Nine-figure contracts are becoming more commonplace in baseball and yet teams still can't buy certainty, no matter how large the investment. For every Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez or Albert Pujols (on his original seven-year, $100MM deal with St. Louis) who more than lived up their contracts, there's a Mike Hampton, Vernon Wells or Johan Santana whose huge salaries became an albatross on their teams' payroll.
This offseason saw five new members join the $100MM club...
- Zack Greinke signed the offseason's biggest free agent contract, a six-year, $147MM deal with the Dodgers.
- Despite some concerns about his age, injury history and off-the-field issues, Josh Hamilton received a five-year, $125MM contract from the Angels.
- The Mets kept their captain in the fold by signing David Wright to a seven-year, $122MM extension.
- More surprisingly, the Rays similarly locked up their franchise third baseman by exercising their last three option years on Evan Longoria's contract and adding six more years to the deal, making it a total of nine years and $136MM.
- Felix Hernandez signed the largest contract ever given to a pitcher, agreeing to a seven-year, $175MM extension with the Mariners.
It's an intriguing collection of both pitchers and position players of different ages and stages of their career. It's also quite the mix of win-now and semi-rebuilding teams in big, medium and small markets taking the risk on these massive contracts. It's also fair to say that even if a player doesn't live up his salary over the entire length (or even a year or two) of a $100MM+ contract, a team might still consider it a good investment if they win a World Series or two over the course of the deal --- call it the Barry Zito loophole. It's hard to look five or ten years into the future but all things considered, which of these five deals stands the best chance of being looked back on as a "win" by the team in question?
The Cardinals are better-positioned for success over the next five years than any other team in the majors, according to the latest edition of ESPN's Future Power Rankings (Insider subscription required). Jim Bowden, Keith Law and Buster Olney rank each club in five categories (Major League roster, minor league system, finances, management and mobility) and the Cards have the best overall grade, jumping to #1 after finishing third in the last edition of the rankings in August.
Here's the latest from around the league as we head into March...
- The Yankees usually don't offer to extend players before their contracts are up but GM Brian Cashman tells reporters (including Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News) that the club is flexible in this regard, such as when the Yankees tried to extend Russell Martin last season and their current talks with Robinson Cano. "Since we’re the team, we have the right to change our mind and adjust the policy whenever – especially ownership. It’s not like it’s a country club and here’s the code of conduct that we can’t deviate from," Cashman said.
- The Yankees may be reacting to criticism from fans that they're sacrificing short-term competitiveness in order to get under the luxury tax cap by 2014, opines Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links). Sherman argues that if the team's management wasn't feeling this pressure, Cashman wouldn't have told the media about the team's "significant offer" to Cano.
- The Giants and Phillies were both interested in Indians closer Chris Perez this offseason, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The Dodgers were also linked to Perez this winter, as the Tribe was shopping Perez due to his large salary and his criticism of both the team's management and Cleveland's fanbase last season.
- Chris Snyder has an out clause in his minor league deal with the Nationals that will allow him to request his release if he isn't on the club's Major League roster by March 24, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports. It could be a tough fit for Snyder as Comak notes the Nats' 25-man roster is virtually set.
- Omar Quintanilla was re-signed by the Mets since the team wanted infield depth if Ruben Tejada was dealt for Justin Upton, a Mets source tells John Harper of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). We heard earlier this week that the Mets explored a trade that would've brought Upton to Citi Field in exchange for pitching prospects and one of Tejada or Daniel Murphy.
- Baseball America's Matt Eddy recaps the week's minor league transactions.
Pirates pitchers combined to allow 15 walks during the Bucs' 16-6 loss to the Red Sox today in Grapefruit League action but Jameson Taillon was only responsible for one of those free passes. The right-hander started the game and allowed just the lone walk and one hit over two innings of work, recording three strikeouts. Taillon, the second overall pick of the 2010 draft, has an outside shot at a late-season callup if he continues to pitch well in the minors but probably won't see big league action until 2014 at the earliest. The 21-year-old will get a step up in competition, however, while pitching for Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Here's the latest from the Steel City...
