Apparently, the San Diego Padres didn’t get the memo I sent out a couple of weeks ago explaining that the slow market for free agents is not collusion, but a natural readjustment in the marketplace. One way or another, though, the chain has been broken, and the clowns could start marching in.
Super-agent Steve Boras knew that if he and his clients waited long enough, someone would break. He knew that because P.T. Barnum was right and out of thirty owners, there had to be a sucker somewhere. MLB found its sucker in San Diego and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association (MLBPA) is dancing in the streets.
By now, the tremors must have reached your doorstep, and you’ve heard the Padres have signed Eric Hosmer to a lucrative deal in which, According to reports, Hosmer’s deal runs for eight years with a total value of $144 million. Meanwhile, MLB.com reported that there is an opt-out clause after the fifth year, and Bleacher Report reported that the deal is front-loaded: The first five years are at $20 million per season (with a $5 million signing bonus); the last three are at $13 million annually.
I suspect the Padres are waiting for “extra credit” due to their foresight in front-loading as opposed to the old style of back-loading these long-term deals. And it seems reasonable the Padres organization is excited about the prospect of finishing 74-88 (accounting for Hosmer’s WAR of 4.0 last season) in 2018 instead of 70-92, albeit while trailing everyone in the NL West Division once and forever again.
And who knows? Maybe Hosmer, at 28, will be the exception to the rule which pegs an MLB player’s prime years as being age 25-31, meaning he’ll be on the downside for five-eighths of his contract. Okay, enough. You see the point. And to be fair, the Padres do have the third best farm system in MLB according to Keith Law, the guru for these things, which puts them behind only the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees.
To their credit then, the Padres did find a solid veteran and good clubhouse guy to lead the kids who will be coming along. But then again, why not five years instead of eight. What’s the message to their fans? Our rebuilding and drive to a Championship, which would be their first in 34 years, is going to take that long?
In any event, it’s a done deal, and the dam is broken. Hosmer’s contract sets the bar at a new height now, and the consequences are bound to be severe for teams who have waited and waited for prices to go down instead of up. What do you think, for example, J.D. Martinez is going to be demanding – not asking for – now? That is, the same Martinez who just days ago was claiming he was “fed up” with the whole process.
Conversely, what is the mindset of players who read the market the same way many of us did pre-Hosmer? Todd Frazier, two years at $17 million and Jay Bruce, three years at $39 million, both of whom signed team-friendly deals with the New York Mets, though both could have commanded more.
It’s understood that no one wearing a uniform in MLB is going to the poorhouse and that players, as with all forms of the entertainment business, will seek the most they can get for their services. As such, Eric Hosmer deserves congratulations for securing the future of his family.
But (yes, there’s always a but). Jacoby Ellsbury remains the poster boy for everything that was wrong with the Yankees and all of MLB for too long. Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, and the Angels also. And how sweet it is for Bobby Bonilla every July when a check arrives for one million dollars (until 2035), even though he hasn’t had an at-bat for the New York Mets since before the turn of the century.
That was then, and this was supposed to be now. A time when owners and general managers came to their senses by paying big money to those who have earned it, but over a shorter contract duration. We’ll never see the day of one-year contracts again. And that’s okay, but eight years? As long as a two-term president?
We’ll see how this shakes out. Hopefully, the Padres will be the only organization in MLB to make the leap. The Red Sox, because of their need for some juice in their lineup, may need to cave as well with Martinez.
But if Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, and Carlos Gonzalez (all still on the market) sign five-year deals, then we’ll know this thing has gone all out of whack again.
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