Nationals had ‘substantive discussions’ with former top prospect about extension

    CJ Abrams and the Nationals “held substantive discussions” about a possible contract extension this past spring, Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post reports.  It isn’t known how close the two sides might’ve gotten toward a long-term deal or whether or not an extension could still be struck at some point during the season.  Most players prefer not to negotiate to any great extent after Opening Day, but it’s possible Abrams might be more open to locking up the first big multi-year windfall of his pro career.

    If Abrams and his reps at Roc Nation Sports wanted to more fully dive into extension talks after Abrams had a more established MLB track record, that strategy might have paid off handsomely given the shortstop’s red-hot start to the season.  Abrams is hitting .264/.329/.521 with seven home runs over his first 156 plate appearances, along with eight stolen bases in 10 attempts and an NL-best four triples.  While his hard contact and walk rates are a little subpar, Abrams’ strong .363 wOBA is actually lower than his .381 xwOBA.

    The 23-year-old Abrams has been pegged for stardom since the Padres drafted him sixth overall in 2019, which is why the Nats insisted on the shortstop’s inclusion in the trade package received in the Juan Soto deal at the 2022 trade deadline.  While Abrams hit a modest .246/.293/.383 over his first 916 MLB plate appearances in 2022-23, he also went yard 18 times last season and stole 47 bases in 51 attempts.  Back in February, MLBTR’s Nick Deeds profiled Abrams as a possible extension candidate and floated the idea of an eight-year deal worth $60M-$65M, with one or two club option years attached.

    If Abrams keeps up anything close to this level of production over the full 2024 season, his camp will surely have a higher figure in mind than $65M.  As Svrluga notes, the Nationals’ track record with extending cornerstone players is pretty spotty, as while some prominent names (i.e. Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, Keibert Ruiz) were locked up, other notables like Soto, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Ian Desmond, and Anthony Rendon were all either traded or let go via free agency.  Ruiz’s extension was signed just last year and is, therefore, the most illustrative of how ownership and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo might operate as the Nationals start to emerge from this rebuilding period, and the organization continues to be willing to invest in certain players.

    There technically isn’t any rush for either Abrams or the Nationals to reach a deal since Abrams is under arbitration control through the 2028 season.  Since Abrams is looking very likely to qualify for Super Two status and an extra year of arb eligibility, signing the shortstop to an extension would give the Nationals some extra measure of cost certainty over the young star rather than watch his price tag continue to rise in his arbitration years.  From Abrams’ perspective, he is setting himself up for a very nice first-time figure for his initial trip through the arb process, which should boost his earnings in each subsequent year if he continues to produce.

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