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Perhaps the best argument for developing homegrown talent is how inexpensive it is.
Dustin Pedroia, who was AL Rookie of the Year and a postseason hero for the Boston Red Sox, was paid $380,000 in 2007. Milwaukee paid Prince Fielder and his 50 home runs $415,000. Nick Markakis was perhaps the best position player on the Orioles, but he received $400,000 for his services. In this case, cheap is a relative term, but when teams are routinely shelling out $10 million per year contracts to aging veterans, what's a few hundred thousand dollars?
It's been a concern to teams, then, that stars with relatively few years of service time are demanding larger salaries, sometimes through arbitration. In several cases, they've been successful.
The most notable of these is Ryan Howard. Howard's contract was renewed in 2007 for $900,000, a figure Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon has said would be reasonable for the Red Sox to pay him. Prior to the 2008 season, however, Howard took the Phillies to arbitration and came away with a salary of $10 million, the largest ever awarded to a player in arbitration. Howard's home run binge the past few years may still make him a bargain, even at that salary, but the time may be coming when young players won't be standing for lower salaries.
Are young players in for a big payday? Cast your vote now!
We've collected a sample of what writers, bloggers, and players themselves have said this offseason about the money woes of young superstars. For this issue, we've chosen ESPN's Buster Olney and Jayson Stark, and The Providence Journal's Sean McAdam:
Buster Olney: "Nick Markakis became the latest young star to have his contract renewed, following Jeff Francoeur, Prince Fielder and others. In two years, this situation might become a full-fledged crisis for mid-market and small-market teams, because it is clear the young players will be looking to cash in (as is their absolute right) at the very high level established by Ryan Howard's $10 million arbitration victory, rather than sign a nice, tidy, modest long-term deal.
"What this means is that within two years you might see these same players dangled on the trade market. Consider the plight of the Brewers, who have three rising stars in Fielder, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks and cannot possibly afford to pay all of them $10 million to $15 million a year in 2011. "
March 5, 2008
Salary clouds over young stars
Jayson Stark: "Listen closely. Hear that sound off in the distance?
"It's a cash register ringing.
"For Prince Fielder. For Ryan Braun. For Ryan Zimmerman. For Hanley Ramirez. For all the young star-studded boppers out there who are following Howard down the arbitration highway.
"Why? Because, in the words of one agent, Howard's award just 'blew up the entire system.'"'This award could affect the market by 10s of millions of dollars,' the agent said. 'That's $3 million more a year for Prince Fielder, times all his arbitration years. That's $3 million more a year for Hanley Ramirez, times all his arbitration years. Add up all those dollars for all those players, and it becomes an exponential thing that could have a huge impact.'"
Sean McAdam, The Providence Journal: "[Jonathan] Papelbon made $425,500 last year, or $45,500 above the 2007 major-league minimum of $380,000. This year, the major-league minimum salary escalates slightly to $390,000.
"The Sox' closer, who converted 37 of 40 saves last season, would be open to a multi-year deal. Such a prospect was discussed between the Sox and Seth and Sam Levinson, Papelbon's agents, at Mike Lowell's charity event Saturday night. However, the two sides found themselves far apart -- both philosophically and in actual dollar figures-- and a long-term deal seems highly unlikely.
"'But at the same time,' said Papelbon, 'I have no problem going year to year. I have no doubts whatsoever, no fear, about going year to year. In fact, I've worked too hard to sell myself short.'
"Papelbon pointed out that the Sox will be facing similar contractual situations with other young players over the next few years.
"'There will be Dustin Pedroia (after this season),' he said, 'and Clay (Buchholz) and Jacoby (Ellsbury) the year after that. We need to take a stand and not let them take advantage of us just because they can.'"
March 3, 2008
Papelbon sticking to his guns over contract
We've compiled a list of young players getting paid less than a million dollars a year and compared them with veterans on their respective teams whose salary is significantly higher, but whose skills may not measure up. The results may surprise you.
2007 stats: 37 SV, 1.85 ERA, 256 ERA+, 84 K/58.3 IP
2007 salary: $425,500
2007 stats: 16 SV, 3.81 ERA, 121 ERA +, 51 K/52 IP
2007 salary: $6 million
2007 stats: .288 BA, .398 OBP, .618 SLG, 156 OPS+, 50 HR, 119 RBIs
2007 salary: $415,000
2007 stats: .255 BA, .319 OBP, .471 SLG, 101 OPS+, 21 HR, 64 RBIs
2007 salary: $7.3 million
2007 stats: .300 BA, .362 OBP, .485 SLG, 121 OPS+, 23 HR, 112 RBIs
2007 salary: $400,000
2007 stats: .230 BA, .272 OBP, .348 SLG, 62 OPS+, 6 HR, 28 RBIs
2007 salary: $5 million