While much of the Cincinnati Reds‘ core enters 2015 with major question marks concerning health, production or impending free agency, the team moved on Monday to lock up one of their young talents for the next few years. As reported by Tim Dierkes at MLBTradeRumors.com, the Reds have agreed to a four-year deal with catcher Devin Mesoraco, worth a guaranteed $28 million, with up to $2 million in additional incentives.
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Since Mesoraco was a in his first year of arbitration eligibility, the new pact takes all arbitration talks off the table and also buys into what would have been Mesoraco’s first year of free agency in 2018.
Mesoraco was the 15th pick in the first round of the 2007 draft and spent the next four-plus years working through the Reds’ minor league system before landing in Cincy in September of 2011. Since then, he has seen his playing time increase, and he became the big club’s definitive starting catcher out of spring training last year. Although he was limited to just 114 games in 2014, Mesoraco blossomed at the plate, slamming 25 home runs, picking up 80 RBI and posting a 149 OPS+
Mesoraco’s work behind the plate has also improved to the point that baseball-reference.com lists him with a 0.8 defensive WAR in 2014, good for an overall WAR of 4.7.
The new deal that Mesoraco signed today is back-loaded, with salaries of $2.4 million, 4.9 million, $7.2 million and $13 million over the next four seasons. This structure helps the Reds in the short term and gives them a bit of flexibility should they contend this summer, maybe allowing them to take on some payroll to bolster for the stretch run.
By 2018, the last year of the deal, Mesoraco will be 30 years old and should still be at or near his peak physically. If the Reds can continue to play him in a reasonable number of games each season, it seems likely that he will provide good value throughout the life of the new contract. Of course, catching is pretty hard on the body, so there is a possibility of diminished play as he ages.
For now, the move should sit well with most Reds fans, as it locks up a popular player but is also a departure from the gaudy, overtaxing contracts handed out to Joey Votto and Homer Bailey in recent years. It will be interesting to see if general manager Walt Jocketty exercises the same sort of restraint when it comes to third baseman Todd Frazier, who is two years older than Mesoraco and figures to be looking for a longer, more lucrative deal.