One-year deal makes sense for Pence
The Astros signed Hunter Pence to a one-year, $3.5 million contract Saturday in his first year of arbitration eligibility. There appears to be some kind of groundswell of support by the fans for locking Pence up to a multi-year deal, but that doesn’t make sense for the Astros.
Pence has three more years of arbitration eligibility remaining after this season and will continue to get paid his market value as long as he keeps producing. We’ve seen the Brewers lock up Ryan Braun and the Rays sign Evan Longoria to multi-year deals to essentially buy out the final years of arbitration, and those could wind up being good deals down the road.
The Astros still have three-plus years to get a long-term deal done with Pence if they see fit, so it makes no sense to do it now. A deal like that would give the player some security and could been seen as an act of goodwill, but it’s not really cost reductive. Teams would have to pay today’s market value for the player and then project what it’s going to be like two, three or four years down the road.
Long-term deals make sense when you can buy out years of free agency, but to do that for Pence at this point in his career you’d have to sign him to a six-year deal (four arbitration years and two free agent years). There’s not much sense to that considering Pence won’t be a free agent until after the 2013 season.
In case you’re wondering, Pence has four arbitration-eligible years because he’s a “Super Two,” which means he has less than three years of Major League service time (2.156) and ranks in the Top 17 percent in total service in the class of players who have at least two but less than three years of service.