Long Term Contracts

Recently two long term baseball contracts have caught my attention. Zach Greinke signed a six year deal with the Arizona Diamond backs for $206,500,00.00. Jason Heyward closed a deal with the Chicago Cubs for eight years at $186,000,000.00.

My initial reaction was, "don't the owners ever learn?"

Greinke's contract included an $18 million signing bonus and an average annual salary of $34,416,667.00.

$62.5 million of his contract will be deferred which means he will get that money between the years 2022 and 2026.

Greinke is a twelve year veteran with a lifetime 3.35 earned run average. He has 142 wins and 93 loses. That's pretty good. But he's a pitcher and the deal is for six more seasons. He will be thrity eight years old by then.

Jason Heyward's deal with the Cubs includes an $20 million signing bonsus and an average annual salary of approximately $21 Million. Jason will be thirty four years old when the contract ends.

Heyward has been in the Big Leagues for six years. He has never batted .300 and has hit more than twenty home runs in a season only once. That was 2012 when he hit 27. He has never driven in one hundred runs in a season. His career batting average is .264. He's a good ball player with rather mediocre numbers. But $186 million?

Remember Barry Zito? Zito won the 2002 American League Cy Young Award while with the Oakland A's as a 23 game winner. Barry won 102 games and lost 63 during his seven seasons with the Athletics.

Then came his big pay day with the San Francisco Giants. The Giants gave Zito $126 million for seven years. During that period he won 63 games and lost 80. His earned run average ballooned to 4.62.

Cliff Lee was the 2008 Cy Young Award winner with the Cleveland Indians. So the Philadelphia Phillies dropped $120 million on Lee for five years. Lee had a few respectable seasons with the Phils at first, but age and injury has caught up. He hasn't even thrown a pitch in a game in a year and a half. Now, the Phillies plunked another $12.5 million on Lee in his option year just to get rid of him. Yikes!

In 2000, Houston Astros pitcher Mike Hampton signed an eight year deal with the Colorado Rockies for $123 million. In his first season with the Rockies, Hampton won 14 games and lost 13. His earned run average soared to 5.41. His second season was worse! He won only seven games while losing fifteen, with an ERA of 6.15.

In 2010, something possessed Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. to sign first baseman Ryan Howard to a five year extension for $125 million. Not only is the money guaranteed, there are also incentives. Howard will receive an extra $25,000.00 if he makes the All Star team. Another $100,000.00 if he wins the MVP Award. I think the Phillies are safe. Howard's first six season with the Phillies saw him win the National League's Rookie Of The Year in 2005 and the MVP award in 2008. During his first six seasons with the Phillies, Howard belted 222 home runs and drove in 640 runs. In the past six years since signing the long term contract, Howard has hit just 135 home runs and driven in 495 runs. The Phillies have an option year on Howard in 2017. They can unload him, but it will cost the Phillies another $10 million to do that.

The Atlanta Braves got the worst of the deal they signed with B.J. (Melvin) Upton in 2013. The five year contract paid Upton a total of $72.5 million. It only took the Braves two seasons to realize their mistake. Over those two seasons, 2013 and 2014, Upton hit just twenty one home runs and drove in a total of sixty one runs. All with a batting average of .196! They traded Upton to the San Diego Padres where last season he hit five home runs and drove in only seventeen runs in 87 games.

For eleven years, Albert Pujols was the most feared hitter in the National League. During that time with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols batted under .300 only once and that was .299. He won the rookie of the year award in 2001, the batting title in 2003 and the MVP award in 2005, 2008 and 2009. In 2012, the Los Angeles Angels signed the big time free agent to a ten year contract worth $240 million. And it's also loaded with incentives. Albert will be forty two years old at the contract's end. Let's see what Pujols has done since.

His career batting average during his Cardinals years was .328. In four seasons with the Angels it's .266. His On Base Percentage has gone down from .420 to .326. Slugging percentage down from .617 to .478. His season average of runs batted in and home runs are down. Albert Pujols is still a good ball player, but not even a shadow of what he was before the long term contract.

There are so many more long term contracts gone bad. George Foster's five year deal with the New York Mets back in 1982. The Mets finally released Foster in 1986.

Alex Rodriguez, Matt Kemp, Dan Uggla, Josh Hamilton just to mention a few more.

There have been some good long term contracts. As a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, I was glad to see the Bucs wrap up Andrew McCutchen for six years at $51.5 million. The Cubs Anthony Rizzo signed for the next seven years at $41 million. The Mets decision to lock up David Wright for eight more seasons.

It's not really the money that Major League clubs throw around that bothers me. It's the length of the contracts. But these days players want long term, guaranteed contracts. We have seen time and again players receiving huge long term deals only to have it go bust! When will they learn?

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