Lorenzo Cain (2016 age: 30)
2015 Salary: $2.725 MM, 2016: Arbitration eligible
Cain made a handsome leap in salary from $546,000 in 2014 to last year’s total. He will get another nice boost after having the best season of his career. Cain did not really stick in the Majors until age 27, but is quickly turning into a real superstar. He’s put up two straight years of .300-plus batting, and more than tripled his home run total year-over-year. Cain has also stolen 28 bases each of the past two years. The centerfielder is great on defense, draws enough walks, does not strike out, and has been outstanding in the postseason the past two years. Hosmer and Moustakas have produced a lot of runs during the last two Octobers, but Cain has been the driving force for Kansas City.
Cain may be wise to consider an extension. Due to his late start in the league, Cain will not be entering free agency until the winter prior to his age 32 season. At that age, the best he is likely to hope for is a four-year deal with a possible option. Cain will need to see how teammate Alex Gordon’s free agency plays out should he sign elsewhere. Gordon will be 32 at the start of next season. At max, the former first-round pick will get a five-year deal.
For Cain’s sake, he should capitalize on the Royals’ need to begin locking up some of their star players. It may not be worth the risk waiting another two years to test a market that may be wary of signing a 32-year-old outfielder whose game is predicated on speed. It’s absolutely worth noting that Cain has yet to play over 140 games in a season with the Royals. Minor injuries have already cropped up. Suffering a more serious injury that could leave doubt about Cain’s speed will only serve as a big red flag should he reach free agency.