Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson are the stars the Orioles plan to build around. Both won a Silver Slugger Award on Thursday.
But how long will they really be in Baltimore?
Rutschman is under team control through the 2027 season, with Henderson a year behind.
In the grand scheme of things, four or five seasons isn’t long. So what’s stopping the Orioles from locking up Henderson and Rutschman for longer?
Nothing. But, since they’ve been under the stewardship of general manager and Executive Vice President Mike Elias, the Orioles have yet to sign a player to a multiyear guaranteed deal, let alone an extension. The last time the Orioles extended a player was over a decade ago, when they signed Adam Jones to a six-year, $85 million deal (Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo received multiyear contracts after they entered free agency).
But this is a different time. The Orioles were rebuilding for the first four years of Elias’ tenure and only now, after a 101-win season and their first playoff berth since 2016, have they made it to the other side. They were buyers at the midseason trade deadline and intend to add this offseason. Now would be the time to extend Rutschman and Henderson.
Here are recent examples of extensions given to the game’s young stars.
Corbin Carroll: 8 years, $111 million
Carroll is the most comparable player to Henderson. Both got a glimpse of the majors in 2022, compiling fewer than 150 plate appearances. Both just completed their age-22 seasons. And both helped their teams end playoff droughts and are finalists for their league’s rookie of the year award.
But only one is locked up for the next eight years.
The Diamondbacks have seen enough out of their young star. They granted him an eight-year, $111 million extension last spring, confident — before he even played a full season — that he was the player they wanted to build around. Carroll hit .285 with 25 home runs as he led the Diamondbacks to the World Series. Henderson hit .255 with 28 home runs.
Carroll’s salary for 2023 was only $1 million, but it will steadily increase until 2029, the year it reaches $28 million. He will be owed $28 million for the last two guaranteed years of his deal.
An extension for Henderson could follow a similar path: give him more than he would have earned in his pre-arbitration years (league minimum is $750,000) in exchange for taking a gamble on a fixed number later in his career that may or may not be up to his playing level by the time he reaches that point.
Michael Harris II: 8 years, $72 million
The Braves have made a habit of locking up their young core. They extended Austin Riley (10 years, $72 million), Ronald Acuña Jr. (eight years, $100 million) and Ozzie Albies (seven years, $35 million).
Last year, midway through his first season, they added Harris II to that list. He won NL Rookie of the Year and placed 13th in MVP voting. Harris II has a higher average than Henderson with less power, but he plays center field — a role, like Henderson’s and Rutschman’s, that requires a strong defender.
His contract follows a similar path as Carroll’s, but Harris II has three years of free agency covered and reaches up to only $12 million.
Keibert Ruiz: 8 years, $50 million
The rebuilding Nationals don’t have to worry about who their catcher will be when they get all the pieces together. They extended Ruiz, just 24 at the time, this year through 2030.
Rutschman, despite being the same age as Ruiz with less service time, would expect more in a deal. He’s slightly better at the plate — his batting average is a tick above Ruiz’s with more power — and he is much stronger behind it. He ranks above average in nearly every defensive category, with Ruiz falling on the opposite end.
Ruiz’s contract tops out at $9 million guaranteed, with a $12 million club option for 2031 and a $14 million club option for 2032. Rutschman is more likely to approach the top-paid player at the position: Phillies star J.T. Realmuto, who earns nearly $23.9 million.
This article was updated to reflect the length of team control of Gunnar Henderson.