Unpacking Cole and Rendon's Big Contracts

December 13, 2019
 
Gerrit Cole has signed a nine-year contract with the Yankees, at a cost of $324 million. What do we make of that?
 
Every time a player signs a massive, long-tern free agent contract, we get two ‘takes’ on the subject: opinion pieces speculating how good (or how terrible) the contract will be, and projection pieces calculating that player going forward, based on what they’ve done in the past.
 
I have no fundamental problem with either kind of article: each has merits as exercises in thinking through something complex. But as I’ve attempted, over the years, to unpack my thinking about big contracts awarded to players like Bryce Harper,  Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward, Giancarlo Stanton, and Robinson Cano, I’ve come to view these kinds of articles as looking trees while avoidng a much more compelling forest.
 
So I'd like, with your tolerance, to work towards seeing that forest a little bit.
 
*             *             *
 
Let’s start with a quick declarative: there are some very good long-term contracts. That is, there are some big dollar, long-term free agent contracts that seem, objectively, to be perfectly reasonable decisions.
 
And there are some very bad long-term contracts. There are contracts that seem, even at their signing, like significant mistakes.
 
When the Detroit Tigers extended Miguel Cabrera to an eight-year contract prior to the 2008 season, that seemed like a very reasonable decision. They were looking at a third baseman who hadn’t turned twenty-five years old, whose career slash-line was a robust .313/.388/.543. Miggy was healthy as a horse, having played at least 157 games each of the previous four seasons, and there was no hint that he was a problem in the clubhouse. He certainly seemed like a decent bet at the time, and he was.
 
On the other hand, the eight-year extension that the Tigers offered Cabrera prior to the 2014 season was very obviously not a great decision. Cabrera was coming off consecutive MVP seasons, but he was six years older, facing the declining years of his career, and his skill set was already narrowing. And the Tigers had two more years of control before he would hit free agency, making the extension feel illogically preemptive.
 
Or…spreading the field a little bit…I think most of us would say that Derek Jeter’s ten-year contract with the Yankees, signed prior to the 2001 season, was a very reasonable risk.
 
In Jeter, the Yankees had a shortstop entering his prime years who had finished in the top-ten in three straight MVP votes. Jeter possessed a wide array of skill sets: he could run, hit for power, get on base, and field his position ably. More significantly, Jeter seemed unfazed by the pressures of playing in pinstripes, and was a matinee idol in a game that frequently struggles to market their best players. The Yankees were a winning team that expected to go on winning, and Jeter was the kind of player who helps teams win. As for cost, the team could print its own money. Easy call.
 
Hard call: Albert Pujols. 
 
The Angels decision to sign Pujols to a ten-year contract seemed like a bad deal before the ink had dried. Pujols was a thirty-two year old player coming off the worst season of his career (granting that ‘worst’ is a relative term). The Angels were looking at a player with a limited range of skills, all of which were showing signs of erosion. They were a team on the bubble of contention, certainly, but they weren’t shoo-ins for the AL West, and Pujols’ contract was very likely to hamstring them down the road (as it has). And unlike the Cardinals, who could use their history with Pujols as a justification for keeping him in St, Louis, the Angels had no emotional reason to offer Pujols a quarter of a billion dollars. The deal was very likely to disappoint at the outset.
 
We can think of Jeter and Pujols as ‘poles’ for big baseball contracts…one decision has nearly everything going for it, and the other has many, many causes for concern. From them…from thinking about them…we can draw out a list of variables to consider when we’re trying to assess a free agent deal.
 
Framing those variables as questions, we can ask:
 
-          How old is the player?
-          What role do they play, and what role can they move to if they decline?
-          What is their health record?
-          What is their physical makeup, and how does that fit with the role they are playing?
-          What is their pedigree? Have they always been viewed as elite, or is it more surprising?
-          What are the range of their skill sets?
-          What are the trends of those skills?
-          How easy/hard is it to replace their production?
-          Is their production consistent, or is it varying?
-          Who is like this player, and how have those comparable players performed going forward?
-          What is their cost, and how does that cost fit with the team’s overall payroll?
-          How well does this player align with the team’s long-term vision?
-          Are they marketable?
-          Do they have additional importance to the fan base or history of the franchise?
-          Are they a leader on the team? Are they an asset in the clubhouse and with management?
-          Do they like it here? Are they rooted, somehow, to the team/place?
 
