The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

April 15, 2014

Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

MORGANTOWN — Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

The contract is a gamble on both sides, Gyorko being overpaid for a second-year player, even one who as a rookie last year hit 23 home runs and set a major league record for rookie second baseman with a .992 fielding percentage, and the club essentially buying up his arbitration years, the time when contracts tend to soar for successful players.

“These contracts make a lot of sense for both sides,” general manager Josh Byrnes said. “In this case we potentially buy out two years of free agency. It’s rare to do it so early, but Jedd, I think, he answered all the criteria you look at. First of all, character. This guy is a baseball player. I think he’s going to be a part of us establishing the kind of winning tradition we want to have here. He’s always hit and he’s handled things that have been thrown at him.”

San Diego has given a number of young players big number contract extensions, although none ever with as little major league experience as the former Morgantown High and West Virginia University infielder has, but has not had a lot of success with such moves.

Two years ago they gave extensions to Cameron Maybin and Nick Hundley but feel more secure with Gyorko, who offers a lot of positives.

To begin with, right-hander power is not prevalent in the major leagues, and Gyorko’s 23 homers as a rookie are an impressive start to a career, especially in Petco Park, which is not a home run haven.

The 23 homers tied the most ever by a San Diego rookie, first baseman Nate Colbert also having hit 23 during his first season.

There were, of course, some danger signs, beginning with 123 strikeouts and an on-base percentage of just .301, but hitters tend to become more selective and learn the pitchers as time goes on, cutting down on strikeouts while increasing walks and batting average.

Gyorko hit .249 during his rookie season.

In many ways, there is reason to expect Gyorko to grow into a solid major league player with his potential unlimited.

Consider, for example, how his rookie year stacks up against a number of Hall of Fame second basemen.

Take a look at the comparison:

Player     Avg. 2B 3B HR RBI OBP SLG

Jedd Gyorko   .249 26 0 23 63 .301 .444

Pete Rose    .273 25 9 6 41 .334 .373

Joe Morgan   .271 22 12 14 40 .373 .418

Ryne Sandberg   .271 33 5 7 54 .312 .372

Roberto Alomar  .266 24 6 9 41 .328 .382

Red Schoendienst  .278 22 6 1 47 .305 .343

While Gyorko’s batting average and on-base percentage do not stack up with the others, they are not dramatically lower, and he hit more doubles and homers and had more RBI than any of the others and had a higher slugging percentage.

Remember, these are not just other second basemen ... They are second basemen who grew into Hall of Fame players.

This is not to say that fate awaits Gyorko, but it also can’t be used as an argument against that happening.

His previous deal called for $510,900 this year in the major leagues and $294,000 in the minors. The new contract eliminates the lower minor league pay and adds salaries $2 million in 2015, $4 million in 2016, $6 million in 2017, $9 million in 2018 and $13 million in 2019.

San Diego’s 2020 club option is at $13 million with a $1 million buyout. The buyout can escalate by up to $750,000 based on achievements.

The Padres are not among the free spending teams in the major leagues so it is important that they don’t make mistakes on deals like this.

“It’s a big commitment, but I think Jedd is worth it,” Byrnes said. “When you place it through the age 30, 31 view, it’s a risk we felt was worth taking.”

Gyorko would seem to be a perfect match for San Diego, being 25 years old and recently married.

And while San Diego is a long way from home, if you have to be a long way from home, there are few better places than this southern California paradise.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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