If Anaheim could go back and do it all over, would they still sign Albert Pujols to such a contract?
(Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)
Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, C.C. Sabathia, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Ryan Howard…some of the biggest contracts in baseball (and all of sports for that matter) and you have to ask yourself whether it’s even worth paying out that kind of money to a player who will not be anywhere near their prime for a good portion of such a lengthy contract. Sure a team like the Dodgers can easily afford to pay an elite player like Clayton Kershaw $35 million/year and still have enough left over to build a respectable team around him. But for teams like the Diamondbacks, Angels, Reds, and Marlins who have far less of a team budget to work with compared to say the Dodgers or Yankees, should they really be paying so much to just one player when it’s obvious they’d be better off spreading that money around to 2-3 (or more) different players and strengthening their team overall.
Unless it’s someone like Kershaw, Mike Trout, Felix Hernandez, or Buster Posey, that is to say a player still in their prime with many good years ahead of them, dishing out these big money contracts to a player already in their 30’s (or creeping up on it) has almost always shown not to be worth it. The chances are a player in their 30’s, regardless of how great they were in their 20’s, will almost never live up to this kind of contract. Granted, there have been a few players (e.g. Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera) who have held up pretty well a few years removed now from their 30th birthday…but their contracts still don’t expire until they’re in their early 40’s. What kind of players will they be in their late 30’s and early 40’s when they’re still getting paid a salary befitting the player they were in their prime years?
If there’s anything that baseball can take from the success of the Royals and Indians these past few seasons, it’s that a team doesn’t need the highest priced talent to be competitive. In fact, much of the evidence shows that a team will likely have a better chance of winning without committing so much of their payroll to just one or two players. A team who decides to sign a player already in their 30’s to a long-term contract for big money is simply asking for trouble and hoping (probably praying) they’ll get as many good years as possible out of this aging player before the inevitable decline in performance takes it’s course.
Considering what’s already been seen with Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and all the other players who were signed to these long deals in the latter half of their careers, why is it then that teams continue to offer such ridiculous contracts to players long past their prime? No disrespect to Albert Pujols, but does Anaheim honestly feel it was money well spent signing him to a 10 yr/$240 million contract when he’d already turned 32 and clearly shown a drop in production during his final two seasons in St.Louis? Only time will tell if the other long-term, big money contracts may for once actually pan out, but here’s hoping after the evidence has all been collected at the conclusion of the careers of players like Cano, Votto, Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton, David Price, Max Scherzer, and Zack Greinke, that teams will finally have some common sense when it comes to signing aging stars to such monster deals.