Wednesday, May 23, 2012

14 comments Bleacher Report Thinks Albert Pujols Has Ruined It For All Free Agents

General Managers, no matter what sport, tend to never learn. This is a widely known fact. All it takes is one stupid GM to sign a player to a lengthy and expensive contract. In leagues of 30 teams where every team is desperate to win (with a few exceptions) and more than one team bidding for a player it doesn't take much for a player to make a shit-ton of money in free agency. Well, that's all over now as we will learn today. See, General Managers have learned from Albert Pujols' struggles and we will see a list of ten players who will be affected by Pujols struggles when it comes time to be a free agent after this season.

There are two incorrect assumptions at work here:

1. Each of these players is in some way comparable to Pujols as to be affected by his struggles, which few of these players listed are in a comparable position to Pujols.

2. MLB General Managers have learned their lesson to not overpay for free agents. I doubt that lesson has been learned now since it doesn't seem to have been learned in the past. General Managers didn't learn their lesson in 2001 when the Rockies gave up a combined $172 million for the 28 year old Mike Hampton and 32 year old Denny Neagle. They haven't learned from Jayson Werth's contract given out by the Nationals, the $136 million contract given to Alfonso Soriano by the Cubs, the $126 million contract given out by the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells or the $126 million given to Barry Zito by the Giants. Why would MLB teams learn now? So what I am saying is while I wouldn't call Pujols' contract a bad contract, I don't think any of these players are going to be affected by Pujols' struggles when it comes time for free agency.

Thanks to Cory for emailing me this link. I always appreciate bad writing being emailed to me.

We can all agree that for the better part of the past decade, Albert Pujols has been the best player in baseball and that the 10-year, $254 million contract he signed with the Los Angeles Angels this past winter paid him as such.

I still say the best player in baseball over the last decade was David Eckstein. Pujols rode both of his World Series victories on the back of Eckstein's inspiring, gritty, emotional support...even if Eckstein wasn't on the team for the second World Series victory. We all know Eckstein's heart and grit was what pulled the Cardinals through to victory.

One month is certainly nowhere near enough time to pass judgement on whether his contract is a good one or not,

But it will change the way General Managers value players in free agency forever!

While Josh Hamilton is really the only impending free agent who could be mentioned in the same breath as Pujols in terms of impact on a franchise both on the field and from a marketing perspective, there are a number of players who are likely to find that the offers they receive are for fewer years, less money or both than originally expected.

So there will be offers for fewer years, less money or both of these things than the player expected. I think I understand. All of this is because of Albert Pujols' contract. What is never explained is why GM's are learning now, as opposed to learning over the past decade when plenty of other bad free agent contracts were handed out. Nevermind this, an article needs to be written and we shouldn't get too hung up whether the premise for the article makes sense with reality or not.

It seems this writer doesn't entirely understand the idea of using "comparables" to determine how much a player would be worth as a free agent. He compares outfielders, catchers, and third basemen of varying talent levels to show how Pujols contract and following struggles will affect these players. Let's start the slideshow!

Lance Berkman

Berkman is 37 years old and accepted a one year contract extension during last season. He avoided becoming a free agent and passed up the opportunity to accept a multi-year deal in order to sign a one year deal with the Cardinals. I would think Pujols' contract will have a 1.45% chance of affecting any deal Berkman gets this offseason.

They say that hindsight is 20/20, and that being the case, Lance Berkman wishes that he'd become a free agent earlier in his career, according to Dan Hayes of the North County Times. That being the case, it's fair to assume that the man known as Fat Elvis, who replaced Albert Pujols at first base in St. Louis, has his mind set on testing the waters of free agency again following this season rather than work out an extension with the Cardinals.

And of course teams will look at Albert Pujols' contract and say about Berkman, "There's no way we are giving a 37 year old over $200 million over 10 years." Because Berkman's future contract is so comparable to Pujols' contract and all. If you read the column where Berkman said he wished he had tested the waters of free agency, he was referring to when he was younger, not at his current age.

While Berkman would likely prefer a multi-year deal knowing that it's likely the last one of his career,

And you are basing this assumption on what? If Berkman preferred a multi-year deal he would have tried to sign one after last season.

Michael Bourn

Michael Bourn has nothing in common (in terms of the skill set they provide on the field) with Albert Pujols. He is represented by Scott Boras, who is known for getting top dollar for his clients in free agency and I can't imagine how Pujols' contract will affect Michael Bourn.

