Cameron: Why $20 million in baseball isn’t what it used to be

From Dave Cameron at Fox Sports on November 11, 2015:

With free agency now officially underway, we’ve reached the point in the offseason where baseball scribes roll out our annual warning to Major League Baseball teams: DON’T DO IT! The history of the $100 million contract is served up as a reminder that these mega-contracts have often turned out poorly, with names like Mike Hampton and Carl Crawford trotted out as reminders that big pricey offseason additions don’t come with any kind of guarantee of success. Because most free agents reach the open market around (or after) their 30th birthday, teams are often signing players whose best days are behind them, and end up paying big money to players who are in decline before they even put on their new uniforms.

The newest entry in the annual reminder of big contract risk comes from Will Leitch over at Sports on Earth. In his piece on Tuesday, Leitch notes that players who have been paid an annual average value of $20 million or more during their long-term deals have fared particularly poorly of late.

“That is the dirty secret of every free-agent season: Almost every long-term deal that will be signed will be bad. In FanGraphs’ rankings over the summer of the worst five contracts, all five were massive free agency ‘victories’€™ for the team that signed them, all within the past three years. These deals are terrible business. I know this is exciting. I know we can’t wait to talk about them all. I know some long-term deals even work out (though the only one immediately coming to mind is Matt Holliday). There are 34 players — not counting the free agents signing new deals — who will be making $20 million or more in 2016. The majority of them will absolutely not be worth it.”

Leitch goes on to note that just eight of the 34 players scheduled to make $20+ million next year are “boons” to their franchise, while another eight are “up in the air,” leaving 18 as “drains,” including several players who might not even have jobs next year if it weren’t for their guaranteed contracts. It’s unquestionably true that a lot of these major signings in recent years have gone poorly, and undoubtedly, many of the teams that will be celebrating their new acquisitions over the next few months will end up wishing they’d been outbid instead.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: November 11, 2015. Last Updated: November 11, 2015.