 This list isn’t exhaustive: there are many other questions that would be worth asking.
 
What this list does is give structure to something that we typically try to understand either through intuition or through a very narrow lens of statistical analysis. I think intuition and statistical analysis are both absolutely crucial in understanding a decision like this, and I don’t want to discount either one, or favor either one. What I am advocating is that we try to think about these kinds of contracts in a deliberate variety of ways, so that our conclusions take under consideration as many angles of inquiry as we are capable of imagining.
 
Using that list of questions as a guide, we can get into the practice of considering allbig deals through a multitude of lenses. In doing that, we will gradually develop an understanding not just of the poles of very good and very bad contracts, but which questions hold the most projective value. Over time, we will develop an intuition that isn’t a knee-jerk rejection of all long-term deals, and one that isn’t solely dependent on WAR-projections.
 
In seeing the trees, we will gradually become aware of the forest.
 
*             *             *
 
Let’s consider Gerrit Cole.
 
Gerrit Cole is one of the ten best starting pitchers in baseball. He is coming off consecutive Cy Young-caliber seasons, and he paced the AL in strikeouts and ERA, falling a win short of the pitcher’s Triple Crown. He showed no signs of tiring in the postseason, and at twenty-nine years old, it is reasonable to project him as being one of the best pitchers in baseball over the next four or five seasons.
 
He is healthy, as far as starting pitchers go: he hasn’t undergone Tommy John surgery, and he hasn’t missed significant time with injuries. He has always been regarded as a preeminent talent: he was drafted in the first round out of high school and was later selected as the first overall pick by the Pirates. While his career hasn’t had the smoothest trajectory, he has always been an excellent pitcher. His recent success is attributable to an improved spin rate and less reliance on a sinker.
 
Cole has ample playoff experience and has not blinked at the spotlight. For a team like the Yankees, which anticipates being a strong contender in the coming years, having a playoff-tested starting pitcher is a useful asset. His salary, while significant, is not going to break the Yankees in the late years. And he wants to play for New York: Cole grew up a Yankees fan, and was drafted by the Yankees out of high school (first round, 28th overall).
 
He has the chance to be one of the keystone player for the newest Yankee dynasty, though I don’t think he’ll be as marketable a figure as, say, Aaron Judge. As far as team structure goes, the Yankees need an anchor for their rotation, and Cole fits the bill better than any other pitcher. He has played for winning teams, and there is no reason to suspect that he is a clubhouse problem.
 
His similar pitchers are all excellent: Oswalt, Peavy, Hudson, Verlander, Hamels, Price, Santana, Strasburg. He should be effective going forward, at least for a little while. Given the lack of good starting pitching, it is possible that the Yankees can find another team willing to gamble on rehabilitating him if it all goes to hell, and it won’t hurt the team significantly regardless.
 
The Yankees will likely have to tangle with the Astros once or twice in the coming playoff seasons…it might help to have some insider information about a rival organization.
 
So what do I make of the Cole deal?
 
If the Reds were making this offer, I’d be wary. But the Yankees have the money to swallow the cost, and they are a team that is peaking right now. They play in a division loaded with strong teams, and they have a need for an anchor in the rotation. They signed a player that is pressure-tested and motivated to perform in the Bronx, and they have the resources and talent to endure if Cole turns bad three years down the road. The right team got the right guy.
 
*             *             *
 
How about Anthony Rendon?
 
As I was writing this, the news broke that the Angels grabbed Anthony Rendon, signing him to a seven-year deal worth $245 million. We might as well throw him onto the pile.
 
Anthony Rendon is coming off the best season of his career, pacing the NL in doubles and RBI and capping off 2019 with some dramatic homeruns in the Nationals World Series triumph over Houston. Rendon is a strong hitter and a capable defensive third baseman, though his defensive metrics have declined from his peak years. He is slower than he used to be, but he has compensated by walking more frequently.
 
Rendon will turn thirty years old in June, and his decision to play college ball means that his career started later than other players. His similarity scores on Baseball Reference have Ken Boyer, Fred Lynn, Bernie Williams, Hunter Pence, Joe Gordon, and…improbably…Pablo Sandoval. There are not many players on that list who were effective through their thirties, but I don’t find it a compelling list.
 
