GLENDALE, Ariz. — Among the many complex elements involved in getting a deal done, timing appears to have been the most critical for Tim Anderson and the White Sox.
Even though Anderson has less than a year of service time, both sides felt it was imperative they complete a six-year pact during spring training that could pay the shortstop upward of $50.5 million.
With Opening Day rapidly approaching, neither the White Sox nor Anderson's representatives at Reynolds Sports Management had any interest in allowing talks to extend into the season for the player's sake. And when it comes to why now — whether it was eliminating risk or assuming it, the years of control on the back end or the dollars and cents — it was clear to all parties that the present was the only logical time to finalize a deal that could keep Anderson in Chicago through 2024.
"We felt now was the right opportunity to get the length of control we were looking for and we were comfortable with," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "I think the fact that it is an aggressive move on our part is probably not a surprise given what you've seen us do with some of our other players, which took people by surprise. But again, we view him as a premium talent who's going to be an important part of what we're trying accomplish for the next several years."
To complete a deal like this, one that members of the White Sox front office often refer to as "win-win contracts," both sides must make significant concessions. Anderson's extension is the fifth long-term deal completed by the White Sox in four years, starting with Chris Sale's contract in March 2013.
The team benefits by locking up the first two seasons of Anderson's free agency at an affordable rate. The White Sox used that additional control to their advantage this offseason when they traded Sale and Adam Eaton for seven talented prospects.
But to gain those benefits, Hahn and Co. must be comfortable enough with the expected performance, the potential for injury and the person to assume the risk created by guaranteeing $25 million.
On the other side, Anderson's representatives must potentially concede the front end of free agency in order to gain security.
Even then, the deal isn't complete unless the player is satisfied.
"There's a lot of things that have to line up for a deal like this to work," said White Sox assistant GM Jeremy Haber.
When the two sides first made contact several weeks ago, Anderson's management team was skeptical.
The club's first offer was rejected.
Similar to the White Sox, Anderson's agent, Larry Reynolds, sees a star in the making. Not only does he possess the tools and work ethic necessary to become great, Anderson's reps believe he also has the drive necessary to make further progress. Given Anderson produced 2.8 Wins Above Replacement in his first season, Reynolds' team needed to be convinced to sacrifice valuable front-end years on the next contract.
Once the White Sox adjusted the proposed arbitration numbers, the likelihood of an extension increased.
When he has one-plus year of service time in 2018, Anderson will earn $1 million — exactly $50,000 shy of what Kris Bryant is making this season after he already won a Rookie of the Year award and a Most Valuable Player award. In 2019, Anderson's $1.4 million salary will be $400,000 more than Mike Trout — already a two-time AL MVP runner-up — earned with roughly the same amount of service time. The $4 million Anderson is set to take home in 2020 is $400,000 higher than Jackie Bradley is earning this season in his first year of arbitration eligibility and $1.275 million more than Lorenzo Cain earned in his in 2015.
Those figures as well as a $7.25 million payday in 2021 and $9.5 million in 2022 were enough to convince Anderson and his team to concede his first two years of free agency.
"This deal was a challenging one, particularly when you have a special talent like Tim's to consider," said Reynolds Sports Management COO Patrick Murphy. "The length of the contract and the club options were concerning, but as the negotiations progressed, Larry (Reynolds) and the group got more comfortable. In the end, what really mattered was the fact that Tim wanted to do the deal, so we pulled the trigger."
To arrive at the point where they wanted to lock down Anderson, the White Sox had to feel comfortable assuming risk. If anything goes wrong, they'd be on the hook for half of the contract. According to Hahn and Haber, there was never any doubt about pushing forward. Hahn said the White Sox initially discussed the possibility of an extension a year ago.
The ease with which they decided to move on that idea only grew the more they knew Anderson, whom they selected with the 17th overall pick of the 2013 draft. Not only is Anderson athletic, the White Sox have found him to be a quick learner who’s motivated to prove his doubters wrong.
"One of the things we talked about before engaging was if there was anyone in the organization who felt that Tim got guaranteed money that it would change how he approached the game and how he prepared," Hahn said. "Everyone I had that conversation with immediately to a man said no. He's about trying to be great and trying to win championships. He's not doing this for the money. He's not going to change his work ethic or who he is in the clubhouse or the field just because he has guaranteed cash in his pocket now."
All it took was the time to hammer out the deal.
But with the team's April 3 opener nearing, both sides hoped to have an answer by Sunday. They didn't want Anderson, who said he was surprised the team wanted to extend him, to be worried about his status as the regular season approached.
Whereas the two parties spoke about once every four days at the start, Reynolds and Haber were in contact 2-3 times per day on Friday and Saturday as negotiations intensified. After it was finalized, Anderson said he could feel the weight of it all. The sides agreed to the deal late Saturday and Anderson took his physical on Monday.
While stressful at the time, Anderson is pleased to have security and a home for at least the next six seasons.
"It's life changing," Anderson said. "For me to go out and perform the way I did and for them to reward them the way I did, it's such a blessing. Especially for someone like me from where I come from. It's just really an honor for me to be able to do this.
"That speaks highly of them, for them to believe in me like that. Just from 115 days in the big leagues last year. I'm very thankful and forever be humble and just keep moving forward with this."