Over the past few years, running a fan page for the Chicago Cubs, I have heard any number of fans complaining about the Cubs lack of spending in free agency. They see teams like the Anaheim Angels signing players Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to eye popping deals, they see the Detroit Tigers signing Prince Fielder to a mega deal and more recently the Seattle Mariners signing Robinson Cano to a deal that many feel is stupid money. The argument is, if teams continue to spend this much money on various players, then the mega deals are not going away anytime soon, and thus cannot be called throwing around stupid money.
Looking at those deals though, you have to wonder if they were really good deals. Pujils signed a 10 year contract worth $240 Million. In his first two years, Pujols has hit .275 with 47 home runs and 169 RBI in one and a half seasons. Pujols got injured last season and you have to wonder how much time he has left as a top caliber baseball player. On that $240 Million deal, he has earned just $28 Million, think he earned that over his first two years? Maybe he did, but that was the cheap end of the deal. Next season he will make $23 Million, and his salary will increase $1 Million a year over the next seven seasons after that. Pujols used to be a stud player, but is there really anything he can do that will justify $23 Million? How about the $30 Million he will be making in the final year of that deal when he is going to be 41 years old.
Say what you will, but that is stupid money.
Let’s stick with the Angels and look at Josh Hamilton a little bit. Hamilton signed a five year contract worth $125 Million. On average, he is getting paid more than Pujols, and he is a lesser player. His first year with the Halos, he made $15 Million and hit a meager .250. He managed to hit 21 home runs and drove in 79 RBI. Perhaps he just had a bad year, he will be able to prove the doubters wrong this coming season, when he will also be paid $15 Million. But, the year after that, he will make $23 Million before topping out at $30 Million the final two years of his deal. If he is unable to rebound from the worst season he has ever had when playing near a full season, that is going to be a truly horrific contract for the Angels.
Fielder signed a nine year deal with the Tigers worth $214 Million, and thus far might be the only one who has come close to earning the deal he was signed to; at least so far. With the Tigers, he hit .295 over his two seasons with the club while driving out 55 home runs to go along with 214 RBI. In his two seasons, Fielder made $23 Million a year, and averaged roughly 28 home runs and 107 RBI a year. I am not too sure if those averages are worth the $23 Million he was paid, but he definitely out produced both Pujols and Hamilton who made less than that last year. However, the Tigers traded away Fielder before his contract starts paying him $24 Million a year over the next seven seasons. Perhaps his decrease in play at the end of last season gave them reason to worry about his expensive contract, and that helped them decide to trade him away for a cheaper player who could fill a void for them, and allow them to move Miguel Cabrera over to his natural position of first base. In Texas, if Fielder is able to stay healthy, he should be able to do wonders offensively, so that contract might actually work out; as long as he is able to keep his weight under control.
Finally, we have Cano who signed a deal that matched Pujols 10 year deal worth $240 Million. No one will argue that Cano is an impressive hitter who has averaged a .309 batting average over his nine year career with 24 home runs and 97 RBI a year on average. While those numbers definitely are not worth $24 Million a year, his playing second base makes those numbers all the better. You do not expect power numbers like that out of your second baseman. Add in his ability to play good defense, and that deal looks a little better. The problem is, he is 31 years old, and will be 41 by the time his contract ends, just like Pujols. Unlike Pujols though, his deal is a straight $24 Million a year, and does not change.
While some fans might have been upset that the Cubs did not dive in the free agent pool to sign these players, the massive size of their contracts should be reason enough to make fans let of a sigh of relief. They were pissed off at the contract Alfonso Soriano received, and he performed just as well as Pujols and Hamilton did early on in their contracts. Imagine if the Cubs did sign those two and they performed that poorly. The very same fans that wanted the Cubs to sign them, and were applauding the contract handed out, would be the first ones to picket Wrigley Field demanding that the Cubs fire Theo Epstein for making such a foolish free agent purchase.
Sure, hindsight is a perfect 20/20 and there was no way to know they would not come close to earning their salaries. Perhaps there are still some Cub fans who would gladly still take them at the salary they are making while living and dying with whatever they are able to get from them. After all, they might still be a little better than what the Cubs currently have if they continue to produce at the current form, but they would cost vastly more money.
But there is one more high profile free agent target whom the Cubs are reportedly looking at signing. Will the Cubs be willing to throw out what it might cost to land Masahiro Tanaka? What the Cubs might have to spend to land the stud pitcher is still to be determined. Find out next time just what they might have to spend to land this big fish, and if the signing will really be worth while.