Reds fans hoping for Elly De La Cruz extension will probably have to wait a while

The Reds might not be signing Elly De La Cruz to an extension any time soon.
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Elly De La Cruz is coming into his own as one of the best young players in Major League Baseball. He's taken a significant step forward at the plate after fading down the stretch in 2023 and is looking like a legitimate superstar.

However, despite De La Cruz's best efforts to carry a struggling Cincinnati Reds' offense, any thoughts of the organization locking him up on a long-term contract extension might have to wait until the offseason.

Talks of an Elly De La Cruz contract extension with the Reds might have to wait

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic talked briefly about De La Cruz and the Reds on Foul Territory earlier this week. He made a point about how the vast majority of contract extension discussions get placed on pause after the end of April, and it's not hard to see why.

Players need to focus on performance and teams are more focused on roster construction and player development than they are on dishing out contracts.

The second, and more important point that Rosenthal made is that the Reds aren't typically big spenders. Yes, Joey Votto signed a deal worth $225 million but that's more the exception than the rule.

The Reds entered 2024 with the third-lowest Opening Day payroll, and are projected to be around $121 million for Competitive Balance Tax purposes at the end of the year. A contract extension for De La Cruz would bump that total payroll figure substantially higher, and it's unclear whether Bob Castellini wants to run payrolls upwards of $150 million.

What might an Elly De La Cruz contract extension with the Reds look like?

The most apt comparison for a potential De La Cruz contract extension is the 11-year deal worth $288 million that shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. signed with the Kansas City Royals. Witt was coming off a season worth 5.9 fWAR and the Royals decided to lock him up before he got even more expensive.

De La Cruz debuted in 2023 and has yet to play a full season in the majors, so it's not a perfect comparison. But if he remains on his torrid pace through the end of the year, it's going to take a massive number to get him to sign in Cincy.

About a month ago, Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs wrote an article projecting contract extensions for certain players, and he suggested nine years and $192 million for Elly. That number might have worked this past offseason but it's unlikely that's the case right now, especially after the Witt deal.

Plus, consider the fact that De La Cruz's agent is the notorious Scott Boras, who is known for getting his clients the largest possible contracts. Add all that together and it might be tough for the Reds to get a deal done, especially in the middle of the season.

Thankfully for Reds fans, there's not a ton of urgency here. Elly won't hit free agency until after the 2029 season so there's plenty of time for the two sides to work together, if that's what they want to do.

It would be a great thing for Reds fans if the team were to lock Elly up for years to come. Unfortunately, we might not get serious traction on any potential deal until the winter at the earliest.

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