Dollar bills falling from sky this winter
December, 10, 2010
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com
STRIKE ONE -- MONEY TALKS DEPT.
As Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, Troy Tulowitzki and (very soon) Cliff Lee could gladly attest, it's suddenly snowing dollar bills in this sport.
One minute, everybody in baseball was crying poverty. The next, $100 million contracts started falling out of the sky.
Do we even need to recap? OK ... $126 million for Werth ... $142 million for Crawford ... $139 million for Tulowitzki.
And right over the horizon, there's another nine-figure bonanza waiting for Lee ... and another for Adrian Gonzalez ... and maybe, if the Cardinals come to their senses, yet another for Albert Pujols.
So that could be six contracts in one offseason worth more than 100 million bucks. Kinda makes you want to take the kids out in the back yard and teach them how to hit a curveball, doesn't it?
This is historic stuff we're talking about, in case you were wondering. And two of ESPN's awesome Stats and Research geniuses, Mark Simon and Katie Sharp, helped me prove it.
When the Lee deal goes down, that will make four $100 million-plus deals in a single offseason -- tied for the second-most in history, Simon reports. The current leaderboard:
• 2000-01 (5): (A-Rod, Manny Ramirez, Mike Hampton, Derek Jeter, Todd Helton)
• 2006-07 (4): (Barry Zito, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, Vernon Wells)
• 2007-08 (3): (A-Rod, Miguel Cabrera, Johan Santana)
But once the inevitable Gonzalez extension gets figured out, that will tie this winter for No. 1 all time. And if the Cardinals get Pujols done, or there's another stunner involving someone like Carlos Gonzalez, there's a great chance this offseason blows away the record for nine-figure contracts.
Down the road, once it's all official, maybe Alan Greenspan or somebody can explain to us beleaguered American taxpayers where all this money came from, when total revenues in the game aren't that different from where they were in previous years. But for now, it's time to work with Little Johnny on his bat speed.
STRIKE TWO -- LAND OF THE FREE DEPT.
All those contract notes above include all players, including extensions for players like Jeter, Wells and Helton who were already under contract to their current teams. So it allowed us to include Tulowitzki's mega-deal and factor that in.
But as you might have noticed, it's been an excellent winter so far to be a free agent, too. So now let's put just this winter's free-agent deals in perspective, thanks to some tremendous research by Sharp.
We've already seen two players -- Werth and Crawford -- agree to seven-year contracts. If Lee also gets seven years, that will tie the record for most seven-year free-agent deals (or longer) in one offseason. Here's that leaderboard:
• 2000-01 (3): A-Rod (10 years), Hampton (8), Manny (8)
• 2008-09 (2): CC Sabathia (7), Mark Teixeira (8)
• 2006-07 (2): Zito (7), Soriano (8)
• 1998-99 (2): Bernie Williams (7), Kevin Brown (7)
Or if we just want to talk dollar signs, this is only the fourth offseason in which at least two free agents signed $100 million contracts (of any length). Here are the other three:
• 2006-07 (3): Zito $126M, Soriano $136M, Lee $100M
• 2000-01 (3): A-Rod $252M, Manny $160M, Hampton $121M
• 2008-09 (2): Sabathia $161M, Teixeira $180M
But if we look at dollars and length, and Lee gets seven years, this will tie the A-Rod/Manny/Hampton winter of 2000-01 for most free-agent deals meeting both criteria -- seven guaranteed seasons (or more) and at least $100 million in guarantees. Yikes.
Since Gonzalez (trade) and Pujols (extension) aren't free agents, there's no chance of anyone else adding his name to this list (no, not even Alfredo Amezaga). But it's still, obviously, been a great winter to be a difference-making player sitting on those free-agent shelves.
STRIKE THREE -- IN OTHER NEWS
More free-agent fodder ...
• Assuming Gonzalez gets his money, the Red Sox will become just the second team in history to give out two $100 million contracts in the same offseason. The other: the 2008-09 Yankees (Sabathia, Teixeira).
• Only three players have ever stolen 50 bases in a season for the Red Sox -- Tris Speaker, Tommy Harper and Jacoby Ellsbury (twice). So that means, according to Lee Sinins' fabulous Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, that Crawford has done it more times himself (five) than all Red Sox players in history combined.
• By the way, as recently as 2005, the Red Sox didn't even steal 50 bases as a team all season (45).
• Only six other times in the last half-century have the Red Sox acquired a player who once swiped 50 bases in a season. Here's that list: Rickey Henderson (2002), Willie McGee (1995), Billy Hatcher (1992), Don Baylor (1986), Tommy Harper (1972) and Luis Aparicio (1971).
• According to Baseball-reference.com's fabulous Play Index, Crawford's 62 stolen bases against the Red Sox are the third-most against them in the live-ball era. Only Henderson (87) and Bert Campaneris (63) burgled more than Crawford.
• Meanwhile, Werth had 75 extra-base hits last season. The only players in Nationals/Expos history who have ever had a season with that many extra-base hits: Vladimir Guerrero, Andre Dawson, Andres Galarraga, Alfonso Soriano, Jose Vidro, Adam Dunn and (of course!) Henry Rodriguez.
• Speaking of Dunn, according to the 2011 Bill James Handbook, he has a 43 percent chance of hitting 600 home runs and a 16 percent chance of hitting 700 home runs -- and he's made one All-Star team. Impossible!
• Finally, Carlos Pena batted .196 last year -- and still got a $10 million contract from the Cubs. My buddies at ESPN Stats & Info report -- and this will shock you -- that Pena has just broken the hallowed record for lowest batting average in a season by a player who then went out and got himself signed to a deal worth at least $10M a season. Previous record-holder: Andruw Jones. He got $36.2M for two years from the Dodgers after hitting .222 for the 2007 Braves. Just don't remind Jamie McCourt's psychic.