In the wake of Matt Holliday's new seven-year, $120 million contract, River Avenue Blues' Joe Pawlikowski takes a look at the history of nine-figure deals. Before going any further, I should mention that I'm prejudiced against contracts this large, because so many of them seem to have eventually backfired. But have they, really?
Because contracts for pitchers carry different risks than contracts for position players, we’ll focus on the latter. Let’s see where these contracts stack up. Played out contracts, obviously, have the edge.
As for where Matt Holliday falls, I’ll bet right ahead of Giambi and Lee, but behind Helton and Beltran. Good production, but not 1.000 OPS good or premium position good. Though, as we can see from the list, he can really end up anywhere.
In the snipped part, Pawlikowski lists 14 $100 million contracts and offers commentary. I'll offer just the list:
1. Albert Pujols (2004-2010)
2. Alex Rodriguez (2001-2010)
3. Manny Ramirez (2001-2008)
4. Derek Jeter (2001-2010)
5. Carlos Beltran (2005-2011)
6. Todd Helton (2003-2011)
7. Miguel Cabrera (2008-2015)
8. Alex Rodriguez (2008-2017)
9. Jason Giambi (2002-2008)
10. Mark Teixeira (2009-2016)
11. Carlos Lee (2007-2012)
12. Ken Griffey, Jr. (2000-2008)
13. Alfonso Soriano (2007-2014)
14. Vernon Wells (2008-2014)
Nos. 11, 13, and 14 on that list already look like disasters, with many disastrous years left. I wouldn't quite place Griffey's contract in that category, as he did give the Reds some pretty good seasons and (as I recall) a decent amount of his $116.5 million payout was deferred.
I probably would have placed Teixeira above Giambi, but that's ticky-tack. Giambi usually played well, but didn't play as often as anyone would have liked. Teixeira's just one year into an eight-year deal, so it's almost impossible to place him.
The same goes for Nos. 7 and 8. Yes, Cabrera and Rodriguez both figure to still be excellent hitters in the out years, but you never know; guys get hurt, fat, disinterested ... whatever.
The other six deals look pretty good, I suppose ... but my contention has never been that the players generally don't earn their salaries. Rather, it's that their teams often wind up wishing they didn't have to pay those salaries. The Rangers were thrilled to get rid of A-Rod after just three seasons (and if memory serves, they took a big financial hit in the process). You probably remember how Manny Ramirez's tenure with the Red Sox ended.
Of these 14 contracts, I would suggest that seven of them were eventually regretted by the clubs ... and with three of the remaining seven -- Cabrera's, Teixeira's, and A-Rod's latest -- the jury's still out.
I've tempered my opinion. When I've written (and said) that teams usually regret these sorts of deals, I was subconsciously including pitchers -- including Mike Hampton and Barry Zito -- and that might not be appropriate. But even if we consider just hitters, it's still something like a 50/50 proposition. If I were spending $120 million, I would want better odds.