Monday, August 4, 2008

Earning Their $100+ Million----Which Players Have, Haven't And Won't?

The whole Manny Ramirez saga has put the issue of salary and a player's overall worth into serious debate. Manny and his agent Scott Boras staged this power play to force the hand of
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the Red Sox into either extending his contract or trading him; it's clear that Manny wanted no part of the two option years held by the Red Sox when he and Boras think that another $100 million is in the offing as a free agent after the season.
I went into which teams would have the money and the incentive to give Mark Teixeira (also represented by Boras) the $200+ million he's going to want as he enters free agency----Braves Should've Taken The Diamondbacks Deal For Teixeira, 7/30/08----but Teixeira is 28-years-old, is a Gold Glove first baseman and doesn't have the reputation for tantrums affecting his play like a Manny Ramirez does. Teixeira's going to get his money; it may not be the $230 million being suggested, but he's likely to get a deal that, in total with incentives and options, surpasses $200 million from someone and he'll probably perform well enought to justify it; but what about the other $100 million players in baseball? How many have, haven't or won't justify the money? Let's take a look:

Money Well Spent:
  • Alex Rodriguez
You can say what you want about ARod as a person or as a post-season performer, but
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the guy puts the numbers up in the regular season year-after-year and he'll go down as one of the best, if not the best, baseball player in history. He's been greedy for money, but he's gotten it, so it can't be said that he overestimated his monetary value. Supposedly pulled an end-around on Boras to return to the Yankees after opting out of his contract, but conspiracy theorists wouldn't be out of line to believe that the whole thing was part of a master plan the duo cooked up to get ARod a raise while tidying up his image----and it's worked to a point because ARod got his raise, stayed with the Yankees, and looked like he was acting as his own man rather than Boras's stooge.
  • Derek Jeter
Jeter's mostly been known for intangibles, leadership and winning, but that diminishes the fact that he's been a great player. Because he's so well-respected and beloved for his on and
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off-field exploits (accrued without ever embarrassing himself or the organization, unlike ARod), it's easy to forget what a career he's put together. The ten-year, $118 million contract he signed in 2001 has become a bargain.
The Yankees are going to have a dicey situation on their hands as Jeter's free agency begins to beckon in 2011. If Brian Cashman's still the GM, it's likely he'll want to keep Jeter's salary at age 37 within reason and he'll be emboldened because it looks like he was right about holding a hard line with Jorge Posada. Jeter isn't greedy, but he is proud and stubborn; while he probably realizes that he's not the player ARod is on the field, he'll want to be compensated fairly for his four rings and those intangibles even if his performance declines as he ages. The Yankees won't be able to stomach allowing Jeter to leave and finish his career in another uniform, but he would leave the Yankees if he had to. If Joe Torre is still managing the Dodgers, they're a landing spot and so is his hometown Detroit Tigers. The Steinbrenners won't let Jeter leave, so he's going to get paid at his advanced age as some sort of severance for his career even if it's unwarranted by recent performance; it's only fair.
  • Manny Ramirez
The lovable character exemplified by the bizarre behaviors that resulted in his quirks being
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justified as "Manny being Manny" has been transformed into a greedy, self-important, team-sabotaging jerk by his latest tantrum which resulted in the Red Sox dumping him and two prospects, plus a load of cash for Jason Bay. No matter what the latest image of Manny portrays, he justified every penny of that contract by helping the Red Sox win two championships and functioning as a bodyguard batting behind David Ortiz which helped create the legendary Big Papi. Despite all of his distractions, lazy fielding and jogging to first base----the incident against the Angels wasn't something new; he just jogged slower than usual----the numbers went up every single year and as much as the Red Sox want to say "good riddance", their front office is smart enough to know they're not going to replace his bat easily or cheaply.
  • Miguel Cabrera
He'll be a DH by the time Gary Sheffield's contract expires (or possibly before); he's lazy and lets himself get out of shape if he's disenchanted by team performance, but despite adjusting to several new positions and a new and struggling team, he's still having a very solid year at the plate and will put up good numbers by season's end. Still only 25, the Tigers are going to get great production from him for the next eight years and by then, his $20+ million salary may seem reasonable. By next year, I'd expect a return to the MVP-quality Cabrera he was with the Marlins.
  • Johan Santana
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The Mets needed to get him to appease the fan base after the collapse of 2007 and he's been very good this year despite ill-informed criticism from the likes of Christopher "Mad Dog/Biggest Idiot In the World" Russo that Santana is "overrated". It sometimes takes a new player a year to get used to New York and Santana is still only 29 and keeps himself in great shape. This is in many ways a transition year for the Mets and once Santana's comfortable, he's going to dominate in years to come.
  • Carlos Beltran
An example of a player who took a year to get comfortable in New York and began putting up the numbers. He gets ripped for what he isn't and doesn't get credit for what he is. Beltran's very reserved and streaky, but by season's end the numbers are on the board and he gets more big hits than people realize because they focus on his missteps in the clutch. He's still only 31, so he should perform through the length of the contract.
  • Jason Giambi
Amid all the admissions and references to steroids and growth hormone, Giambi is still the biggest star to admit to using PEDs and he's played well after handling the roasting he got for telling the truth. I'd be curious to see how many reporters who advocated the equiavalent of a lynching for the beefy first baseman have apologized to him after his comeback. He's put up what the Yankees expected when they signed him despite the controversy and his injuries. Giambi will always be an on base machine and is well-liked in his clubhouse and throughout baseball.
  • Carlos Lee
The gregarious El Caballo hits his 35 homers, drives in his 100 runs and is well-liked as a person, but he also gets on base; hits .300; doesn't strike out; is a better outfielder than he's given credit for; and plays hard. He won't get the credit he deserves until he's on a playoff team, but is a winning player.
  • Albert Pujols
Forever an example of a player comfortable in his surroundings and willing to sacrifice $100
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million to stay there. Pujols signed a seven-year, $100 million contract with a $16 million team option in 2011 to stay with the Cardinals. Pujols would get more money than Teixeira would as a free agent and could easily demand that the Cardinals renegotiate or force a trade. He'll deservedly be known as the anti-Manny/ARod to the point of shortchanging himself of a lot of money that he deserves.

