Monday, December 6, 2010

Saltzman Says... When Making a Splash Goes Wrong

Barry Bonds was the last big free agent signing that worked out for the San Francisco Giants.  Stealing the future 40/40 man away from Pittsburgh, he won 5 MVP's and took us to the 2002 World Series, as well as help sell 3 million tickets a year every year at The Phone Company Park.

That's it.  No other big signings have worked out.  Not Ray Durham, or Edgardo Alfonso, or Matt Morris, or Barry Zito, or Aaron Rowand or Edgar Renteria.

The last three did help us win a World Series in 2010, but with the exception of Renteria's final week, it was $204 million too much money ($126 million + $60 million + $18 million.)  

It wasn't even that we picked the wrong players.  It just doesn't make sense to spend big in free agency.  The market is never deep, and it forces teams to outbid each other.  Jayson Werth just signed the same contract aas Barry Zito did in 2007 with the lowly Washington Nationals.  Seven years for $126 million.  This means that Carl Crawford, another outstanding outfielder, should end up expecting more years and more money because he is younger.  Adrian Gonzalez, recently traded to the Boston Red Sox, will be a free agent next year, and is looking for an extension from the Sox similar to the 8 year $180 million Mark Teixiera got from the mighty dollar New York Yankees.  Big market teams drive up the comparable prices for free agents, which in turn forces smaller market teams to overpay free agents even more.  That is how Zito and Rowand came to the Bondsless Giants in the first place.

Players need something to prove to play up to their potential.  It is not always money related, but it usually is.  Aubrey Huff and Juan Uribe were playing last year on one year deals.  They were not offered any more money or years than that from 29 other teams.  Huff wanted to prove he could play 1st base and could still hit for power.  Uribe wanted to prove he was worth a multi-year contract.  Freddy Sanchez was coming off an injury plagued season with the Pirates and Giants and was out to prove he was worth the two year contract the Giants still gave him despite the injuries.  Pat Burrell, released from an $18 million contract by the Tampa Bay Rays, was out to prove he could still play everyday.  Cody Ross was let go by the Marlins and Florida did not want anything in return for the outfielder who hit 24 home runs for them the previous year.  Andres Torres had never been an everyday player, and was looking to prove he was worth something going into his first year of salary arbitration.  Edgar Renteria was out to prove he was worth the $18 million the team gave him and that he could play despite several different nagging injuries.  Every single everyday player for the Giants was out to prove something.

What will Jayson Werth be out to prove.  If he starts the year hitting .220 with no home runs, he will still make over $100 million in the final 6 years of his contract.  What is the motivation there?

Multi-year deals are not a bad thing, but when a player is making 8 figures a year over five or more years, what will drive the player to be great every day? Not too many players who sign contracts for 5 years, $50 million or more in baseball live up to the money.

Some of the worst:
  • Barry Zito
  • Aaron Rowand
  • Vernon Wells
  • Juan Pierre
  • Gary Matthews Jr.
  • Carlos Lee
  • Alfonso Soriano
  • Chan Ho Park
  • Mike Hampton
  • Darren Driefort
  • Jason Giambi
  • Kevin Brown

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