Biggest Contracts in Baseball: Are They Worth It?
In recent years baseball has had a shadow cast across that has less to do with sport, and more to do with controversy. While the steroids story has started to lose some visibility, in the offseason we were treated to a new arena of debate – this one related to outrageous salaries.
The lack of a salary cap or profit sharing, has made baseball one of the most outrageous sports for sports signings in sports. Of the top ten highest sports player (total) contracts in the world, nine of those contracts are commanded by players in the MLB. As of opening day 2012, the Yankees had the highest payroll in baseball at close to two-hundred-million dollars (no big surprise there); the lowest payroll is awarded to the Padres at just over fifty-five million dollars. Some of these numbers highlight how baseball has become less about developing players, and more about buying them.
Some of the biggest names in the this last season signed enormous contracts, the likes of which have never before in history been seen. Price Fielder, Albert Pujols and Joey Votto are just a few names on this list; each of these players are now averaging over twenty-million dollars a season. The question I now ask – is are they worth it? In this stage of the season ad their careers let’s look at their return on investment.
Let’s look at the top paid players in baseball and determine whether or not they are worth it:
- Alex Rodriguez ($275,000,000 over 10 years, ~27,500,000 per season): Since signing his contract with the Yankees in 2008, A-Rod has had a batting average under .300, and has been averaging about 30 Home Runs a season – although he has maintained a respectable slugging % of about .475, and over 100 RBIs most seasons. Let’s cut A-Rod some slack on this, though – he has been injured quite a bit over the last few years. Is he worth almost thirty-million a season? Not even maybe.
- Albert Pujols ($240,000,000 over 10 years, ~$24,000,000 per season): Pujols just signed this contract with the Angels, so it’s a little early to gauge whether or not he is delivering on his investment. For the record he is only batting .276 this season thus far – BUT, he does have a career average of .328, averages about 40 HR a season, well over 100 RBIs a season with a slugging % of about .450. While he may be off to slow start, Pujols is one of the most consistent and solid hitters in baseball – and in my opinion does deserve to be one of the highest paid.
- Joey Votto ($225,000,000 over 10 years, ~$22,500,000 per season): In all fairness, Votto’s contract has not yet come into effect – but, let’s look at his performance to date and see if it’s warranted. Votto has only been in the league since 2007, and since that time has a respectable average of about .312, over 100 RBIs per season an astounding slugging % of .547 and had one of the highest walk % in the league. He is young and has shown a ton of potential. Only time will tell if Votto is worth the money he is being paid, but based on league expectations for contracts, he does warrant one of the higher contracts in the league.
- Prince Fielder ($214,000,000 over 9 years, ~ $23,777,777 per season): Fielder was signed as a hit man – and that’s it. Much like how father, he is an overweight guy who can put the ball in play (or out of play as it were). Prince has an average of about 35 HRs per season, an average under .300 and a daily caloric in-take of about 4000. He does have one of the higher slugging % in the league, and typically pulls in well over 100 RBIs. He is off to a good start this season with an average of about .354 – but, is he worth over twenty-million per season? I think he may be the most overrated player in baseball. The numbers listed about do not warrant this kind of contract in my opinion – but, at least he will be flush with Big Macs for the next 9 years.
- Derek Jeter ($189,000,000 over 8 years, ~$18,900,000 per season): Derek Jeter achieved this contract out of loyalty, and because he is a Yankee fixture (in my opinion). Don’t get me wrong, he does put up some respectable numbers: 20+ stolen bases per season, a career batting average of about .313, he’s a perennial all-star, and puts in more plate appearances than most players in the league by a long shot. One thing that falls outside of the stats for Jeter, is his leadership presence with the team – he is the backbone of a highly talented Yankees organization. Does he deserve the cash? Out of all the players on this list, probably outside of Pujols, he is the most deserving.
So, that’s your top five. One point I do find interesting, is that you don’t see one pitcher on this list. While there are some very well paid pitchers (Roy Halliday, Cliff Lee), most of the top paid players even beyond this list are hitters. Why is this stranger? A pitcher is one of the few athletes in sports who can win a game for you himself – a good pitcher can completely stymy an opposing team’s offence and give his own team the chance to unleash hell. All of the great teams in history have had a great pitching rotation as a necessity; a strong hitting line-up has not always been a pre-requisite.
At any rate, I think some of these stats underscore the need for a salary cap in baseball. Teams with smaller payrolls can’t compete to the same level (not every team can have a Billy Bean). It causes people to become disenfranchised with the sport, and the game loses it’s integrity. It becomes less about sport, and more about business. When a sport is making headlines, it should be due to remarkable achievements in human physical/mental performance – not because of money, or steroids. I just hope that one day baseball can return to the days of achievement and skill, and not money.
… and that is the last word.