The Hundred Million Dollar Man
We can rebuild him…we have the economy.
This week Red Sox star left fielder and owner of a $142,000,000 dollar contract will have Tommy John surgery, ending his season. So I ask, how often do 100 million dollar contracts actually work out?
I went on Wikipedia and found the list of $100 million athletes, these are the baseball players.
I got player 2012 WAR from baseball-reference. Now in the player’s defense, their WAR will change this season, in most cases, as an elite player it goes up per at-bat.
Current contracts Total Value Years 2012 war
Alex Rodriguez $275,000,000 2008-2017 1.6 (lowest since he was 20)
Albert Pujols $240,000,000 2012-2021 3.8 (lowest of entire career)
Joey Votto $225,000,000 2014-2023 4.5 (Lowest since 1st full season in 2008)
Prince Fielder $214,000,000 2012-2020 2.7 (won’t be his best year but will be good
Joe Mauer $184,000,000 2011-2018 2.6 (Will be below his average)
Mark Teixeira $180,000,000 2009-2016 3.6 (Could end up being one of his better seasons)
CC Sabathia $161,000,000 2009-2015 2.0 (Will be his worst year as a yankee)
Troy Tulowitzki $157,750,000 2011-2020 .4 (This will be his second season below a WAR of 1, he was injured both times)
Adrian Gonzalez $154,000,000 2012-2018 2.7 (Will be about half of his best two years)
Miguel Cabrera $152,300,000 2008-2015 5.7 (Outstanding year)
Carl Crawford $142,000,000 2011-2017 .4 (better than his 0 last year…)
Johan Santana $137,500,000 2008–2013 .1 (Worst of his career. Besides not playing last year)
Alfonso Soriano $136,000,000 2007–2014 1.2 (Sadly will most likely be his best in the last 4 years)
Vernon Wells $126,000,000 2008–2014 -.4 (Last year was his worst with -.8)
Barry Zito $126,000,000 2007–2013 -.2 (has been negative 3 of the last 5 years)
Jayson Werth $126,000,000 2011–2017 1 (last year was 1 too)
Ryan Howard $125,000,000 2013–2017 0 (only over 1.5 once in the last 5 years)
Cliff Lee $120,000,000 2011–2016 2.3 (8.3 last season, 1.5 the year before)
Matt Holliday $120,000,000 2010–2016 4.1 (Will be one of his better seasons)
Jose Reyes $106,000,000 2012–2017 2.0 (One of his worst season, but not bad)
Carlos Lee $100,000,000 2007-2012 .5 (Worse than his career average)
These are the no longer active players that were on the list; Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Todd Helton, Jason Giambi, Carlos Beltran, Ken Griffey Jr, Kevin Brown, Albert Pujols.
How many of these players have lived up to the contract? Judging by the list above only Cliff Lee, Holliday, Sabathia, and Cabrera have been worth it. Votto has played well but has been hurt by injuries and Tulo would be a top player if he could stay on the field. Out of the 21 players I listed above, I only listed 4 as a success. I consider Teixeira borderline and Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Reyes are still early into their contract to consider it a failure. On the other side of the spectrum it’s too early to deem Prince’s contract a success based on his first year being very good. Besides their performance, each player is only 1 injury away from the team throwing all that money out the window.
That leads me to my point. Red Sox, please don’t sign any more 100 million dollar players. Once in a while you’ll hit on a Matt Holliday but more likely you’ll get saddled with a Barry Zito (I had mercy by not saying Carl Crawford here).
In my no-GM-experience opinion, bad contracts are almost impossible to over come. The Yankees have overcome some bad contracts, but it’s only over come by throwing more money at them. Look at the Lackey deal ($82.5M) and Crawford. That’s over $225M that if were put through waivers, no team would claim. People wouldn’t take those contracts if all it would cost them were the money. Careless spending hurts you in future spending.
It’s not that I don’t want the Red Sox to spend money; I do. I want Fenway park to look like a Rick Ross music video (or how about a Ciroc commercial? Better?), I would just prefer the money spent on 2 or 3 very good players instead of 1 excellent player. There weren’t necessarily great other options in that particular free agent class but just because you’re spending money doesn’t mean it’s a good investment.
What I’m saying is that this offseason instead of throwing over $100M at Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke, how about breaking up that money in a combination of Edwin Jackson, Mike Napoli, and re-signing Cody Ross to all much cheaper and shorter contracts. It fills three holes in your lineup and if one doesn’t work out, you’re only tied to the money for a couple more years. Whereas, if some team gets desperate enough for Josh Hamilton they could offer him a contract for well over $150M. Hamilton could have one or two great years and become an albatross for the final 5 years of his contract. Even worse, from what we’ve seen from Hamilton in his career, he could get injured in the first year and miss significant time.
At the time of the Crawford signing, I was excited. I liked watching him in Tampa and I didn’t think the money would be an issue. I knew it was an overpay, but I didn’t think that ownership would cap themselves on spending. That’s changed. The Red Sox need to adjust their thinking. In fantasy sports there is a strategy called “Stars and Scrubs”, owners pay a lot for a few stars and hope they can find enough dirt cheap players that will overachieve. This strategy doesn’t work unless other owners are asleep at the wheel. With processional sports, you’re not going to sneak anyone worth value past other GMs. In addition, it’s not like there is more than one 2010 Jose Bautista per year.
The best way to build a team is with solid players front to back. Look at the Rangers for example. The highest paid player on the team is Michael Young, who makes a little over $16M and he won’t be back on the team next season. The only other players on the team that make over $10M are Hamilton and Adrian Beltre (they did just trade for Ryan Dempster who makes $14M this season). This lineup leads baseball in runs scored and are 5th in the AL in ERA.
The Rangers have only had one player in their history with a $100M contract, ARod, and they weren’t a good team with him on the roster. So maybe they’re on to something. It will be interesting to see how the team handles Josh Hamilton in this offseason. I doubt that they will overpay to keep Hamilton. I think they will deal Elvis Andrus to bring in an outfielder to replace the start that they are going to lose. As I suggested in my last article, the Red Sox should offer Jacoby Ellsbury to the Rangers for Andrus, thus preventing the Red Sox from giving their speedy outfielder another $100M contract.
I recognize that salaries are going up and they’ll eventually have to give another huge contract, just hold out as long as you can. Part of me thinks that the ownership of the Red Sox agrees with me but it’s more likely that the team will throw money around again to try to buy good press, to excite fans. Fans like stars, I agree, but fans LOVE winning.