Considering that his game is predicated on his speed, perhaps the six-year, $106 million deal that Jose Reyes signed with the Miami Marlins would serve as a better example of why teams will be reluctant to dish out a similar deal to Michael Bourn.

And yet, you compare him to Albert Pujols and his contract. Go figure.

Earning $6.845 million this season, some have speculated that a five-year, $50 million contract extension would be a fair deal for both Bourn and the Braves.

Because we all know Scott Boras wants his clients to avoid hitting free agency as often as possible. The Braves have a 0.51% chance of signing Bourn. Bourn is going to want Jose Reyes-type money or at least five or six years at $80 million and the Braves won't pay that. Combining the fact he will only be 30 at the beginning of next season and his agent is Scott Boras, I think he will get it what he wants and his contract offer won't be affected by Albert Pujols.

While an annual salary of $10 million is probably close to accurate, it's hard to see anyone giving Bourn a five-year deal when you take Pujols and Reyes into consideration.

Not true. Reyes still got 6 years at $106 million last year from the Marlins despite other players reaching free agency and not being worth their contract in the past. I still fail to see how Pujols struggles are going to change free agency this winter.

Edwin Encarnacion

No. His contract won't be affected in any way by Albert Pujol's contract. No teams will shorten the length of a deal or reduce the amount of money offered to Edwin Encarnacion because of Albert Pujols and his contract. Agents use comparable players at his client's position to start a discussion about what a reasonable contract might be. Pujols is not a comparable to Encarnacion.

Andre Ethier

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal says that Ethier, who will turn 31 years old next April, is looking for a contract similar to the one Jayson Werth signed with the Washington Nationals a few years ago, in the neighborhood of $126 million over seven years.

So wouldn't Ethier be hurt by Jayson Werth's struggles more than Albert Pujols' struggles?

Josh Hamilton

Right, because if anything drags down Hamilton's value in free agency it is the value of Albert Pujols' contract and not Hamilton's history on and off-the-field. It isn't Hamilton's history of drug use, alcohol use, the scary thought he may relapse or the fact he is injured quite frequently that will drag his value down. No way. It is GM's seeing Albert Pujols struggle for one month and then becoming afraid Hamilton could struggle in the same way.

Since the 2009 season, his first in Texas in which he played 156 games, Hamilton has battled both his demons and his health, averaging 127 games played each of the past two seasons.

If anything, these injuries are why the length of Hamilton's free agent deal will be shorter or for less money than his talent level suggests he could receive.

Hamilton will be the most sought after bat on the free-agent market and is sure to receive multi-year offers from a number of teams and his annual salary will push, if not exceed, $20 million a year.

Which given the market, may be what he is worth. Boy, that Pujols deal really hurt Hamilton didn't it?

The issue with Hamilton will be the years offered—while history would dictate that a five or six-year deal was in the cards, I'd argue that with Pujols' struggles, Hamilton is more likely to receive three and four-year offers at the most.

If Pujols' struggles really affected Hamilton's free agency value wouldn't teams want to pay Hamilton less money per season rather than give him a shorter contract for $20 million per year? I guess it depends on the team, but if teams are scared of a long, expensive contract they may be willing to give Hamilton more years, but less money. Not to mention if Hamilton gets a three or four year offer at the maximum, then it is because of his injury and personal substance abuse history and may not have anything to do with Pujols' contract.

Mike Napoli

Mike Napoli is a catcher/first baseman. His value will most likely be measured against other catchers...which to add to my confusion, the author of this article admits. Yet, this article is supposed to be about Napoli's value being affected by Albert Pujols' struggles.

Napoli's agent, Brian Grieper told Heyman that "Mike Napoli is somewhere between Victor Martinez and Yadier Molina.

(shakes head sadly)

David Ortiz

With the issues surrounding the Boston Red Sox this season, two questions need to be asked in regards to 36-year-old David Ortiz.

1. How long of a contract will he be offered after this season?

2. How the hell will Albert Pujols' contract affect David Ortiz's contract offers?

His options would be limited to American League teams only considering his inability to play the field,

Albert Pujols can still play the field. Therein lies a major difference in Ortiz and Pujols and why one player's contract won't affect the other's contract.

but how many teams would be willing to invest multiple years at an annual salary around $15 million in him?

Not many now that Albert Pujols has struggled for one month after he received his large contract, that's for sure!

Nick Swisher

If it weren't for Albert Pujols, Nick Swisher would have gotten a $200 million contract.

