It has some risk, but a very high reward that outweighs that
Let's take a look at the Corbin Carroll deal for a moment. On the surface, it seems like a ton of money for someone who has barely skinned his teeth at the Major League level, but when you break down the deal year to year, it makes a ton of sense. NBC Sports reported the terms of the contract here.
"Carroll gets a $5 million signing bonus and salaries of $1 million this year, $3 million in 2024 and $5 million in 2025. He receives $10 million in 2026, $12 million in 2027, $14 million in 2028 – the three seasons he likely would have been eligible for arbitration. Carroll’s deal calls for $28 million a year in both 2029 and 2030, years after he was in line to become a free agent. The Braves’ 2031 option is for $28 million with a $5 million buyout. If he wins an MVP award in any year from 2028-30, his salaries for every following season would escalate by $5 million. If he finishes second through fifth in MVP voting those years, his salaries in remaining seasons would go up by $2.5 million. The maximum increase in any year is $7.5 million...Carroll could earn $134M over 9 years."- NBC Sports
Basically, Carroll is getting a pay bump in his pre-arbitration and arbitration years, but not by a ton. If Carroll is the player they think he'll be, $10 million, $12 million, and $14 million are pretty realistic arbitration numbers, and actually, they are likely less than what he would have made if he's the top-end player they hope. So even if he doesn't live up to all expectations, it's still a good deal during those years.
They did get to buy out two years of free agency in this thought at $28 million per season, with a club option for another year at that price. Carroll will be in his age 28-30 seasons during that stretch, meaning he'd likely be signing a mega-deal in the $35-$40 million per year range. With the way contracts are continuing to rise though, that may be more like $50 million per year by the time he hits free agency.
So yes, Arizona is taking on risk in this deal, but not so much that St. Louis and other clubs should be avoiding this. Where these early extensions tend to go wrong is when they are given to players who seem to have overperformed expectations and/or do not have a high ceiling. In the case of Carroll and Walker, both of these players have ceilings of top-10 players in all of baseball.
St. Louis should jump at the chance to lock up Walker long-term for this very reason. They may have one of the best, most exciting young players on their hands, and the longer they wait to commit to him long-term, the larger of a contract it will take. You could argue that they take on more risk here, but oftentimes, these players end up looking back at these early extensions and seeing that they could have made way more money had they waited.
Walker is already drawing comparisons to players like Fernando Tatis Jr., not because of their personalities, but because of the potential Walker has to take the league by storm. While I'll talk more about Walker's character and personality in a bit, another reason why I think this extension makes a ton of sense is the future clarity it gives to St. Louis.