A better list of comparable players would start with third baseman who tallied similar WAR between ages 27-29…Rendon’s 19.9 fWAR and broad skill set is comparable to Ron Santo (21.5), Al Rosen (19.6), and Tony Perez (19.5). He’s also close in fWAR to Miguel Cabrera, Buddy Bell, and Brooks Robinson, but their skill sets don’t parallel Rendon’s as closely.
 
Rendon is not likely to do better going forward: the question is how much longer he can be expected to maintain his current level of performance, and whether he is still going to be effective in the late years of the contract. His athleticism suggests that he could shift to 1B or a corner-OF position if his defense at third declines (or if the Angels acquire a younger player better suited for the position). He is a good contact hitter, which suggests that he has some capacities to adjust and remain effective as he enters his decline years.
 
Rendon seems like a positive presence in the clubhouse, though he isn’t a ‘marque’ player who draws the spotlight: he has remined one of the more anonymous great players in baseball.
 
For the Angels, there are two divergent pressures. On the one hand, they have so far squandered the best years of the best player of this generation, struggling to put a team together to help Mike Trout. Having paid a lot to make sure Trout is a lifetime Angel, and having lucked into winning the Ohtani lottery, their next task is to make sure the teams has a few runs at contention while he is in his prime. Rendon helps fill a gap on their offense and defense and should improve the team in a few dimensions.
 
That said, throwing big-dollar contracts to hitters on the wrong side of 30 (Pujols, Hamilton, Justin Upton) hasn’t worked out for the Angels in recent years, and while Rendon looks like a better investment than those three, it is the kind of move that rarely returns extra value. At best, the Rendon contract breaks even. Even that is unlikely.
 
The Angels won 72 games last year….Houston won 107 and Oakland won 97. Are the Angels really close enough to contention that Rendon will tip the balance? Are third baseman so rare that the Angels had to shell out a seven-year contract for one of the best? I don’t know.
 
What do I make of the Rendon deal?
 
I am less optimistic about it than I am about the Cole deal. While I think there is a good chance that Rendon is productive for most of the contract, I doubt there will be much surplus value in the contract: the Angels might get what they pay for, but they aren’t getting anything more. And I don’t like the timing: Rendon’s best seasons will be 2020-2022, and I’m not sure the Angels are going to be a winning team for those years. The allocation of a lot of resources into one player hasn’t worked yet for the Angels, and I don’t think it will work out with Rendon.
 
*             *             *
 
So how’s that?
 
Is that a better way to interpret these kinds of big-salary, long-term moves, or am I just recycling more of the same, in a different format? Did you think about these contracts in a more complex way, or is it too much forest? What questions did I forgot to ask? What questions are important?
 
Let me know.
 
David Fleming is a writer living in western Virginia. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com.
 
    
 
 

COMMENTS (33 Comments, most recent shown first)

steve161
Maris, I don't use smilies, as you are very well aware, and your response makes perfectly clear that I didn't need to. You understood me just fine without it.
5:40 PM Dec 19th
 
Brock Hanke
steve161 - Thanks! I don't like discussing Jeter's defense, either, but I didn't know everyone else was as sick of it as I am. I'm off that topic, and thanks again to you!
11:42 AM Dec 19th
 
MarisFan61
Steve: You need a smilie on that parenthetical part.
10:12 AM Dec 18th
 
steve161
True, I'll grant you that.

(And correct material, as well.)
7:23 AM Dec 18th
 
MarisFan61
Steve: I don't bring it up.
I just rebut incorrect material. :-)
5:48 PM Dec 17th
 
DaveFleming
Arrieta is an interesting comparison, as their ages during their 'big' seasons line up (there's a six months difference on birthdays). To my mind, the big differences between the two would be durability, pedigree, and track record.

- Arrieta's breakout season was insanely good, but it was the first time he crossed 200 IP in a season. Cole's had four seasons over 200 IP.

- Arrieta was eventually selected in the fifth round, the third year his name was in the amateur draft. Cole went first-round out of HS, and was first overall out of college.

- After Jake's big year, he was sitting at 56-38 with a 3.70 ERA, 108 ERA+, 8.1 K/9, 3.1 BB/9...I suppose you could find a few pitchers who had that as their baseline crossing into their thirties. But Cole is currently sitting at 94-52 with a 3,22 ERA, 127 ERA+, 10.1 K/9, and 2.1 BB/9, which is a much stronger base to project a career from.

