$100 Million Men: A Look Back

An article by posted on May 24, 2011

Yesterday our own Craig Lerner posted a quote from WFAN’s Mike Francesa about Jose Reyes which was 

“Jose Reyes sat right there in that chair and looked me in the eye and told me he was looking for the same deal Carl Crawford signed. He sat right there in that chair. He said it on the air loud and clear, that he expects to get paid like Carl Crawford. This isn’t speculation, this isn’t from some blogger, this is from Jose Reyes himself who sat right there and said it to me. Now, is he gonna get a Carl Crawford type deal?” 

Now, I along with others have been searching long and hard for this quote. I can’t find it. Reyes was in studio with Francesa in December 2009, a full year prior to Crawford’s deal. The only time I know of that Francesa spoke with Reyes on the air, was down at Spring Training.

During that interview, Crawford’s name was never mentioned. I called the show, and had a nice chat with Mike (as I always do when I call), and he said Reyes said it on the air. I asked if his team could pull the audio, and it was danced around.

Look, I think the idea of “wanting Crawford money,” is speculation that has grown legs but never spoken by Reyes or his agent publically. I don’t think that makes it wrong though. I doubt Fred Wilpon would say that during an interview, if the idea of those figures was not mentioned by Reyes or his agent at some point.

Here’s the thing, whether Reyes gets $100million, or an insane $142million deal, any way you slice it, it’s a mistake. Heck, Crawford’s contract is a mistake in my estimation, so following suit would make no sense to me.

What you have to admit is that the Mets are in a financial struggle right now. So much is up in the air until this court case is settled, and so an investment of $100million+ in Jose Reyes to me isn’t a good idea if the Mets weren’t being sued, which makes it an even worse idea now.

Ignore for a second the fact we all in some way love watching Reyes play. We should, he’s an electric player. But the odds are not in the Mets favor for a 6 or 7 year deal worth over $100million to work for them.

The list of $100million contracts signed in Major League baseball is growing every year, and every year it seems as though it proves to be a mistake.

Carlos Lee signed a 6 year, $100million in November of 2006. Lee was 31 years old and halfway through his contract he started to hit a drastic decline. Since 2010, Lee is not the player the Astros signed. Fail.

In the winter of 2004, Albert Pujols avoided arbitration with St. Louis and signed a 7 year deal worth $100million. I’d say without a doubt this contract paid off. However, will his next one pay off? Not sure yet.

Prior to the 1999 season, Kevin Brown signed a 7 year, $105million deal with the LA Dodgers. He was 34 years old, and just like Carlos Lee he started to hit his decline about 3 years into the deal. (Please note, no accusations but baseball was a little different in 1999 for 30+ year old players.) 

Prior to the 2000 season, the Reds inked Ken Griffey Jr at 30 years old to a 9 year deal worth $116million. While there was some excitement in Cincinnati, I think it’s safe to say in terms of playing time, Griffey’s contract was a mistake. 

In January of 2005, Carlos Beltran signed a 7 year, $119million contract with the NY Mets. He’d turn 28 early that year. Beltran as you may have heard likely earned this deal due to an amazing playoff run with Houston. If Beltran swings and a positive outcome occurs versus Wainwright, we look at this contract differently.

However, consider the fact Beltran’s best regular season came as a Met in 2006. Makes it hard to justify why he deserved such a massive contract. 4 years into the deal, I’m sure the Mets regretted the contract. 

Just this past winter, Cliff Lee signed a 5 year deal worth $120million. At age 32, you can make a serious case for this contract to be too much. The issue with Lee is really he is paid to perform in October. Realistically he hasn’t been a dominant regular season pitcher other than his Cy Young season, so we’ll have to see if the Phillies win a World Series under this contract. 

In January of 2010, Matt Holliday signed a 7 year, $120million deal with the Cardinals. Many have their doubts that Holliday was worth such a contract, but the justification was that he’d protect Pujols. Now, it appears his contract could be the cause for the Cardinals not being able to give Albert what he wants. However, to be fair, he as performed very nicely for them in his first few years under contract. 

Prior to the 2002 season, the Yankees signed 31 year old Jason Giambi to a 7 year, $120million contract. Giambi would have 2 maybe 3 MVP caliber seasons under this contract, but for the most part it turned out to be a failure. 

Following the Mets World Series appearance, Mike Hampton at 28 years old left New York to join Colorado for 8 years, $121million. I’m sure you know, but in case you don’t. This was a failure. 

In April of 2010, Ryan Howard signed an extension with the Phillies for $125million over 5 years. This was 2 years after Howard helped the Phillies win the World Series. Howard was 30 years old, and following that contract he would have his worst full season as a big leaguer. Currently, he’s still a force but in no way has he been the 2006-2008 version of himself. 

Just this past winter, Jayson Werth signed a 7 year $126million deal with the Washington Nationals. Many of Werth’s critics suggest his numbers were padded due to the park he played in, but also the lineup around him. At 32 years old, Werth has yet to really earn this deal, as he seems to have reverted back to his Dodger Days. 