Swisher will get a new contract from someone, but instead of a four or five-year deal in the $75-85 million range, he'll have to settle for a three-year deal around $50 million instead.

If this happens, it happens because the Yankees aren't keen enough to bring Swisher back, which would help drive up his price. Pujols has nothing to do with Swisher's contract situation.

Ichiro Suzuki

He turns 39 in October. He was never going to receive more than a three year deal. If Bleacher Report can't make a list of 10 players for a certain slideshow they are writing about, they need to shorten the number of players. I realize this would reduce their pageviews, but sometimes you have to sacrifice quantity for quality. This is a lesson Bleacher Report has never learned. Quantity always trumps quality in their world.

Shane Victorino

Victorino, who will be 32 years old before next season starts, wants a five-year deal, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Of course Victorino wanted a 10 year deal prior to Albert Pujols signing with the Angels. Because MLB General Managers immediately learn from all mistakes, he now knows even though he plays a different position from Pujols and is a completely type of hitter from Pujols that he will have to settle for a five year deal.

Earning $9.5 million this season, Victorino is sure to be looking for a rather significant raise, one that he very well may receive—just not a raise that will pay him through his 37th birthday.

And why is this? Not because teams don't want to pay for a 37 year old player whose speed is one of his biggest assets or because most guys who aren't franchise players don't receive big money after the age of 37 years old. Not in the author's opinion. In the author's opinion Victorino won't get a contract that goes through his 37th birthday because Albert Pujols struggled in his first month as an Angel after signing a huge 10 year contract.

Apparently this author struggles with the idea of using comparable players to determine the market value of a free agent. Pujols isn't really comparable to nearly all of these players. He also underestimates the willingness of one MLB team to give a large contract to a free agent player. All it takes is one team to make a huge offer and that's why Pujols contract shouldn't affect the offers pending free agents will receive.


Justin Zeth said...

Pujols is like 15 hits away from hitting .300. One hot month gets him back to basically what he hit last year. In all likelihood he will end the year hitting something like .290/.350/.460.

I don't know if I'd call Pujols' contract a bad contract in the same way as Prince Fielder's, but if I were a Cardinals fan I'd be very happy they didn't give him that money. His performance isn't going to be worth it.

But I have no idea what the hell that's supposed to have to do with Michael Bourn. And what about Jayson Werth? Won't somebody think of Jayson Werth?

Bengoodfella said...

Justin, when the Angels signed Pujols for as much and as long as they did I think they signed him for more than just his performance on the field. He also is very helpful in terms of marketing. I'm not sure he'll ever be worth the contract he signed, especially in the later years. I thought the focus on his struggles was a bit overblown. He has been bad, but a guy like Pujols just doesn't stop hitting. He'll be fine.

I don't think it is a bad contract for Pujols. I don't hate the Fielder contract too much either. I think the Fielder contract has risk in it, but I didn't see as much of an issue with Cabrera/V-Mart as others may have. Yeah, his performance could very well decline, which brings in the risk. Clearly the Tigers are trying to win now.

I think the Cards did the right thing though. There's no doubt in my mind. Pujols was St. Louis baseball, but just as I get why the Angels signed him, I get why the Cards let him go. It frees up more money and the Cards had a pretty good team around him anyway. Especially considering there is no DH in the NL, when he can't be stashed away at DH at times.

This has nothing to do with Werth or Bourn. They are different players from Pujols, not to mention Soriano is a better example of a player who got paid and then didn't earn his contract. I think it is ridiculous to believe Pujols' contract will change the way GM's do business. If they were going to change, they would have done so a few years back.

Justin Zeth said...

Fielder is going to be out of baseball by the time he's 33, tops. Probably 32. When you're as overweight as he is your back and your knees don't last long. Nobody even near his weight has ever had a useful season in the major leagues past age 33. So the Tigers are going to pay him $20 million a year for at least four or five years that he won't be playing at all. Ilitch overruled Dombrowski and signed Fielder to that contract because he wants to win now, while he's still alive, and expects to be dead by the time it turns into a millstone around the franchise's neck.

Maybe they found an insurance company daft enough to insure his contract since he's been very durable so far in his career. But I doubt it.

Bengoodfella said...

You think he'll be out of baseball by that time? I see the Tigers at least keeping him around to play through his contract. My optimism for him with the Tigers is based on the fact he will still be able to hit the baseball at the age of 33. Of course if that doesn't happen, it wasn't a smart move.

