Rangers sign one of the best kept secrets in baseball to a long-term contract extension
Wednesday morning the Rangers announced they have signed Leclerc, one of the most under-the-radar great players in baseball, to a four-year contract extension with two club options. The deal guarantees him $14.75 million. Here is the salary breakdown:
“His character is just off the chart,” Rangers rookie manager Chris Woodward said to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday. “He wants to pitch late in games here, too. He wants to win. He’s special. He sits in the front row in meetings. He takes guys with him to work. He works harder. He’s never satisfied.”
Leclerc, 25, broke into the big leagues in 2016 and emerged as the team’s closer in 2018, throwing 57 2/3 innings with a 1.56 ERA and 85 strikeouts. Opponents hit a measly .126/.237/.194 against him and he went 12 for 12 in save chances after taking over as closer in August. Leclerc’s underlying numbers are off-the-charts great:
- Fastball velocity: 95.3 mph (83rd percentile in MLB)
- Fastball spin rate: 2,596 rpm (99th percentile)
- Slider spin rate: 2,626 rpm (75th percentile)
- Strikeout rate: 38.1 percent (98th percentile)
- Hard hit rate: 20.0 percent (100th percentile)
The four-year contract covers Leclerc’s final pre-arbitration year plus all three arbitration years. The two club options then cover two free agent years. Even if there’s a slight dip in performance going forward, controlling Leclerc’s first two free agent years at $6 million and $6.25 million is a steal. Quality relievers are still getting $9 million annually in this frigid free agent climate.
Because the Rangers are in a rebuild, Leclerc was mentioned as a possible trade candidate all offseason, though Texas never did seem interested in moving him. They could still trade him at some point — the team-friendly extension only makes Leclerc even more valuable as a trade chip — but it seems more likely they will keep him and build around him.