Upton on Verge of Contract Extension

During Arizona Diamondbacks FanFest at Chase Field, General Manager Josh Byrnes was asked about the possibility of signing some of the team’s young players to long-term contracts. Byrnes expressed the team was considering the possibility.

Two players were mentioned as potentially warranting a long-term deal – third baseman Mark Reynolds and outfielder Justin Upton. Of the two it seemed more likely that the Diamondbacks would be able to work out a deal with Reynolds than Upton.

Reynolds missed being classified as a “Super Two” player by mere days meaning he will reach arbitration eligibility after the 2010 season. Considering his breakout year in 2009, Reynolds will be in for a huge raise.

The Diamondbacks have shown a desire to try and lock up their young core of players to a deal that will extend through the arbitration eligibility years. It gives the team some form of cost certainty while giving the players a level of financial security.

Reynolds was thought to be more signable than Upton. As the first overall selection in the 2005 draft Upton had been compared to such heavyweights as Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Junior.

In just his third season Upton began reaching some of his potential being named to the National League All-Star game. He led the team with a .300 average while driving in 86 runs with 26 home runs.

This kind of production is difficult to quantify as to how good Upton can become. The Diamondbacks would have to make a substantial offer in order for Upton to give up a potential bonanza he could realize in the arbitration process.

It was therefore quite surprising to learn that it was Upton who was closest to signing a new deal. Rumors began swirling today about the Diamondbacks offering a contract in the neighborhood of $52 million spread over six years.

This would not only cover all of his arbitration eligibility but would also include the first two years of free agency. From a team’s perspective they gain cost certainty for an extended period of time.

From Upton’s perspective it guarantees him money over six seasons and still allows him to become a free agent at the age of 28 when he will be reaching his prime. As is policy the Diamondbacks declined to comment on negotiations.

A press conference could be held as early as Wednesday announcing the deal. If true, this will be a major signing for the club. It will represent the second largest deal in franchise history after the $53.4 million given to Randy Johnson in 1999.

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