The Giant Baseball Contract.

Is There Room for 160 Million in There?

Here’s a list of the most expensive baseball contracts in baseball history by total value.  Four of the top eleven have been signed since the end of last season.  Adrian Gonzalez’s 154 million dollar deal checks in at number nine.  It was inevitable that Gonzalez was going to sign the huge extension in Boston, but I thought maybe they’d wait until the team started to win a few games.  Do the fans like seeing a guy having a middling start on a 2-10 team get handed 154 million?Interesting message.  The way baseball works these days is that is almost no way around the mega-deal.  You have to overpay, you have to give too many years, and at the end of the day you often get stuck will years of terrible, budget sapping performance.  A look at some of the deals:

Top-5 Overall:

  1. A-Rod–275 Million
  2. Jeter–189 Million
  3. Mauer–184 Million
  4. Teixeira–180 Million
  5. Sabathia–161 Million

Technically A-Rod has numbers 1 and 2 because of his Texas deal which slid into this new deal with New York, but for our purposes we’ll just list the current and largest of the two contracts.  You see that 4 of the 5 deals were given by the Yankees.  How about looking at the top-5 contracts given out by mid to small market teams.

Top 5 Mid to Small Market

  1. Mauer, 184 Million–Minnesota Twins
  2. Troy Tulowitzki, 157+ Million–Colorado Rockies
  3. Todd Helton, 141.5 Million–Colorado Rockies
  4. Vernon Wells, 126 Million–Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Barry Zito, 126 Million–San Francisco Giants

A couple of recently signed deals here, and the Twins ownership has plenty of money, but they don’t have the revenue of the bigger teams.  But, you see here at least two of these contracts would be considered absolute disasters and a third, Todd Helton’s, was at the very least crippling in some ways.  Most of the biggest deals are still in progress.  What about the ones that are complete, or nearly complete…

Top 10 Deals Already Completed or In Their Last Year

  1. A-Rod (Rangers Portion)–252 Million
  2. Jeter–189 Million
  3. Manny Ramirez–160 Million
  4. Todd Helton–141.5 Million
  5. Mike Hamption–121 Million
  6. Jason Giambi–120 Million
  7. Carlos Beltran–119 Million
  8. Ken Griffey Jr–116.5 Million
  9. Kevin Brown–105 Million
  10. Albert Pujols–100 Million

How would you grade these out?  This list is like a little microcosm of the steroid era in some ways.  You could argue that Brown, Ramirez, A-Rod, Giambi (possibly others) all cashed in on some inflated numbers.  During the course of these deals steroid enforcement got much more strict, and a lot of these guys broke down before the deals could be earned.  Half of these guys dealt with major injury problems.  The Hampton/A-Rod/Helton deals were all crippling to their teams.  Kevin Brown was a total bust.  Pujols was clearly the best value here, and you would probably say that Jeter/A-Rod and Manny earned at least most of their money.  The rest?  Pretty much a joke.  There’s not going to be any end in sight for these huge deals, though.  Who is next in line…

Upcoming or Potential 9-Figure Deals:

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Prince Fielder
  3. Robinson Cano
  4. C.C. Sabathia
  5. Tim Lincecum
  6. Jered Weaver
  7. Cole Hamels
  8. Zack Greinke
  9. Joey Votto

That’s just a list off the top of my head.  How many of those guys would you be in a hurry to lock up for 6-8 years and 100+ million?  Do you want to think about what a 35-year old Prince Fielder is going to look like physically?  Even with Albert Pujols, the prospect of paying him until he’s 40 years old seems pretty daunting.  Albert’s not off to his usual torrid start.  Pitchers are a risky proposition at best.  Sabathia has earned his money in his first years in NY, but if he opts out, are you ready to re-load and start from scratch with another 7-years?  I don’t have great optimism for the ends of the Ryan Howard or Cliff Lee deals here in Philly.  Who is the safest bet on the list above, Votto?  Cano?

It seems like, just casually looking at these deals that history would tell you the teams that do best with these deals are the ones that can afford them.  Or should I say, survive them?  The Yankees aren’t more successful with their big-money deals, they are just capable of signing another if the first doesn’t work out.  The Rockies dumped all that money into Helton and Hampton and they had to start over when those deals didn’t work on a shoestring budget.  Now, they’ve loaded up Tulowitzki.  Is Carlos Gonzalez next?  Are they setting themselves up for a similar failure?  What about Minnesota?  Is that Mauer deal going to hurt them in the long run?

It’s an impossible position to be in, especially with the fans, because it isn’t their money and they want to keep their players, but how much love is Mauer going to get in Minnesota if he’s a banged up DH with 15 HR power in 5 years and the front office can’t afford to correct the mistake.  If the Cardinals cough up 250 million or something outrageous for Pujols, I’ll tell you right now it will be bad for their results on the field, especially in the long run.  In baseball there are the teams that give the huge deals, and the teams that don’t.  Neither way is 100% successful or dooms you to failure. When teams get in trouble is when they try to roam around in the middle.  Well, we’ll sign one or two giant deals.  Nope. Doesn’t work, because most of the time these huge contracts are paying as much for past performance as they are for future production.


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8 thoughts on “The Giant Baseball Contract.

  1. Biased, but i think cano is the safest bet in there. Always been an extremely talented hitter, seems to have found his stride and he’s relatively young. Him, or if you value pitching, Lincecum. I can’t remember any injury issues with him or signs of concern, and he could be a pedro like guy who just stays healthy.

    Sabathia you have to resign, unfortunately, but you have to hope he doesn’t shove a 7 year deal down your throat. If you’re the Giants, i assume you try to avoid letting lincecum get to free agency, i’m not guying Greinke being successful in NY with his mental issues, so really it’s down to Weaver or CC as far as high end free agent pitchers next year.

  2. Also, 3 of the top 5 outfielders under contract by annual salary are either not in baseball or have been colossal busts.

  3. Sabathia is in great bargaining position. he can basically quote his price…the fat bastard.

    yeah, and there is potential for more busts. I mean, Jayson Werth?

    Where is Carl Crawford going to hit next, 9th?

  4. I’m one of the few knuckleheads who think athletes should get a ton of money.
    But to look at the other side! Think about this. The school district I am in has 693 teachers whose combined salaries is…47 million. That kinda makes you think.

  5. 47 million?

    that seems a little high.

    kidding.

    um, i think players more often than not earn their money, this is more like the top maybe 5% of contracts.

    as long as the owners are making a killing the players deserve their fair share.

    • I was just giving you a hard time here, by the way, Will. Looking at it now that doesn’t come through, so, sorry for the bad joke. I worked in a public school for two years and wasn’t really cut out for it, see, e.g., the Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale anecdote. Teaching is hard and good work.

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