|Dollars and Sense - '08 Contracts thus far||| Print |||Send|
Written by Tom Lindsey (Contact & Archive) on May 26, 2008
With this in mind, letâ€™s take a (very) early look at how players who signed some of the biggest contracts in the 2007-2008 off-season are doing.
Alex Rodriguez, 10 years, $275,000,000 (!)
Some blowhards might look two months into a ten year contract and hold a player accountable for his performance, despite the miniscule sample size on which their opinion is based.Â This is a popular tactic used on sports-talk radio to initiate discussions (rants), and unfortunately some people actually buy into it.Â Right now, A-Rod is bordering on the â€śacceptableâ€ť line with a 141 OPS+ over 106 at-bats.Â Itâ€™s not what fans would like to see in an ideal world (heâ€™s both been injured and his performance is down from last year) but itâ€™s not a colossal waste of money, either.Â However, the questions concerning Rodriguezâ€™ contract were never with his performance for the first four or five years: they were with the last five.Â Baseball seasons are often described as â€śmarathons,â€ť because of the extreme amount of attrition that often needs to take place to separate the good teams from the bad; Rodriguezâ€™ contract is the â€śpen and paperâ€ť equivalent to this, and itâ€™s going to take a long time to truly evaluate whether or not heâ€™s earning his keep.Â Â Â Â
Torii Hunter, 5 years, $90 million
So far, so good.Â Hunter has replicated his OPS+ from last season (122) exactly.Â Torii is usually okay if he manages to keep his batting average in the .270â€™s or above.Â His isolated power and walks have remained fairly consistent throughout his career, and he only runs into offensive troubles when his BA slips into the .260â€™s or .250â€™s.Â What this might suggest is that Hunter has a few â€śbad-luckâ€ť years here and there in the average department.Â If this is true, it seems likely that heâ€™ll have at least one with the Angels.Â If he also loses a step or two (which certainly seems possible given his age), he may even struggle to hit .270 in his last couple of years, before any sort of â€śluckâ€ť is factored in.Â Though Torii will likely take some heat when that probable down year arises, he should be good offensively for as long as he maintains his athleticism.
Defensively, the same could be true, but with even less room for decline.Â As a centerfielder, Hunterâ€™s speed is precious to him; if he fails to maintain it, he may become Ryan Langerhans circa 2005.
Andruw Jones, 2 years, $36,200,000
What an absolute train-wreck (as if you needed someone else to tell you).Â The Dodgers took a calculated risk when signing Jones.Â They wagered that the dip in numbers in 2007 was an aberration, and that Andruwâ€™s numbers were likely to return to career norms.Â After his performance this year, though, the â€™07 numbers look like a warning sign for whatâ€™s becoming a very ugly trend.Â Heâ€™s gone from a .260 hitter, to one that hits .222, and is now hitting .165.Â His physique has ballooned from athletic to, well, I think the word â€śballoonedâ€ť says it all. (Itâ€™s frankly amazing that he might still be able to play center field at a passable level.)Â Whatâ€™s worse, though, Jones has stated publicly that although heâ€™s unhappy with his performance, he does not seem to be willing to take control of his weight, nor does he really seem like a proactive person when things are going wrong.Â
Perhaps mercifully, Jones has decided to undergo knee-surgery on Tuesday to fix torn meniscus.Â While I doubt his performance can be positively linked to his knee troubles, Dodgers fans have to hope that they somehow are.
Carlos Silva, 4 years, $48 million
Carlos Silva scared me before he threw his first pitch of the season.Â He strikes out so few batters that if he (oops!) leaves the ball out over the plate a few times too many, he can end up giving up 38 home runs and finishing the season with an ERA near six, like he did in 2006; the way he pitches allows for very little room for error.
Thus far, Silva hasnâ€™t exactly been perfect in his execution, but who can really blame him?Â For him to be worth the contract he received, for the next four years, he almost has to be the pitcher in 2005 that allowed 9 walks in over 188 innings.Â It was an unreasonable expectation for Silva, which perhaps just shows the Marinerâ€™s faulty thinking when handing out this contract.Â What makes the contract even worse is that the Mâ€™s really needed the help on offense more desperately, and that theyâ€™ve already made similar mistakes recently with Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista.Â The Mariners signing an overrated, mediocre pitcher in the off-season is becoming as reliable as grandpaâ€™s delusional diatribes about the war.
Jose Guillen, 3 years, $36 million
If you look at this contract from a marginal cost standpoint, Jose Guillenâ€™s contract is only as good as the Royals are.Â The offense is very bad, especially in terms of power, and desperately need a bat like Guillenâ€™s to help with that problem.Â But if theyâ€™re not going to be good enough to reasonably compete in the next three years, Guillenâ€™s impact on the team is minimal.Â In this situation, they could easily play a lesser player like Shane Costa for the league minimum and not finish any worse.Â Last place is last, no matter how you slice it; losing a game 5-4 is the same as losing 9-0.Â If a few good things go right, however, the Royals could be competitive by the last year of Joseâ€™s contract, and a contract that currently looks unnecessarily expensive may look like a bargain.
These contracts were not technically the five largest, but I think they were the most interesting of the off season.Â The teams involved were all taking fairly large organizational risks, which coincides with my initial point of the importance of FA selectivity. Most of these contracts look fairly bad from simply a numbers standpoint, but they are hopefully improved by the fact that their teams were overpaying to compensate for a dire need.Â The times when this is not the case are the times when the contracts look the worst.