-league plate appearances to his name and who missed most of the 2021 season due to a shoulder injury, he gets the stability and security of a nine-figure payday while still putting himself in line to earn another in his early 30s if he plays to his potential.
There is, of course, risk in handing a deal of that magnitude to a player with such a limited major-league resume.
The Diamondbacks hadn’t given out a pre-arb extension since signing Ketel Marte to five years and $24 million in 2018, when Marte was set to become arbitration-eligible for the first time. The only other time they handed out a nine-figure deal was to Zack Greinke, when they signed the proven 32-year-old to a six-year, $206.5 million deal. But the commitment demonstrates what the Diamondbacks think of their dynamic young outfielder, who was called up last August.
Carroll was the fastest player in the big leagues last season and posted an .830 OPS during his brief stint up, offering glimpses of his abilities. His arrival wasn’t out of necessity. The D-backs already had Daulton Varsho and more young standouts in Jake McCarthy and Alek Thomas manning the outfield. But Carroll was ready, which is all the more remarkable considering the 2019 first-round pick didn’t have a 2020 minor league season due to the pandemic and played just seven games at High-A and two in rookie-league ball in 2021 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.
Last year was his first season playing above High-A. He raked at every level. Now, he’s making more than $100 million.
And it wouldn’t be surprising to see the trend continue.
Last year, in addition to Atlanta’s deal for Harris, the Braves also extended 25-year-old All-Star Austin Riley for 10 years and 24-year-old Spencer Strider for six years. Riley wasn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2025 season. Strider wasn’t eligible until after the 2027 season.
Just a day before the Carroll deal, the Washington Nationals extended catcher Keibert Ruiz for eight years and $50 million. Ruiz, 24, wasn’t arbitration eligible until 2025.
Teams are realizing the value of keeping their best young talent in place into their free-agent years.
The Diamondbacks now have three outfielders 25 and under in Carroll, McCarthy and Thomas, a promising young catcher they traded for in 23-year-old Gabriel Moreno and a horde of pitching prospects in Ryne Nelson, Drey Jameson and Brandon Pfaadt who should soon be impacting their rotation. Recent top selections Jordan Lawlar and Druw Jones will enter the fold at some point further down the line.
Carroll will be the face of that youth movement in Arizona — one that could have the Diamondbacks contending for a playoff spot sooner rather than later, even in a division as treacherous as the NL West.
Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for FOX Sports. He previously was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.
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