I like David Price as a comparable, actually, which can't make Yankees fans feel too happy. Price hasn't been as bad as I thought since coming to Beantown (10.8 WAR over three seasons worth of innings), but he might be a worst-case scenario for Cole.

Just some thoughts!
2:25 PM Dec 17th
 
Marc Schneider
To me, in baseball (with no real salary cap), the issue of whether a contract is good or bad depends almost entirely on the team's financial position (absent a complete collapse). I think it's highly unlikely that Cole repeats what he did this year; he reminds me a bit of Jake Arrieta, who was absolutely dominant for a year or year and a half and since has been a good, but not spectacular pitcher. That's not necessarily so bad but it's not what the Yankees are expecting. But he doesn't necessarily have to be as good as he was this year to still be an ace and a valuable acquisition. For the Yankees, it makes sense simply because they can afford it. Buying at the top end of the market is always going to mean paying a premium; if Cole wasn't at the top end, the Yankees wouldn't have been interested.
11:38 AM Dec 17th
 
steve161
According to all the reporting I've seen, the Dodgers' last offer to Cole was for $300 million. The Yankees got him for $330 million. So the premium was $30 million, spread out over nine years. To the New York Yankees, this is pishkes (Yiddish for, more or less, chicken feed).

Brock: we all pretty much agree with you about Jeter, except Maris. And I don't think anybody would disagree that we're all sick of talking about it, except Maris.
10:28 AM Dec 17th
 
Brock Hanke
I just caught myself making a mistake. I gave you ARod's career dWAR, rather than his career dWAR as a SHORTSTOP. That is, I included his years as a 3B. So, I went back and looked for his SS years. There are two years where he was a combo, playing both SS and 3B. Skipping those, his dWAR for his career as a Shortstop came to 9.9. Still a long way ahead of the Replacement Rate.
2:33 AM Dec 17th
 
Brock Hanke
If you check, you will see that I said what I said about Jeter's defense was in the context of every metric I know of. So, I just now fact-checked Win Shares and WAR, because they were the best-known. In the book Win Shares, Bill grades the defense of many players, including ARod and Jeter, through the year 2000, which fortunately, lines up right with the year in question. As of the end of 2000, ARod had a defensive ranking of C+. Derek Jeter had a D+. Over in the land of dWAR, which is WAR's signature defensive metric, Jeter, as of 2000, had 0.1 dWAR, which, remember, is the Replacement Rate, not the Average or anything else. ARod had 6.6 dWAR as of 2000, in one more year, since he debuted one year before Jeter. For their careers, ARod had 16.6 dWAR, and Derek Jeter had 0.1, which, again, is right at the Replacement Rate. I stand by my previous comments. The Replacement Rate is a miserable ranking, whether on defense or on offense. I have no quibbles with Jeter's offense..
2:21 AM Dec 17th
 
MarisFan61
What I'm saying is, many are seeing the deal in a totally different 'paradigm' than how you're evaluating it.

Let me put it from a different direction than how I put it before (but it's the same thing).

Suppose the Yanks have decided that it's mega mega important for them to win a championship NOW -- and, to be reasonable about it, considering how much of crapshoot the post-season is, not to mention how baseball is to some extent, let's say that "now" means within the next 2-3 years.

Suppose the Yanks have decided that the last couple of years, and especially this last post-season, have shown them loud and clear that in order to have their best chance to do that, they absolutely need a top-top-top level starter.
Suppose also they decided that Cole is good enough for that, and that in fact he was the prime one from among the available pitchers, if not the only suitable one.

And that they could well afford the amount.

I happen to think that all those conditions were met.
(In fact, as I said a couple of months ago on Reader Posts, I thought it at that time, and therefore anticipated that the Yanks would be glad to do such a deal, for those reasons.)


As with what you're saying, of course this also relates to "how good" he is. But it's from a different direction. It doesn't require Cole's meeting what you're getting at, about good he is. It only requires his meeting those above things -- and I'd say he clearly does.
9:42 PM Dec 16th
 
wovenstrap
I'll count that as a shrug, Maris. To my knowledge, there hasn't been much public discussion about the "premium" the Yankees had to swallow. I think I'm the only one talking about it that way. Everyone's been shrugging it off as a rational contract because Cole is just that good. That discourse is missing something, because Cole isn't clearly worth 10% more than any other pitcher, and the Yankees did take a real hit in accepting it. But everyone is playing blasé about it. The more I think about it, the more significant that "premium" is. It's like a poker tell. But I've said enough about all of this, I've made my case as best I can. People don't agree with me.
8:09 PM Dec 16th
 
MarisFan61
(typo -- "ignored" was supposed to be present tense)
7:32 PM Dec 16th
 
MarisFan61
IMO what you're calling "the premium" is simply what they had to pay to get him.

