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By The Numbers: Do Mega-Contracts In MLB Make Sense?

By Father Gabe Costa
» More Columns

$325 million is not hard to take as a salary, even if it takes 13 years to complete contractual obligations. In numbers, this monetary figure looks like this:
$325,000,000. This averages out to:

• $25,000,000 a season

• More than $ 154,000 a game for 162 games

• More than $37, 000 per plate appearance, assuming 675 PA

Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is the fortunate individual who has inked this historical agreement, which has surpassed all other MLB contracts.

Stanton has been a Marlin for five years, debuting with the club in 2010. After five years, the big right-fielder has posted the following numbers: .271 BA, 154 HR, 399 RBI and .903 OPS. This past season was his finest, when he finished second in the MVP voting and paced the Senior Circuit with 37 HR, a SLG of .555 and 299 TB.

Clearly, the two essential components of this mega-contract are time and money. Stanton’s case is just the latest is what has become a somewhat controversial approach taken by some MLB clubs.

About seven years ago, the Yankees offered Alex Rodriguez a 10-year deal, which included a number of bonus clauses and was very roughly calculated to be in the $300 million range. A few years ago, Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols jumped leagues and landed with the Angels, signing a 10-year deal worth about $250 million. And earlier this year, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera agreed to a 10-year commitment with the Tigers for a figure just short of $300 million.

Of course these numbers are approximate, and factors like taxes, lawyers’ fees, agents’ fees, various clauses, options and deferments (and even suspensions) must be taken into consideration when trying to determine the actual net worth of each player. Suffice it to say that it doesn’t seem likely that any of the aforementioned players will be going to the poorhouse in the foreseeable future.

One basic question arises: Do these mega-contracts make sense?

To begin to answer this question, more questions emerge:

• For example, Stanton is now 25 years old. At the end of his contract he will be 38. On the “average,” will he be worth $25 million a year?

• What if he is injured on the field? Will the team fall apart?

• What if he goes into a swift decline? While batting average is certainly not the most revealing statistic, he did hit under .250 just one year ago. Is his makeup such that if he is booed and jeered, will he be able to rise above this negative feedback?

• While the Marlins have some young talent, Stanton is now the focal point. Can he carry the club in more ways than one? That is, can he handle the pressure?

As we all know, baseball is a business. It is also entertainment. And it could not exist if it was not economically sustainable. More questions arise:

• How much of a gamble is being taken by the Marlins? Will their fans support them in the long run?

• The Marlins have already won two World Series. They are obviously making a long-term commitment with Stanton and hoping for future titles. Do they have the money and resolve to reach out to other players?

We shall see.

Regarding both Pujols (who will be 35 next season) and Cabrera (who will turn 32 next year), these sluggers have proven themselves on the field. However, given their lengthy contracts, similar questions have been asked about Pujols regarding his age. And, perhaps, they will soon be asked about Cabrera, given some of his injuries.

As for A-Rod, he has always worked hard, but he will turn 40 next year. He has missed live, MLB pitching for an entire season. At best, A-Rod playing a majority of games at the hot corner is a 50-50 proposition. Will he be a DH? Will he spell Tex at First Base? Here, too, we shall see. But unless the unthinkable occurs, there is no way the Yankees will eat the approximately $60 million left on Rodriguez’s contract. A-Rod is here for the next three years.

Just more grist for the Hot Stove League.

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