Could a CJ Abrams extension be in the works?

A big piece of news dropped today when it was made public that the Washington Nationals and shortstop CJ Abrams had "substantive discussions" about a potential contract extension. In this article, I identify a possible timeline to get a deal done and what the terms could look like.
CJ Abrams in DC for the foreseeable future? Yes, please.
CJ Abrams in DC for the foreseeable future? Yes, please. / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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Some big news broke on Saturday out of DC, with Mark Polishuk posting to MLBTraderumors.com that the Washington Nationals and CJ Abrams "held substantive discussion" about a potential contract extension with the franchise during Spring Training, per Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. This is obviously a significant development for the Nats as Abrams has really taken a step forward in his development this year, and with the national media beginning to take notice of his breakout, the Nats front office is officially on the clock to get a deal done.

Abrams hit .245/.300/.412 for a .712 OPS last season to go along with 18 HRs and 47 stolen bases, good for a 3.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement). He has gotten off to a hot start this year, coming into Saturday's game against the Boston Red Sox slashing .264/.329/.521 with an .850 OPS and 7 homers in just 34 games, quickly accounting for 1.2 WAR. It appears as if Abrams is living up to the 5-tool potential that Mike Rizzo saw in him when he acquired him in the Juan Soto deal in 2021, and the Nats would be smart to get something done quickly.

This is significant for a number of reasons. The first is that in the history of the Washington Nationals, us fans have been dealt some pretty traumatizing experiences when it comes to watching star players leave. Whether it was Bryce Harper leaving for the Phillies in 2018, Anthony Rendon leaving for the Angels in 2019, Max Scherzer and Trea Turner being traded to the Dodgers in 2021, and of course Juan Soto being traded to the Padres in 2022, this team has been bit hard by not being able to get contracts to star players early on. While each case is different, most notably Soto rejecting a 15-year, $440M deal before being traded, I know I would love to see another lifetime Washington National in CJ Abrams.

Now of course, the organization does deserve some major credit, as when fielding a competitive team, the Lerner family has shown a willingness to spend big bucks. Some notable cases include Jayson Werth (7 years, $126M), Max Scherzer (7 years, $210M), Patrick Corbin (6 years, $140M), and of course some extensions given to some of their homegrown stars with Ryan Zimmerman (6 years, $100M), and Stephen Strasburg (7 years, $245M). These deals total a whopping $821,000,000, and were dished out from 2010 through 2018. Of course, deferred money factors into it too, and we know the Lerners love to delay paying full amounts in order to soften the contract hit up front. With the Nats promising to spend more money in the coming years once the Patrick Corbin contract is off the books next year, and some sort of resolution with the Stephen Strasburg now in the rear view mirror, the Nats would come out looking like major winners if they were able to get a deal done before Abrams reaches free agency in 2028.

With the Nationals playing .500 ball so far this season and likely looking to compete for a playoff spot as soon as next season, an extension for Abrams makes sense for both parties. The Nats have an abundance of prospects that figure to be apart of the lineup within the next two seasons including James Wood, Dylan Crews, Brady House, and Robert Hassell III. In order to help make their transition easier and have someone to look to for example, extending Abrams would be a good precedent to set for the other prospects in the organization that hard work and good play will be rewarded, turning Abrams into a true franchise cornerstone and leader.

In terms of what a potential deal would look like, there are a couple things to consider. The first, and I'm sure Nats fans will love to hear this, Abrams is represented by Roc Nation Sports, which means he is NOT a client of Scott Boras. This will be a relief for many of you reading this, as we all know how things went south in the Juan Soto negotiations, as there were miscommunication between the Soto/Boras camp and the team that ultimately led to the deal that brought Abrams the Nationals organization. The other factor to consider is what is becoming a new trend of sorts across the league for teams to extend their young shortstops early, in order to buy out their arbitration years, and even a couple years of free agency.

""Back in February, MLBTR’s Nick Deeds profiled Abrams as a possible extension candidate, and floated the idea of an eight-year deal worth $60MM-$65MM, with one or two club option years attached.

If Abrams keeps up anything close to this level of production over the full 2024 season, his camp will surely have a higher figure in mind than $65MM""

Mark Polishuk

While I'm sure the front office and Lerner family would love to get a deal done worth only $65M over 8 years, the reality is that at this point with the trajectory that Abrams is on, he will be able to command much more once he reaches free agency. Two fairly recent deals that I would look at as reference for an Abrams extension would be the ones signed by Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals, and the embattled Wander Franco with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Both of these teams are much smaller markets than the Nationals, and have front offices who were notoriously cautious about giving out big money to players, whether in free agency or by extension. Franco signed an 11-year, $182M extension with the Rays after just 70 games in the majors back in 2021. This past offseason, Witt Jr. signed an extension with the Royals for $288M over 11 years, with a club option to add an additional 3 years for $89M after the conclusion of the 2034 season.

Lastly, with both of these deals already done and the shortstop up the Beltway in Baltimore in Gunnar Henderson likely to earn himself an extension soon as well, the Nats need to lock up CJ Abrams to a deal as soon as possible, before he continues to drive his value even higher. In terms of when we could see a deal be completed, it appears unlikely that something would get done during the regular season, but not out of the question. I would look for the Nats to reignite conversations with Abrams' camp after the 2024 season ends, with the framework of a deal being around 8-12 years for between $150M-$200M, depending on the duration of the deal.

What do you think? Will the Nationals be able to lock up CJ Abrams to a long-term deal? Or will he become another Nats superstar that leaves in free agency in 2028? What would you give to CJ Abrams in a contract extension? As always, let me know what you think on X @DCBerk. I'm very much looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks on this topic.

All stats in this article were provided by Baseball Reference. All contract details in this article were provided by Spotrac.