Baseball players have been making big money for years, so by now we really shouldn’t be shocked when we see exorbitant contracts being handed out.
But it’s another offseason, so it’s time yet again for more jaw-dropping numbers for baseball players who might not necessarily deserve it.
Never blame the players. There has never been a story of a player or even an agent holding a gun to an owner’s head demanding a big contract. The owners are the ones dumb enough to sign on the dotted line first, and it’s not like the players are going to say no when millions are being offered.
Friday, the Seattle Mariners signed second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract. He’s 31 years old, and Cano has hit 30 home runs or more only once and has driven in more than 100 runs only three times in nine seasons in the big leagues.
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And he’s worth $24 million per season?
Cano has a .309 career batting average, and his lifetime on-base percentage is .355. Those are good numbers, but are they great enough to warrant that big a contract?
Even players destined for the bench are getting huge paydays. Nate McLouth, a former Braves player, signed with Washington on Friday and will average $5 million for the next two seasons to be the Nationals’ fourth outfielder.
We’re even seeing relievers, middle relievers, get close to $5 million a season. But why? It’s the new television money. Each team will receive an additional $25 million more in 2014 from the new national TV contract. Some are spending that to upgrade talent, while others (like the Braves) are pocketing it for whatever reason, like to help pay for a new stadium.
There are some players who are no-brainers to get the huge money, but how many long-term deals actually work out?
Let’s look at the Braves. Every contract Chipper Jones signed turned out to be a good investment, as did those given to the three starting pitchers destined for Cooperstown. But how has the Dan Uggla five-year deal worked out so far? He was paid $13 million last year to hit .184. How about the first year of B.J. Upton’s five-year contract? He was paid about the same amount to hit .179.
And now the Braves are trying to dump the final two years of Uggla’s contract and are praying that Upton will somehow bounce back next year to save the same embarrassment.
We can go back a ways and remember the Bruce Sutter debacle. He signed a huge contract with Atlanta prior to the 1985 season, and his shoulder barely lasted through the first season. Thankfully, we’re starting to forget about Mike Hampton’s contract, but that was a monstrosity that seemed to never end.
Perhaps it’s best to take Tampa Bay’s approach and simply trade players away before they hit free agency for younger and cheaper talent. They are careful with the players they award long-term contracts to and let the others go.
Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel are close to getting big money deals. Can the Braves afford all three? Probably not. And as those players continue to see others around them get huge contracts, they’re going to want to get their own big deals.
Can you blame them?
But the Braves might have to make a choice. Do they sign Heyward, even though he has had trouble playing full seasons? Does that make Freeman a safer investment? Can they trust Kimbrel to stay healthy, even though he throws hard and some might argue is destined at some point for a long stint on the disabled list?
If Atlanta’s payroll continues to be limited by team owner Liberty Media, it won’t matter. The Braves will have no choice but to trade one or two of those players and get younger talent in return. And considering the outrageous contracts being signed, that might not be a bad thing.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org