If you really really want something and you really really feel you need it, and right now, and that this is it, provided you can afford it, it's worth it for you to get it.

I realize that this ignored the post-hoc stuff of how it actually works out.
But you never know how something will work out. All you have at the time is the available information and your judgment -- and if the available info and your judgment at the time tells you the above, then there you are.
7:31 PM Dec 16th
 
wovenstrap
As for the rest, I agree with everyone's assessment of Cole but I would just throw in a note of caution. In '85 Dwight Gooden had the best season of any SP since Carlton. How did his next 4 years work out? It's kind of a silly example but there is a little bit of conflict between sustained A- performance over many years and an A+++ like Cole's.

Very few voices after the contract was signed were emphasizing that the Yankees paid a HECK of a premium for it. Everyone seemed to shrug and say "that seems about right." I'm not on that bus, I think the premium was super-big. The Yankees might not regret the contract but they might regret the premium, I think that's my position on it.
5:36 PM Dec 16th
 
wovenstrap
I think that 98% conclusion is rationalization to some degree. If you ask, how would Kluber, Verlander, Strasburg, Kershaw, Greinke have handled the situation, it becomes a little clearer how weird it was. None of those guys would have handled it that way.
5:27 PM Dec 16th
 
DaveFleming
A few stray responses...

-While I certainly think Verlander has been the better pitcher over the last couple years, Cole's forward projection would have to be better, considering his relative youth and health record. Maybe there are a few pitchers I'd project as being more valuable than Cole over the next five seasons, but....not too many of them are available to the highest bidder.

-As for Cole's 'I'm no longer a member of the organization'...I'd chalk 98% of that up to his team having just lost a grueling World Series that he had been mentally prepping to close out for most of the night.

-A factor in Cole's defense is that his college career has actually limited the strain on his arm. If he had signed with the Yankees out of HS and run through the minors, he'd likely have more professional innings on his arm than he currently has. One of the best indicators of long-term health for an SP is limited early usage (we could call it the Earl Weaver method).

-On Jeter....while he had his first bad defensive season in 2000, that was preceded by a string of passable seasons at the position, and a solid reputation. It is easy to mock Jeter's defense in hindsight, but at the time the contract was offered, Jeter's defensive reputation wasn't nearly the 'thing' it became.

-And...you'd have a hard time selling me on the notion that the contract was anything but great, either going into it or coming out. Jeter gets a positive on just about every variable one could imagine for projecting a player's contributions going forward, and the end-result bears out those positives. The Yankees got a decade where their shortstop averaged 151 G, 192 H, 108 runs, 22 steals, and a .310/.380/.445 triple-slash...even factoring in negative defensive numbers, he was a 4.0-WAR player for the duration, which is a bargain even without factoring the intangibles he brought.

-As to 'Butts in the Seats'...one of the factors I mentioned was 'marketability,' which I think I touched on with Rendon and Cole...I don't think either is a significant draw, though Cole has a better chance than Rendon.

Anyway, thanks all for the feedback!

2:56 PM Dec 16th
 
wovenstrap
Based on his 2019 performance, a lot of people seemed to think he wouldn't lose a game in the playoffs. He did, though.
11:28 AM Dec 16th
 
wovenstrap
That's true about the cheating scandal, Steve161. I had not thought of that. I sincerely think that's not what was operating, though. As I say, I'd want to hear more.

It would be my guess that people who work with players would say that one's current configuration of coaches etc. matters a lot more than people would guess. Athletes DO, routinely, "forget" breakthroughs from the more distant past.

On Cole's quality, I think we might be setting ourselves up for an interlude in the summer of 2021 where everyone is like "why did everyone think Cole was that good again?" He's only been kicking ass for two years. Andrew Miller kicked ass for a couple of years too. It probably won't work out like that, he's real good. But the chances are a touch higher of that happening than the contract/discourse would suggest.
11:25 AM Dec 16th
 
MarisFan61
.....and good point from Steve on the cap thing. Hadn't thought, maybe could be so.
I would love it to be.
11:22 AM Dec 16th
 
MarisFan61
Woven: I agree about the second point (i.e. the cap thing), and thought it immediately at the time -- and I gotta believe, or at least hope, as a Yank fan, that the Yanks weren't oblivious to it.

