Granillo: The long shadow of the Alex Rodriguez contract

From SABR member Larry Granillo at Baseball Nation on December 12, 2013:

Thirteen years ago this week, Texas owner Tom Hicks changed baseball salaries forever when he signed free-agent shortstop Alex Rodriguez to a ten-year, $252 million contract. At $25.2 million per year, A-Rod rocketed past Carlos Delgado (whose $17 million/year contract was less than two months old) to become the highest-paid player in baseball history, as measured by Annual Average Value.

Thirteen years later, he remains atop the list.

In the meantime, more than 50 players have signed contracts worth more annually than Delgado’s once-record deal — thirty of them have even passed the $20 million AAV mark! And each contract has been, at least subconsciously, compared to the A-Rod deal. It’s become almost a tradition: when someone signs a big deal over the winter, we automatically compare it to the Rodriguez signing (or his subsequent raise in 2007) and say “Still not higher than A-Rod? Ho hum.”

But thirteen years of using an extreme outlier as our go-to comparison is starting to warp our view on player contracts. Compared to A-Rod, for example, Jacoby Ellsbury’s $21 million-a-year contract looks just as small today as it would have 6 years ago. The difference is that, today, Ellsbury has the 18th largest active contract, while six years ago it would have been the second largest, behind only Rodriguez himself. (In the same vein, Robinson Cano’s $24 million-a-year contract is eighth today, but would have been third even two years ago.)

Read the full article here:

Related link: “MLB’s annual salary leaders, 1874-2012,” by Michael Haupert

Originally published: December 12, 2013. Last Updated: December 12, 2013.