With the news surrounding Giancarlo Stanton and his reported 13-year $325 million contract extension he is nearing with the Miami Marlins, it got me thinking about other ridiculously stupid ideas in baseball history.
Not that I think locking up the young slugger is a bad idea, I don’t. But signing him to a 13-year contract in baseball means that his money is guaranteed whether he plays 100 games a year or all 162 a year or misses five years due to injuries.
And considering that the last thing Stanton saw in the 2014 season was a Mike Fiers fastball heading straight for his face, the thought of losing time is of reasonable concern.
Long-term deals in sports are nothing new, especially in baseball. But unlike the NFL, one cannot simply cut a player and wash their hands clean of a bad contract in Major League Baseball.
So I thought I’d take a look at 10 of the longest MLB contracts in history (not active ones as they are not yet completed) and see if there is anything that can inevitably justify signing players to such deals.
Note: I will also not be considering Alex Rodriguez’s first 10-year deal as he opted out after year seven and signed a new deal that he is currently still tied to. I will however look at his current contract and try to evaluate it in another post.
The Ten Candidates
Todd Helton 11 years, $151.5M
Derek Jeter 10 years, $189M
Ken Griffey Jr. 9 years, $116.5M
Alfonso Soriano 8 years, $136M
Manny Ramirez 8 years, $160M
Mike Hampton 8 years, $121M
Vernon Wells 7 years, $126M
Barry Zito 7 years, $126M
Jason Giambi 7 years, $120M
Kevin Brown 7 years, $105M
Below, I have constructed a table that shows each player’s contract, average salary per game, percentage of games actually played and salary per games actually played. I also look at the average WAR of the player over the course of the contract as well as the average winning percentage of the team(s) played for and postseason appearances.
For pitchers, I assume a projected start total each season of 34 games. Some players are sat due to various reasons, but it’s still interesting to note how many players play out what percentage of their contract.
[table id=32 /]
Some interesting things to note:
– Helton signed an 11-year contract prior to the 2001 season. He was entering his age 27 season. In 2000, the season prior to his large contract, Helton led the National League with a .372 batting average, 216 hits, 59 doubles and 147 RBI. He also led the Senior Circuit in OBP (.463), SLG (.698) and total bases (405).
He was an All-Star for the first time in his career, won a Silver Slugger and finished 5th in the NL MVP voting.
Over the length of his contract, Helton never led the league in ANY category with one exception: he led the NL with a .445 OBP in 2005. And while no one realistically expected him to bat near .372 ever again, it’s worth noting that he only batted over .340 twice in that contract. Batting under .300 twice.
He landed on the DL for the first time in his career in 2005 and missed significant time beginning in 2008 after being diagnosed with a degenerative back condition.
– Mariners fans know all too well the sad tale of Griffey. Injuries forced him to miss over 30% of the games during his contract. He is only one of two on this list to not even make the playoffs once during their contract (Vernon Wells is the other).
– Vernon Wells was traded twice during his 7-year deal and was in fact designated for assignment prior to the final year of his contract. He was eventually released by the Yankees.
– After posting a record of 102-63 with an ERA of 3.55 in seven years with Oakland, Barry Zito spent the next seven years with San Francisco posting a record of 63-80 with an ERA of 4.62.
The Giants won two World Series titles in his time there, but Zito was left off the roster for the 2010 squad. He did pitch brilliantly in the playoffs for the Giants in 2012 however.
– Going into his age-34 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Kevin Brown to what was at that time, the largest contract in baseball history. A 7-year, $105 million deal for a 34-year-old pitcher.
At first, the return seemed to be worth it, as Brown went 31-15 in his first two seasons with ERAs of 3.00 and 2.58 respectively. But Brown would get hurt during that 2000 season and injuries would plague him for the rest of his career.
Brown would later be named in the Mitchell Report as a player who took human growth hormone following his first bout of injuries in 2000.
So what can we derive from this? You can argue that only three of these contracts were actually worth it and in reality, that still may be a stretch.
Manny Ramirez played in all but one game during his 8-year contract, literally earning every penny. He helped lead the Red Sox to two World titles, including the organization’s first in 86 years. He posted an average WAR of 4.2 (2nd among those on the list) and could be considered the shining example of why a long contract can benefit a club.
You can also argue that Derek Jeter was worth it. Due in part because he was on the Yankees during a time where they were committed to winning. Jeter posted an average WAR of 4.1 during his 10-year contract (2001-2010), making the playoffs nine times and winning the World Series once in three tries.
Jeter did however miss 111 games due to injury and “rest days”. But out of a possible 1620 games, his playing percentage is still 2nd among those on the list.
Then there is Helton. Some can argue he was worth it based on his list-leading 4.3 WAR average. He’s 4th on the list with an 86.9% games played rate. But the Rockies posted a losing win-percentage in his time there, only having three winning seasons with two trips to the playoffs and a World Series loss.
Of course, the biggest uh-oh on this list, in my opinion, is that of Mike Hampton. Hampton has the lowest average WAR of any player on our list, played the least number of possible games, paid the highest salary per actual game played and never played in a World Series.
In fact, Hampton missed two entire seasons – and parts of others – due to various injuries.
You can look at the numbers and decide for yourself if you think Giancarlo Stanton to the Marlins for 13 years is a good idea or not. I haven’t even mentioned a word about the history of the Marlins and how they dump salaries at will.
From Stanton’s – and other player’s – perspectives, I get it. I really do. Long-term financial security. You’d be a damn fool not to sign a deal like that. But since it rarely works out for the owners, and the team that a contract like that ties the hands of, I wonder why so many teams are still so willing to do it.
The Mariners did it for Robinson Cano, seemingly out of desperation. They wanted to make a big splash this past winter, in order to save Jack Zduriencik’s job. Now that the Mariners are close to the front door of the playoffs, Jack and his minions may try to throw a similar contract at a player out of desperation (Nelson Cruz for five years, Hanley Ramirez for six or seven years).
I would rather take my chances with signing someone like Billy Butler or trading for Scott Van Slyke than waste countless millions over several years for a player that “might” give you better results.
But maybe that’s just me.