I see the first thing differently, and not at all because he's on top of any rankings right now. Yes, it is getting said a lot that he's 'the best pitcher in baseball," at least around New York which is especially odd because until awful recently they were saying it about Jacob de Grom. This huge contract didn't require and (to me) doesn't in the least mean he's the best pitcher in the game. It means he was felt at least by some (me included) to be (1) the best available pitcher right now, and (2) good enough and fitting enough to meet a perceived desperate immediate need of some teams.​
11:20 AM Dec 16th
 
steve161
Another possible explanation for the change of caps--and this is the purest speculation--is that Cole wanted to get away, at the earliest possible moment, from being associated with an organization that was using a camera to steal signs. Or that smeared a reporter for telling the truth about one of its executives.

Also, if his improvement with Houston has something to do with the organization's coaching or analytics, he won't forget everything he learned about himself just because he leaves town.
5:59 AM Dec 16th
 
wovenstrap
I just realized that Cole is of course sitting on top of the SP Rankings this minute. I respect that ranking but I still think Verlander and a few other guys actually have established a higher quality more conclusively than Cole. The ranking is a snapshot and the contract implies something beyond the snapshot, is what I'm saying. He's obviously very very good.

Final point. The Astros keep dramatically improving the performance of their pitchers, and now he is no longer with the Astros.... is that something that would worry you, that they and they alone possess the elixir to Cole's 2019? I would think a lot about that issue as well.
3:16 AM Dec 16th
 
wovenstrap
That article was excellent, Dave.

I have two observations about the Cole signing that I haven't heard anyone else say, but seem somewhat obvious to me. It's kind of fun when that happens. I'm not sure I'm right about either one of them, but I think they deserve an airing.

1. The implication of the contract is that Cole is the best starting pitcher in baseball. Not to get ahead of anybody here, but it's pretty obvious that that is not true. Or at least that there's not very much reason to believe that it is true. Cole had a very very good 2018 followed by a truly exceptional 2019, after a bunch of pretty good years, and that is not the kind of résumé that would ordinarily cause anyone who subscribes to the Bill James website to say that this is the best pitcher we got. It's two years of excellence, and there are a handful of other guys who have more impressive résumés.

(1A. Oh, I also wanted to say that one path to a bad contract is putting too much stock into a player's last two years. Mo Vaughn, anyone?)

2. It's well known that after the Astros lost the World Series this year, Cole immediately took off his Houston hat and put on a BorasCorp. hat and snapped at an Astros employee that he didn't work for the team anymore so get out of my way, or something. It's possible that I'm overstating it a little.

If I were the one contemplating signing Cole to a nine-year deal, I'd want to hear quite a bit more about that little incident and find out if there was anything I needed to know about Cole's personality. That is troublesome behavior right there. Maybe it's Lefty Grove "competitive sumbitch" personality or maybe it's "melts down when things don't go his way" personality. If it's my $325mil, I'd want to get affadavits from 40 former teammates and his shrink.

He's a dynamite young pitcher and his personality is probably just fine. He'll be a stud for the next five years, very likely. Yanks want to beat the 'Stros, it might be necessary.


3:07 AM Dec 16th
 
MarisFan61
I almost resisted saying it because I've said it 'more than once' before :-) .....but:
About Jeter's defense, the post below, besides in any event being an exaggeration, in my little opinion reflects a tunnel-visioned unsophisticated view of a shortstop.
12:26 PM Dec 15th
 
Brock Hanke
A very good article. I have a couple of things I think are off about it, and I'll list them, but this is a good article, and I don't want anyone to think that it is not.

1) The Yankees were not getting Jeter "entering" his prime, when they signed him before 2001. Jeter's four-year prime were 1998-2001. They bought one prime Jeter year and his decline phase. It was a good deal, if you're the Yankees and can afford to pay for his decline phase, but he was not entering his prime.

2) Jeter was, by any metric that I know of, a wretched defensive shortstop, nowhere near "fielding ably." Alex Rodriguez would have been a far better choice for that position, and ARod was basically an average defensive SS.

