November 7, 2012 by Matt Musico
Now that the exclusive negotiating period between team’s and their pending free agents is over and the GM Meetings are starting today, we’re going to start seeing the top tier of this winter’s free agent class start their big money demands. It won’t exactly be as much as what Albert Pujols ($250 million) or Prince Fielder ($214 million) received, but it will be enough. There are a few players that will get huge paydays, but they will earn that money not because of what they will be doing for the team over the life of their contract, but what they have done previously in their career.
Being a Mets fan, I’ve been staying close to all the news surrounding extension negotiations for David Wright and R.A. Dickey. Sandy Alderson let Jose Reyes leave New York for Miami because he doesn’t believe in giving him a ”second-generation contracts.” What are those? That’s like the kind of deals Alex Rodriguez and Pujols got, where teams are paying a premium for production they won’t have by the end of their contract, after already finishing a long-term deal. That’s also the same kind of deal Wright will likely get. It’s rumored he will get somewhere in the neighborhood of a 7-year/$127 million extension, on top of the $16 million option that was exercised for 2013. Dickey is apparently looking for approximately 3-years/$40 million.
What’s the common ground for these two, vastly different players? They’re both in their 30′s…at least, David will be in about a month and a half. New York will not be paying top dollar for Wright to be an All-Star for the next 8 years, but as an ambassador of the organization and face of the franchise. I understand there are other motives involved in retaining the third baseman, but paying him $18-20 million in his age 37 season will not be beneficial to New York. As for Dickey, he just celebrated his 38th birthday, and after coming off the best season of his career, wants to be compensated for it. So, the Mets are supposed to pay Dickey Cy Young-type money, without the guarantee that he will be able to continue last season’s performance. There is never any guarantee for any professional athlete to keep performing, but the odds are greater someone will do so at the age of 28 instead of 38.
In his first full season in Atlanta, Bourn put together a fantastic year, hitting .274/.348/.391 with 9 homers, 57 RBI, 96 runs scored, and 46 stolen bases, while playing a stellar center field. After earning $6.85 million in his final year of arbitration, him and his agent, Scott Boras, will be looking for some straight cash, homie. I’m sure they would be aiming for a Carl Crawford-like deal (7-years, $142 million), but since he’s largely been a bust, I’ve heard Bourn likely to command something like 5-years/$85 million on the open market, possibly pricing himself right out of Atlanta. He’s a great asset to any team, as he is a solid defender and has stolen at least 40 bases the last five years in a row. So, any team that pursues and signs him will be doing so under the impression that they will be getting those two things for the top of their lineup. However, Bourn is turning 30 next month, and unless he’s Rickey Henderson, he will not be stealing bases at the same rate in five years, which makes the possibility of paying Bourn an average annual value of $17 million less impressive.
Rafael Soriano seems like the ultimate greedy ballplayer. Already signed to a 3-year/$35 million deal with the Yankees, he had the opportunity to opt out of the last year of his contract, which would have paid him $14 million, to become a free agent. Of course, that’s exactly what he did. Now, I know what you may be thinking; Mariano Rivera has decided he wants to return to the Bronx bullpen in 2013, and after filling in for him by posting a 2-1 record, 2.26 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 42 saves, Soriano doesn’t want to be a set-up man again. I understand his desire to close games, but word on the street is he’ll be asking for 4-years/$60 million. What?! It doesn’t matter that he’ll be the one closing games, he’s only pitched 60 innings in a season three times in his 11-year career! To pay a relief pitcher that kind of money, at the age of 32, is not fiscally responsible for a general manager. One of the few teams with that kind of money and need for relievers would be the Yankees, and Brian Cashman has already said they wouldn’t be barking up that tree, as he shouldn’t be. Even though he would take over closer duties after Mo is done in 2013, I doubt he will be worth $15 million/year as a 36-year-old. Only Rivera was worth that.
Lastly, we heard that 31-year-old Josh Hamilton will be seeking a contract within the range of 7-years/$175 million. He just finished a 2-year/$24 million deal with the Rangers, and after hitting .285/.354/.577 with 43 homers, 128 RBI, and 103 runs scored, the 2010 AL MVP is looking for a hefty raise. He’s already said he’d let the Rangers counter offer anything he receives on the open market, but it sounds like Texas will already pass, not willing to make that much of a financial commitment in the slugging outfielder. This is a player who is no doubt talented, but still struggles from time to time with alcohol addiction, and is rumored to have a “Big League attitude,” yet wants to be paid $25 million per season. I applaud the Rangers for not budging on their stance of not wanting to offer a long-term contract.
At the end of the day, all of these players I mentioned will at least get close to what they’re asking for, because there are teams willing to pay the price for their talent. However, they’re paying for the talent they’ve already seen, not what they’re going to get. We have one person to thank for helping bring these second-generation contract demands out of control for players in their 30s. Yes, the man that sat on the bench during the playoffs at the age of 37, yet has 5 years and $114 million left on his contract. Thanks, A-Rod.