- MLBPA head Michael Weiner tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he and the union are satisfied that the Pirates are doing all they can to compete. “There were some concerns, and we expressed them. We had some meetings with (president) Frank Coonelly and others from the administration," Weiner said. "I think over the course of the last couple years, the Pirates have made a sincere effort to compete. Their payroll has increased and it projects to continue to increase."
- Francisco Liriano's right arm injury paved the way for Jeff Karstens' return to the Pirates, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Liriano agreed to a contract with the Bucs in December but the deal wasn't finalized until February due to Liriano hurting his non-throwing arm. Amidst this uncertainty over Liriano's health, the Pirates reached out to Karstens (who they non-tendered earlier this offseason) and signed him to a one-year deal.
- Brad Hawpe talks to MLB.com's Tom Singer about trying to revive his career in Pittsburgh. Singer reports that Hawpe can ask to be released from his minor league deal with the club on March 26 if he hasn't been added to the Pirates' Major League roster.
No National League division has produced more pennant winners over the last 15 seasons than the NL West. The Giants have own three of those pennants (plus two World Series titles to boot) and the Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks all have one each over that span. The Dodgers are the odd team out but they're sparing no expense to get back to the World Series as soon as possible. Here's the latest from around the division...
- The Diamondbacks are looking to re-open extension talks with Paul Goldschmidt before Opening Day, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Goldschmidt turned down the club's initial attempt to negotiate a few weeks ago, telling GM Kevin Towers that he wanted more time to establish value.
- The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw haven't yet begun serious negotiations about a long-term contract, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports (via CBS Sports' Dayn Perry). The two sides hadn't even begun talking by mid-February and there is an unofficial deadline of Opening Day, as Kershaw says he doesn't want negotiations to drag into the season.
- If the Dodgers trade one of their extra starting pitchers, they could look to obtain a right-handed hitting outfielder in return to provide a backup plan if Carl Crawford struggles or isn't healthy, Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times opines.
- Brock Bond went from being an "accidental" draft pick in 2007 to reaching his first Major League Spring Training camp after six years in the Giants system, CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly writes.
- Over at Roto Authority, Steve Adams recently judged whether three NL West outfielders would be fantasy sleepers or busts in the coming season.
Happy birthday to Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann, who turns 30 years old today. Niemann, the fourth overall pick of the 2004 draft, is looking to rebound from an injury-shortened 2012 season and has also drawn some interest on the trade market -- the pitching-needy Rockies reportedly asked the Rays about Niemann's availability. Here's the latest out of Tampa Bay...
- "In a perfect world" David Price says he would love to stay with the Rays and "in a vacuum," executive VP Andrew Friedman would love to keep Price for years to come, ESPN's Jayson Stark reports. Both men, however, are realistic about the difficulties involved in keeping Price in Tampa Bay over the long term. Price is under team control through the 2015 season and recently said he wouldn't take a discount on a new multiyear deal to remain with the Rays.
- Several recent additions to the Rays roster have checkered reputations off the field, MLB.com's Matthew Leach writes, and Friedman admits to making some "calculated risks" with such players as a function of operating in a small market. "And we're much more comfortable taking them now than we probably were in '07, just having more of a developed culture. So we go through things very methodically in great detail. And there have been guys we have determined wouldn't necessarily fit in, and others that we feel like the reward far outweighs the risk," Friedman said.
- Joe Maddon is a fan of Tim Beckham, telling MLB.com's Bill Chastain that the 2008 first overall pick "has a really high ceiling as a Major League player" and sees Beckham "playing at a very high end for a very long time." Beckham, 23, hit .256/.325/.361 in 323 PA at the Triple-A level in 2012 and was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for marijuana.
- Ben Nicholson-Smith reviewed the Rays' offseason earlier today on MLBTR.
