It seems to be more commonplace of late for organizations to lock-up players the franchise sees as long-term pieces to contract extensions prior to their debut or before the player reaches his arbitration window. Could the Cincinnati Reds do that with Hunter Greene?
Greene, a former first-round pick, was added to the Reds 40-man roster this offseason and is all but certain to make his big league debut in 2022. Greene may even be part of Cincinnati's Opening Day roster.
Selected with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, Greene has had a bit of a rocky start to his professional career. In 2018, Greene underwent Tommy John surgery that required him to miss all of the 2019 minor league season. The coronavirus pandemic shutdown the 2020 minor league season, though Greene still got to work with coaches and fellow prospects within the organization at the alternate site.
Should the Reds offer Hunter Greene an extension?
It seems somewhat laughable to extend Hunter Greene before he even throws a pitch in the big leagues, right? Greene posted a 1.98 ERA in seven starts at Double-A Chattanooga last season and went 5-8 in 14 starts at Triple-A Louisville last season. While Greene's 4.13 ERA isn't great, his 79 punch outs in 65.1 innings are quite impressive.
Greene could quickly become the face of the Cincinnati Reds franchise. While the team has several marketable players, outside of Joey Votto and maybe Jonathan India, very few bring the type of star power that Greene possesses.
The Chicago White Sox signed outfielder Eloy Jimenez to a six-year/$43M deal prior to his major league debut. At the time, Jimenez was a consensus top prospect in all of baseball. Jon Singleton signed a five-year/$10M deal with the Houston Astros prior to stepping onto a major league diamond. Scott Kingery also inked a multi-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies before his debut.
The idea is not unprecedented, but it's rare. We've also seen the likes of Ronald Acuña Jr. sign a mega-deal while the organization still had several years of team control remaining. Acuńa signed a $100M extension in 2019 but would not have reached free agency until 2024.
While I look at players like Jesse Winker and Jonathan India as players the Reds should look to extend first, it's not crazy to entertain the idea of buying out Hunter Greene's arbitration years. If the right-hander is as good as everyone thinks he can be, Cincinnati will need to act quickly in order to keep him in a Reds uniform.