The $200,000,000 Plus Question

Alec G.

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Throughout the month of December whether you’re shopping, preparing for a big party, etc. you’re most likely getting for the holidays. In Major League Baseball the holidays come early for some. The month of December has featured some of the biggest signings in Baseball and history shows it. Most recently second baseman Robinson Cano inked a 10 year/ $240 million dollar contract with the Seattle Mariners. This places him along side Albert Pujols for the second highest contract in MLB history. In the 2011-2012 offseason Pujols signed a 10 year/ $240 million contract with the Angels and Alex Rodriguez signed a 10 year/ $275 million contract with the Yankees in the ’07-‘08 offseason. Is there a down side to the mega contracts? As MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal put it “These signings always sound good the first day.”
Unfortunately recent history shows that these high priced long term contracts don’t necessarily produce the results that were intended or expected by the signing teams. In fact we have seen just the opposite with dismal seasons and lackluster numbers. These players have not had the impact or contribution hoped for by owners and fans alike. Will Cano follow the same path or will he break the trend.
Prior to Albert Pujols joining the Los Angeles Angels he was considered to be the greatest player since Lou Gehrig averaging around 40 home runs a year, over 120 RBI’s a year, and a batting average of about just under .330. After breaking multiple records, winning two World Series, three National League MVP’s, one National League Batting Title, and many more prestigious awards he was on top of the world. Things could not be going better and it was time for Pujols to cash in on his successes. His former team the St. Louis Cardinals knew they were not in a position to sign him to the terms in which he was seeking causing the free agent to go elsewhere. On December 8th, 2011 the then thirty-one year old Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels agreed to a 10 year/ $240 million contract. The contract was back loaded meaning the majority of it would be paid in the latter part of the ten years. In his first season with the Angels Pujols got off to a horrendous start hitting only .217 with no home runs and only four RBI’s in the first month of the 2012 season. Pujols’s struggles would continue until June. He would finish the season with a .285 batting average, 30 home runs, and 105 RBI’s. These were not the numbers baseball fans were used to seeing from Pujols nor were they the numbers the Angels expected to see. The following season things didn’t get better. Pujols struggled again with the bat and played only 99 games after suffering a foot injury on August 19th, 2013. Pujols would finish the year with a .258 batting average, 17 home runs, and 58 RBI’s. Pujols’s 2013 numbers were career lows in just about every statistical category.
The biggest contract in MLB history was that of Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez signed a 10 year/ $275 million contract with the New York Yankees on December 13th, 2007 at the age of 31 after opting out of the 7th year in his 10 year/ $252 million contract. Not only was this the highest total contact, but he was also getting the highest amount annually. Rodriguez had just finished one of the best seasons in MLB history with a .314 batting average, 54 home runs, and 156 RBI’s. In 2008 Rodriguez had a strong season finishing 8th in American League MVP voting; however, his numbers weren’t anything like the year before. The 2009 and 2010 seasons would see Rodriguez posting similar numbers but regression clearly showing in other categories. 2009 featured a historic postseason performance and him earning his first World Series ring. The 2010 ALCS was when everything began to go off the track as Rodriguez posted a .190 batting average. His combined homerun average for 2011, 2012, and 2013 was just 41, far less than his 2007 single year total. In the 2011 season Rodriguez played in only 99 games, 122 in 2012 and just 44 in 2013 due to injuries. Since then he has been plagued by multiple injuries and controversy both on and off the field. His name has become synonymous with scandal including steroid use.
Were these contracts doomed from the start? Why does it seem that a switch was suddenly flipped on these players? There are differing opinions on the topic. Some feel that these players are under a great deal of pressure to live up to the expectations that have been set for them and their game has been affected. Others point to the fact that by time they are in a position to negotiate these contracts these players have been playing for several years and may have reached their peak. Post contract signing their game is no longer what it was. Some even goes as far to say that got what they wanted and now they just push themselves less. That theory seems far less likely because I don’t think egos would not allow that. For Alex Rodriguez in particular the steroid controversy will always loom as being related to the problem. Nobody really knows for sure. In time we will see just what this contract will mean to Cano’s numbers.

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