December of 2006, Barry Zito crossed the Bay Bridge and headed to San Francisco and thankfully, not New York. He signed a 7 year, $126million contract and the Giants have regretted it every day since. Zito hasn’t had a winning record since joining the Giants. 

November of 2006, Alfonso Soriano would turn 31 and join the Chicago Cubs. To do so, he’d get paid $136million for 8 years. Prior to that, he had won 2 Silver Slugger Awards. Since then he’s won none. He’s never cracked 80 RBI for Chicago, and prior to that he had done so for 5 straight years. In fact prior to that he cracked 90+ for five straight years. 

In February of 2008, the Mets traded for and then signed Johan Santana. Santana was seen as the missing piece to a championship caliber team. At 29 years old, he’s sign a 6 year, $137million deal. While it was a great trade, to date the contract has not worked out in the Mets favor. For the 3rd year in a row, Santana will not crack 30 starts. His strikeouts have drastically dropped since pre-2009.

The one everybody compares Reyes to; Carl Crawford signed a 7 year deal worth $142million at age 29. Crawford, like Reyes does most of his damage when he’s on base. To date, that has been a struggle. Regardless of his current statistics, you won’t find many people out there that think this contract was a great idea. 

In March of 2001, the Colorado Rockies signed their franchise player Todd Helton to a 9 year deal worth $141million. Helton was 27 at the time of the deal, and while the Rockies ended up getting to the World Series several years later, this contract wasn’t the best move. Granted, Helton has had a great career, but his numbers were never the same after the 2004 season. 

After acquiring Miguel Cabrera in a trade prior to the 2008 season, the Tigers inked him to an 8 year deal worth $152million. I’m a big Cabrera fan, but his off the field antics may be the reason why the Tigers regret this deal. However, to date, Cabrera has been one of the best hitters in the league. 

This past winter, the Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez and in early April they signed him to an extension for 7 years worth $154million. AGone is 29 years old, and this contract really depends on if the Red Sox can win a World Series within 3 years. He’s a great hitter, too early to tell if this contract works or not. 

This past November, Troy Tulowitzki signed a 10 year deal with the Rockies worth $157million. I think Tulo is a great player, but that great? He is only 26 years old, so he’s still within the prime of his career which is a positive for this contract. However, Tulo has never put up a season comparable to say Ryan Howard. Tulo is a rare power threat at SS and the team’s leader though. 

Prior to the 2001 season, 29 year old Manny Ramirez would sign an 8 year deal worth $160million with the Boston Red Sox. We can all make allegations of steroid use; we don’t know what took place earlier on. What we do know is that the Red Sox won 2 World Series’ during this contract. 

In December of 2008, the Yankees outbid themselves to sign the 28 year old C.C. Sabathia to a 7 year contract worth $161million with options galore involved. Hard to argue against the deal so far considering they won a World Series and many believed Sabathia could have won the Cy Young last year. 

That same winter the Yankees signed 29 year old Mark Teixeira to an 8 year, $180million contract. They won the World Series that season. Tex has had a great career, but his best year with the Yankees would have been this 4th maybe 5th best in his career. 

28 year old Joe Mauer is the face of the Twins franchise, and because of that he was signed to an 8 year, $184million contract. This will be the first season that contract would kick in, and to date he’s appeared in 9 games. 

In February of 2001, 27 year old Derek Jeter avoided arbitration and signed a 10 year deal worth $189million. Since then Jeter has cemented his spot in the Hall of Fame. Realistically he’s never had a regular season that would justify this contract. 

Then of course lastly, Alex Rodriguez. The king of all contracts. In December of 2000 he signed a 10 year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers. He was then traded to the Yankees, and would later opt out of his deal after the 2007 season. He then signed a 10 year deal worth $275million. Not bad A-Rod. 

There you have it, the list of the $100million players in the history of the sport. Things you may notice.

*More often than not, they turn out to be a mistake.
*Players often hit a decline within 3-4 years of the contract’s original signing.
*Players who sign with their original team have done so at an earlier age.
*In most cases when players sign with their original team, it’s done so before their final year.
*The only two players on this list who relied on speed as a part of their game were Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and Carl Crawford. 2 out of 3 have proven that legs don’t get better with age. We’re waiting on Carl. 

So while I enjoy seeing Reyes play SS for the Mets, the proof is there that a long-term $100million+ deal will not work out for the Mets in the long run.

When you sign Jose Reyes to a contract, you have to do it using the last 4 years of his career and project what the next 5-7 will look like. You can’t do it because he’s been red hot prior to Memorial Day.

Many organizations around the league use 100 pitches as their stopping point for a pitcher. I think they need to start considering 100 million as their stopping point for contracts because it usually doesn’t work out.

I enjoy watching Reyes play more than any other Mets player, and hope wherever he goes that he has success. I just firmly believe without a shadow of a doubt that signing him to a long-term $100+ million contract will not turn out good for the NY Mets.

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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