3) I regarded the Pujols signing as lousy, because it was not the Cards who signed him - you are right about the Cards using their history with Pujols to not get in trouble with their fans if he fell apart and could no longer play defense. People forget, because it happened early in his career, that Albert came up as a 3B, but hurt his arm. They moved him to LF, and he developed plantar fasciitis. He could still play 1B OK when the Angels signed him, but his future turned out to be as a DH, mainly. He was a huge injury gamble.

4) One of the most important things about superstar long-term contracts is that salaries are always going up. If you're eight years into a ten-year contract, what you are paying the player for that eighth year might be less than other players of his quality are getting, eight years after he signed. It's a hidden advantage, and most people don't think about it, but it is real. The above three points are mostly just factoids, but this fourth one is very important, I think, because people DON'T think about it.​
11:54 AM Dec 15th
 
OldBackstop
Insurance is a topic that I wish someone would dissect. It can be huge, of course....the Mets were protected to some degree on David Wright's career ending injury (75 percent) and Cespedes two year absence (something slightly less than 75 percent). But did they have it on Lowrie, who missed all this year at 10 mil? Did they put it into deGrom five year deal....and were there restrictions on a post TJ surgery guy? Are the premiums considered when negotiating with agents ?

It all seems sort of hush hush and tailored to the individual circumstances. But it has such an enormous impact....I wish someone would write about it.

Like Dave :-)
3:12 AM Dec 14th
 
OldBackstop
Hi Dave,

An interesting column as always!

Your list of questions is interesting, but...could it be missing one business question?

-- does this guy put butts in seats? On the Mets, there are some hero guys...and they look like heroes....Thor and Alonso. Maybe some NY fane, or Yankee fans, come to watch a future Hall of Famer like Cano.


9:39 PM Dec 13th
 
DaveNJnews
In terms of Gerrit Cole, I was thinking of how many terrific pitchers in recent years flamed out well before they hit their late 30s.

For instance, I realized that both Brandon Webb and Johan Santana are 40 years old. Doesn’t it seem like they’ve been gone forever?

Tim Lincecum is 35. Gone
Jered Weaver is 37.
Jake Peavy is 38.
Roy Oswalt is 42, already off the Hall of Fame ballot.
Cliff Lee is 41, and on the ballot this year.
Roy Halladay, elected last year, would be 42.


On track to make this list: Felix Hernandez and Johnny Cueto.



3:54 PM Dec 13th
 
MWeddell
Excellent article, Dave, as usual.
2:59 PM Dec 13th
 
MarisFan61
Shthar: I think the mini-bars are actually a great great example.

I take it that you mean the high cost (as opposed to that we can get easily bombed by imbibing all of what's in there).

I basically don't drink so I'm not prone to the latter, but, when I really really need a Snickers bar or something like that and there's no place else to get it or if I'm feeling incapable of going anywhere else, the Snickers bar is well worth the $5 or $100 or whatever it costs. :-)​
12:06 PM Dec 13th
 
MarisFan61
Terrific!
To your questions (as if you asked me): :-)

"Is that a better way to interpret these kinds of big-salary, long-term moves...."
Yes

"or am I just recycling more of the same, in a different format?"
No

"Did you think about these contracts in a more complex way, or is it too much forest?"
I tried to think of them pretty much how you're doing.

"What questions did I forgot to ask?"
I think none, except that for Cole, for a Yankee fan who follows the team very closely and feels he has his pulse on the finger of the team (as it were), there were some extra wrinkles in there, like that they had somewhat passed on making this kind of move in recent years and they saw it basically bite them in the butt (although this gets counter-argued in some ways), and that they have a special desperation to win a championship within the next couple of years and that they (I'm saying) relatively don't and won't care as much what happens after that. But except for such admitted guesswork, I think you got it.

"What questions are important?"
I think you got them all, including that you looked at team-specific considerations. (I just went into more detail with that on Cole -- and I realize that maybe you did too, but just didn't go into it at such length in the article.)
11:39 AM Dec 13th
 
shthar
Nobody is making these offers cause they think the guy is going to be any good in 8 years.

They're making them, cause that is the price to get the guy NOW.

It may not be the smart thing to do, but if we were so smart, hotels wouldn't have mini-bars in thier rooms.
10:59 AM Dec 13th
 
 
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