- Rangers outfielder David Murphy isn't concerned about his upcoming free agency after the season, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reports. With another good season, Crasnick opines that Murphy could top Shane Victorino's three-year, $39MM contract with the Red Sox and Angel Pagan's four-year, $40MM deal with the Giants. Murphy, a Houston native, says he wants to remain with Texas and the two sides discussed an extension last month.
- The Angels outrighted Bobby Cassevah off the 40-man roster earlier today and MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link) hears the move was "more a formality" and that the team isn't looking to fill the roster spot with any specific player. The Angels currently have 39 players on their 40-man roster.
- After undergoing brain surgery in November, left-hander Anthony Vasquez is already back working out in the Mariners' minor league camp, MLB.com's Greg Johns writes. Vasquez made seven starts for Seattle in 2011 and made 11 starts at Triple-A Tacoma last season before being shut down with a shoulder injury.
Here's the latest news from the American League's newest team....
- GM Jeff Luhnow's non-traditional baseball background, his history with the Cardinals and his belief in analytics are profiled by MLB.com's Richard Justice in a look at how Luhnow is exploring a wide range of methods to help rebuild the Astros.
- Before John Ely was traded to the Astros in December, the right-hander was going to sign a contract with a South Korean team, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. Ely was looking for a chance to start since he knew he was far down the Dodgers' depth chart but is now excited about his opportunity with the Astros.
- While the Astros would love to match the Rays' rise from last place to being a consistent contender, Houston assistant GM David Stearns tells ESPN's Jayson Stark that the Astros "want to find the next advancement and to be ahead of the curve yourself" rather than specifically duplicating the Rays' process. As Stearns notes, the Astros have a major advantage over the Rays in that Houston is able to support a large payroll when the time is right.
4:45pm: Scott Boras didn't comment on the offer, telling CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that "Robinson is focused on preparing for and playing the 2013 season. By agreement discussions shall remain confidential. Also by agreement, discussions will cease if they are a distraction to Robinson's performance and leadership of the 2013 Yankees.''
3:43pm: The Yankees made Robinson Cano "a significant offer" that would keep the second baseman off of the free agent market, GM Brian Cashman confirmed to reporters, including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said earlier this month that the Yankees were prepared to offer Cano a significant long-term deal. It's now clear that the Yankees have made the 30-year-old an offer.
Cano, who's scheduled to hit free agency following the 2013 season, is a client of agent Scott Boras. Boras might expect opening bids for ten years at $20-25MM per season, Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently suggested. However, Sherman wrote that the Yankees would prefer a shorter term, perhaps $171MM for seven years. Cano recently told reporters that “it’s not about the money,” for what it's worth.
Here are today's international signings, with the latest at the top of the post...
- The Athletics have agreed to terms with 17-year-old prospects Miguel Mercedes and Jean Carlo Rodriguez, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Mercedes, from the Dominican Republic, is a 6'4", 210-pound third baseman. Rodriguez is a 5'10", 170-pound infielder from Panama.
We can expect Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw to be among the game's best players in 2018, Dan Szymborski of ESPN Insider writes. Szymborski’s 30-player list includes many established MLB stars and some minor leaguers who have yet to make an impact at the highest level. Here are some more links for Thursday afternoon...
- Scouts say the Braves are looking for a left-handed hitting bench player, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (on Twitter). The left-handed hitting Jordan Schafer and the switch-hitting Ramiro Pena are internal candidates to make the Braves as bench players.
- Red Sox manager John Farrell said no third base additions are "being contemplated or imminent," Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports (on Twitter). Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reported this morning that there’s a belief free agent third baseman Scott Rolen would be interested in talking to the Red Sox.
- Athletics first baseman Daric Barton didn't expect that Oakland would want him back this offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Barton, who hit just .204/.338/.292 in 46 games last season, re-signed with the A's on a non-guaranteed $1.1MM deal.
Zach Links contributed to this post.