The Dodgers and infielder Max Muncie have agreed to a contract extension, according to a team announcement. Under the previous extension he signed with the Dodgers, they had a $13MM club option for his services through 2023. Of that $13.5MM will now be guaranteed, the Dodgers will now have a $10MM club option for 2024, plus incentives. Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times reports that there is no purchase on the 2024 option.
The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya ( Twitter link ) provides a breakdown of the escalator on Muncie’s option, based on his plate appearance tally in 2023. Option prices for the 50, 250, 300 and 350 plate appearances will increase by $250K each. Next season, then an additional $500K for 400 and 450 plate appearances and an additional $1MM per 500 and 550 PA.
The extension is an early birthday present for Muncie, as he turns 32 on Thursday. The lefty slugger was a late bloomer by major league baseball standards, having his breakout season in 2018 at age 27. That year, he hit 35 home runs and slashed .263/.391/.582 for a wRC+ of 162, indicating his offense was 62% better than league average. In 2019, he again proved it was no fluke by hitting 35 homers and slashing .251/.374/.515 for a wRC+ of 133. He also provided defensive versatility during that time, rotating between first, second and third base.
After those two strong seasons, Muncie finally reached arbitration for the first time in his career at the age of 29. He and the club did not reach an agreement, with the club applying for $4MM while Muncie’s camp offered $4.675MM. Before the figure hearing, the two sides agreed to a long-term deal, until 2022 with an option for 2023. Since Muncie was on pace to reach free agency after 2022, that extension effectively gave up a year of free agency in allowing him. To guarantee $26MM in future revenue and potentially more.
Muncie slumped a bit during the short 2020 campaign but was outstanding in the postseason, helping the Dodgers win their first World Series title since 1988. Last year, he returned to the pace he established in 2018 and 2019, as he hit 36 home runs and produced a batting line of .249/.368/.527, a wRC+ of 140. Unfortunately, he injured his hand in a season-ending collision, an injury that kept him out of last year’s postseason.
That injury appears to linger into 2022, as Muncie spent time on the injured list with left elbow inflammation and struggled early in the season. However, a better version of Muncy has been roaring lately. By the end of July, he was hitting .161/.310/.303 for a wRC+ of 82. Since the calendar flipped to August, he’s hit seven home runs and slashed .328/.409/.776, increasing his hitting streak. wRC+ 105 for the season.
That August line is still a small sample of just 66 plate appearances, but the Dodgers clearly have enough faith in Muncie that they’re willing to rejoin him for another year. Should that show of faith fail, they will be rewarded with the ability to keep Muncie around for another season. It also helps reduce uncertainty in the club’s infield picture. The Dodgers have club options on both Muncie and Justin Turner, while Trey Turner is set to become a free agent in a few months. While it’s possible to imagine a scenario where all three arrive in new uniforms next year, the club now knows it can at least count on Muncie to find a spot on the diamond. There is also uncertainty in the outfield, with Joey Gallo headed to free agency and Cody Bellinger a potential non-tender candidate. With players like Muncie, Chris Taylor, Gavin Lucks and others bringing those multi-positional skills, they are in a better position to navigate their options in the offseason.
For Muncie’s part, he can finish the season and head into the playoffs with the peace of mind of a slight increase in his 2023 salary. Details of the incentives are not yet known, but it potentially gives him a chance to secure some more revenue.