WASHINGTON -- Agent Stanley King feels fortunate that he was able to negotiate a two-year, $16 million contract extension for his client, Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman, last July.
Guzman was slated to become a free agent after the 2008 season, but King had a feeling last summer that the free-agent market was going to be soft and that players would have a tough time getting jobs. Currently, there are more than 80 players still looking to sign with a team.
"I don't want to sound like a fortuneteller, but you are always concerned about how many free agents are in the market at your position," said King, who also represents Marlins infielder Emilio Bonifacio. "Realistically, there were a handful of teams -- just given the budgets -- that could afford a player of Cristian's caliber. There were also a slew of low 'A' to 'B' players that were going to hit the market and soften the free-agent market even more."
King was not thinking this way last May. He decided he was going to wait until after the season to negotiate a new contract for Guzman, but the agent said that he didn't want the shortstop to have any distractions during the season.
The next month, however, there was a change of heart. Washington approached King about a contract extension for Guzman on June 25 at Nationals Park. It helped that Guzman was hitting .312 at the time. Guzman then told King that he wanted to stay in Washington.
It was then when King felt Guzman may incur problems on the free-agent market. It was more than just the baseball economy that had King concerned. After signing a four-year, $16.8 million contract with the Nationals in the fall of 2004, Guzman's body of work with the team wasn't working in his favor.
In 2005, Guzman hit .219 in 142 games, but the situation didn't get any better. He missed all of '06 and played in only 46 games in '07 because of right shoulder and left thumb injuries. But the shortstop finally lived up to the contract last season by hitting a career-high .316 with nine home runs and 55 RBIs. He led Washington in hits (183) and runs (77).
"You have to understand what the other side is thinking," King said. "You almost have to be in their shoes. If the Nationals were going to advance the argument that Cristian did not live up to his contract, then it stood to reason that any other team in the free-agent market would have that same argument. We didn't have a body of work to stand on to make me feel that this market [would give him the money he was looking for]. I know the player that he is capable of, but I didn't have the statistics, given the injuries, to support my position."
On July 22, Guzman agreed to terms on a two-year, $16 million contract extension. He'll make $8 million in 2009 and '10.
General manager Jim Bowden said at the time that the new deal was Guzman's way of giving back to the team. Guzman and King took into account that the organization took a tremendous hit from the baseball community and local media for giving him the four-year deal.
"All things being equal, if we were going to take a deal from someone, you might as well get the deal where you want to be and stay home," King said. "It would be foolish for us to take the same deal with a team he didn't want to play for. Cristian wanted to be in Washington. He did the right thing for him and his family."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.