Money Poorly Spent:

  • Mike Hampton
The only positive thing about this stupid contract for the Rockies and GM Dan O'Dowd was
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that he was able to get rid of it. $121 million for the pitcher who was likely the last big ticket free agent pitcher who decides to sign in Colorado, humidor or not. Hampton pitched well in the first half of his first season with the Rockies, but was subsequently terrible over the last year and a half with the team. Pitched reasonably well with the Braves in 2003 and 2004; missed most of the last three years with injuries. A contractual disaster in judgment and practice for everyone but Mike Hampton.
  • Todd Helton
People get really angry when I have the audacity to mention the possibility that Todd Helton's massive numbers were aided not only by the air in Colorado, but by PEDs. I've said it numerous times, if a nice and socially concerned guy does something that pretty much everyone else is doing to keep his job and feed his family, then that doesn't make him a bad person a la Barry Bonds, who'd be a jerk if he'd never allegedly* touched steroids or HGH. I've never heard Helton's name metioned in any of the reports or accusations, but his power numbers have fallen off the cliff since 2004. The length of the contract makes it seem worse than it is; Helton's only making $16.6 million through 2010 and $19 million in 2011 when he'll be 38 and might not even be an everyday player anymore. The Rockies might be able to unload him for another team's bad contract before then.
  • Ken Griffey Jr
Griffey's accomplishments will be appreciated more and more as the years pass and it's
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recognized that he played clean in a dirty era, but he should never have left Seattle and if he did want to leave Seattle so badly, he should've accepted the deal to go the Mets after the 1999 season. He was injury-prone and dour in Cincinnati, expecting a hero's welcome and receiving lukewarm support for a hometown product. Griffey took short money to go to the Reds, but all involved would've been better off, financially and on the field, if he'd played elsewhere.
  • Kevin Brown
Brown actually pitched very well in his three fully healthy seasons after signing with the Dodgers. He logged 252 innings in his first season and won 18 games in 1999 and 230 innings with 13 wins in 2000 while pitching well enough to win over 20 both years; he could also have won 20 in 2003 at age 38. This contract could possibly have worked out had Brown stayed healthy, but his stressful motion and back problems hindered him. Looking back, $105 million over seven years wouldn't have been an outrageous amount of money if Brown had stayed healthy and gotten more support; the Dodgers might've gotten four 20-win years out of him and it would've been seen as a smart signing. Brown's personality, which was prickly, was also a factor for critics of the deal. I don't think Brown was necessarily a bad guy, he was just intense and didn't like the press which gave them reason to rip the contract and the person.

Likely To Be Money Poorly Spent:

  • Alfonso Soriano
Soriano is a bad, indifferent outfielder who keeps getting hurt. He insists on batting leadoff when he should move down in the lineup to take advantage of his power and is going to be making $18 million annually from 2011-2015 when he'll be between the ages of 35 and 39.
  • Barry Zito
Zito's pitched better lately and his velocity has crept back up to the mid-and sometimes
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high 80s, but the Giants are going to have to beef up their offense and hope that Zito has a career renaissance and return to his Cy Young Award winning form from 2002. It's possible, though unlikely, that Zito could provide a couple of 15 win years and make the contract easier to swallow if he learns to pitch with diminished stuff and is healthy.
  • Vernon Wells
A disaster in the making and another example of Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi's ineptitude. Wells received a $25 million signing bonus with his $126 million, seven-year extension in 2006 to forego free agency; the contract also has a full no-trade clause. He'll only receive $10 million in 2009, but $21 million in 2010; $23 million in 2011 with----big surprise----the
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Ricciardi-specialty, an opt-out of the contract after that season. Unless he becomes Willie Mays, Wells isn't going to opt-out of the rest of the contract, which will pay him $21 million annually in 2012,13 and 14.
This would be palatable if Wells was a $126 million player, but there are $100 million players (Pujols, ARod, Cabrera) and there are players making $100 million----there's a difference. And he's been injury-prone and just plain terrible since signing the contract; Wells dropped from 32 homers in 2006, to 16 in 2007 and 9 in an injury-plagued 2008. Extra moving boxes to be donated for the departure of J.P. Ricciardi should be addressed to:

Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club
1 Blue Jays Way,
Suite 3200, Rogers Centre,
Toronto, ON M5V 1J1

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