I do like the idea of an owner forcing his GM to win now while he is still alive and not care what happens after he dies. Sort of the opposite of a GM who makes moves to save his job and doesn't care how it affects the team after he gets fired.

I like the use of the word "daft," but I also doubt an insurance company would be able to insure that contract.

Justin Zeth said...

See Vaughn, Mo, who is easily the most comparable player. He had his last season that was worth half of what Prince Fielder makes at age 30. He was mediocre at 31 and 32, missed his entire age 33 season, came back and was mediocre again at 34, and was finished at 35. His legs gave out on him and he was finished as a star at 30.

Or see Cecil Fielder, who was slim compared to his son. He had his last good season at 29, then hung around as a mediocre DH for five years and was finished at 34. He had nagging injuries to his back and legs both.

You can't carry that much weight playing professional baseball and not have your back and/or legs give out on you in your early 30s. I may have exaggerated when I predicted he'd be finished at 33, but only by a year or two. The Tigers are very likely going to get two or three star-quality seasons, then three or four mediocre and/or injured seasons, then two or three years of paying $25 million a year to a player whose injuries have forced him to retire. I will go on the record predicting it will turn out to be a spectacularly bad contract for the 2015-2020 Tigers.

Bengoodfella said...

Justin, I always forget about Mo Vaughn. Maybe I've blocked out Bill Simmons' whining about Vaughn's injuries. Seems like Fielder's future is as a mediocre DH. It's hard to see that right now though, since he seems healthy.

If that is a spectacularly bad contract due to the injury issues your predict, then it is going to be a really, really spectacularly bad contract. He won't be like A-Rod and still be able to play the field. He could very well be done completely while getting paid $25 million per year.

Justin Zeth said...

Did Simmons really whine about Vaughn's injuries? That would be weird since other than 1994 he was pretty durable with the Red Sox. It was after he signed the big contract with the Angels that injuries more or less immediately ruined him.

By the way, I like the way you respond to arguments that have become somewhat pointless (like our present one) by rewording what the other party has said and saying you more or less agree. The other party is left with no way to credibly continue the argument since nothing was left for him to disagree with without contradicting himself. Stalemate is reached, argument ends.

You should teach some kind of seminar for people who post in comment threads and on forums. How To End An Internet Argument 401.

Justin Zeth said...

Addendum: I think the psychological scarring Simmons has inflicted on you may have caused you to confuse Mo Vaughn with Nomar Garciaparra.

Bengoodfella said...

Justin, I don't mean to end the Internet argument. I don't really tend to argue too much unless I passionately disagree with you on something. In this case, Fielder's contract could end up being the albatross you say it is. I think you brought up some good points a/b overweight players who have aged poorly. Considering I have nothing to base it on and you do, I can except your point.

There was some criticism of the Fielder signing w/ V-Mart & Cabrera on the roster and I do feel more passionate about that. I don't quite see the huge issue others have stated they see. V-Mart will have his contract run out before Fielder can't play 1B anymore, so then it just becomes Cabrera/Fielder at DH/1B over the years after that.

Bengoodfella said...

Justin, you very well could be right. I did a search, but I remember Bill complaining that Mo didn't stay healthy a/f he got the Red Sox and used that as part of his "cursed" reasoning. I don't intend to make things up, and I swear I read this. Of course I can't find it.

I am going to be more argumentative from now on. I probably lean towards possibly accepting I am not right about everything a little too much. I need a bigger ego. You made good points and I wasn't hung-up on my being right. I'm going to pick a fight in the Simmons post now.

Justin Zeth said...

Just Youtube Skip Bayless. Then watch and learn.

Bengoodfella said...

I can't watch Skip Bayless. Just watching and listening to him talk makes my blood boil. It annoys me b/c people will defend him by saying he is good at trolling his viewers. It's annoying b/c he shouldn't be trolling his viewers and ESPN should do better than hire someone just to piss everyone off. He's an abomination and an embarrassment to journalism everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I know this post is old as hell, but it's even more hilarious now that Hamilton signed the exact contract that the writer said he wouldn't get. From the Angels who learned better!

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, this writer has probably written 100 other slideshows and can't remember he wrote this. It is hilarious that Hamilton got a contract the writer said he wouldn't get. The fact he got the contract from the Angels makes it that much more hilarious...since like you said, they had learned better than to give out huge contracts like they did to Pujols.