Six weeks ago, Jeff Todd asked MLBTR readers which of the four nine-figure contracts given to pitchers this offseason was the best. 37.6% of you said you preferred Jordan Zimmermann’s deal — the cheapest of the four.
Of course, Jeff couldn’t ask a similar question about contracts for hitters, because the only hitter to agree to a deal over $100MM to that point was Jason Heyward. The hitting market was slow in coming, but now, finally, there have been two other hitters to cross the nine-figure threshold.
Heyward’s deal was the most expensive, at $184MM, although deferrals reduce its present-day value to about $5MM less than that. The deal also contains an opt-out after 2018, and possibly another after 2019 if he stays healthy. He also receives full or limited no-trade protection throughout the contract. Heyward is, of course, highly talented and very young and athletic for a free agent, but in a poll following the announcement of the deal, most MLBTR readers thought the Cubs overpaid.
The Orioles’ Chris Davis received somewhat less than Heyward, at $161MM and with very significant deferrals. He gets a partial no-trade clause but does not receive an opt-out. Davis is over three years older than Heyward and his skill set isn’t nearly as well rounded, which could lead to reasonable questions about how he’ll age over the life of the deal. Davis’ power is, however, second to none.
Justin Upton’s $132.75MM contract with the Tigers is the most recent of the three. Upton gets an opt-out after 2017, as well as limited no-trade protection. He’s between Heyward and Upton in age. He doesn’t have Heyward’s defensive or baserunning value, and he doesn’t have Davis’ power either, but he’s blossomed into a reliable offensive threat, and his deal is a considerably smaller commitment than Heyward’s, at least.
Davis’ deal might be the riskiest of the three, given his age and issues with strikeouts. But one could argue that there’s more upside in Davis’ deal, too, given that he does not have an opt-out. What you think about the Heyward deal likely depends to some degree on how you weight defense in your assessment of a player’s value (and in your assessment of how he’ll age). Upton’s skill set is perhaps the easiest of the three to grasp — he’s a good, consistent power hitter who gets on base and plays decent defense in an outfield corner. He hasn’t yet blossomed into the MVP-type player he looked like he might be when he was a prospect, although he’s young enough that we might not have seen the best of him yet.
So which of these contracts is the best bet?