This year has been one of the craziest years in baseball free agency history. I’ve never seen money thrown around in the way it has this off-season. Ten years ago we saw the first 200 million dollar contract was signed and delivered when Alex Rodriguez signed a ten year contract worth 275 million dollars. The contract was suppose to run until the end of 2017, but A-Rod retired in August 2016. He also missed the entire 2014 season due to violating the Performance Enhancing Drugs policy. In 2015, the Miami Marlins signed Giancarlo Stanton to a thirteen year contract worth 325 Million Dollars. Unfortunately for Miami fans, the organization was sold and new leadership felt it was not feasible to pay someone that kind of money. He was traded to the New York Yankees, who basically had to give up very little to get him. This off season alone there have been four big contracts handed out, which make me question the effect’s it will have on baseball. Here are the big four contracts handed out this off-season:
-Colorado Rockies gave Nolan Arenado eight years worth 260 million dollars
-San Diego Padres gave Manny Machado ten years worth 300 million dollars
-Philadelphia Phillies gave Bryce Harper twelve years worth 330 million dollars
-Los Angeles Angels gave Mike Trout twelve years worth 426 million dollars
I think this is a bad move and a bad look for baseball, because when you have to pay athletes this much money you also have to increase prices. For example, before the Philadelphia Phillies signed Bryce Harper the cheapest Opening Day ticket was $48. After they signed Harper, the cheapest ticket was $96. An average family of three or four would have to spend close to $300-$400 to be able to go to a game if prices remain consistent. That is not including concessions, and merchandise that will also be going up. With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2021, I’d like to Major League Baseball put a limit on length of contracts. I think the maximum contract should be five years, because the risk is lower and safer compared to ten years. A lot can in happen in a decade so you have to ask, what happens if Arenado, Machado, Harper or Trout suffer a career ending injury or they demand a trade from their current team? That is money wasted without the results being produced. The mentality of sports owners should be to spend to win. All four of these players are great, but what if their presence doesn’t result in bringing home a World Series?
Baseball is very different when your legacy is remembered. Ken Griffey Jr. is considered to be one of the all time greats in baseball and he never won a World Series. He was elected to the Hall of Fame almost unanimously, so when it comes to the Baseball Writers of America titles don’t really matter as long as you had phenomenal numbers on the field. From a fans perspective, I feel like it might be different. If Arenado and Trout stay with their respective teams for the duration of their contracts they will be looked at as heroes and franchise legends. It will be looked at as money well spent, especially if they win a World Series or two. Manny Machado’s career average is .282 and has only had a .300 plus average one time in his career. His career high in home runs is 37 and his high in RBIs is 107, which will always make question how is he worth 30 million dollars a year? If San Diego does not win a World Series in the next ten year this will be looked at as an ultimate failure. Machado showed his true colors in last years World Series where he was heavily criticized for not putting in his best effort. Machado’s numbers are good, but they are not even close to being great. In terms of investment, I would say that the Phillies made the best overall investment with multiple acquisitions this off-season. Bryce Harper has a career average of .279 with highest average in a season being .330. His highest home run total for a single season is 42 and his highest RBI total for a single season is 100. Harper has also had multiple seasons where he’s been injured, so what makes him worth 25 million dollars a year? Harper is in the same situation as Machado, because if the Phillies don’t win a World Series in the next twelve years it will be an ultimate failure as well. These four may be swimming in the money for the rest of their lives, but how will they will be remembered by the fans? How will each teams fan base respond if they fail? There a lot of questions that are going to take a long time to answer.
I want to leave you with this final thought and I hope it sinks in. A .300 average is considered to be a good average by baseball standards. If you put that in work rate terms that means you have a thirty percent successful work rate. If the average American only put in thirty percent of their effort or only reached thirty percent of their goals they would be fired. They wouldn’t be rewarded with contracts worth a hundred million dollars. I’ve always felt that athletes contracts should have a base salary with performance goals. For example, a single, double, triple, and home run should all have a certain value on them and every time you get one of those it gets added to your paycheck. I think that would make players work harder and strive to be the absolute best they can be. When I remember a player I just don’t look at what they accomplished. I look at how they accomplished it. Did they work hard? Did they strive to be the best? Did they put in a full effort on a consistent basis? How will you remember the 300 million dollar baseball player? Will you remember them for the money they made? The championships they won? Or the statistical accomplishments they had on the field? Big contracts are great, but they do not define a career or legacy.
Source for Stats: https://www.baseball-reference.com/