Obviously, when we are going to value any long-term contract, looking at them one year in doesn’t give us a full picture of their value. Still, with six $100+ million contracts being signed since the 2010 World Series, it’s easy to tell which have been favorable for the clubs and which have been utter disasters. If we look at this another year or two down the line things might be different, but let’s see how the deals currently rank:
1. Ryan Braun – Milwaukee Brewers – 5 years at $105 million
With Prince Fielder potentially leaving after the season, this was an absolute coup for the small market Brewers. Not only did they get an MVP-like performance in 2011 (.332, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 109 R and 33 SB), but they bought some goodwill from their fan base in the process. Braun has quickly emerged as one of the premier hitters in the game and this contract should reap benefits for the team for years to come.
2. Adrian Gonzalez – Boston Red Sox – 7 years at $154 million
Let’s forget about his ridiculous excuses for why the Red Sox collapsed down the stretch (though hopefully it doesn’t show a crack in his ability to handle the big market media in Boston). What he proved is that all the hype of him landing with the Red Sox was justified. Overall he hit .338 with 27 HR and 117 RBI, including hitting .347 at Fenway. Yes, we’d have liked to have seen more power, but a shoulder injury could help to explain that away. There’s no reason to think that he can’ continue to punish American League pitching.
3. Cliff Lee – Philadelphia Phillies – 5 years at $105 million
Did anyone actually see this one coming? Lee shocked the baseball world last season when he burned both the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers to take “less” money and go back to Philadelphia. Giving any pitcher a long-term contract is a risky proposition (thanks to the constant threat of injury), so it’s hard to rank a lucrative contract for a pitcher at the top of these rankings. Throw in his recent struggles in the postseason and there is reason to be at least a little bit skeptical about this contract. Forget about his amazing regular season (he’s going to be in the Cy Young Award conversation), over his past three postseason starts he’s now allowed 14 ER over 17.2 innings while going 0-3. Really though?! Is anyone going to hang their hat on that? Considering he’s 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA over 11 career postseason starts, this fact doesn’t drag him down too far these rankings
4. Troy Tulowitzki – Colorado Rockies – 10 years at $157.75 million
How could Tulowitzki not rank towards the top of this list? It’s not because of his talent, but the constant fear of him missing time due to injuries is going to hang over him for the entire life of this contract. Yes, he played in 143 games in 2011 (after playing in just 122 in ’10), but the fact that he was banged up for a second straight season is a major concern. Will he ever be able to play an entire season? Anyone signed for 10 seasons is a major risk because a lot can happen. A player who has already shown the propensity for injuries? It’s a long time to be keeping your fingers crossed.
5. Carl Crawford – Boston Red Sox – 7 years at $142 million
There was a lot of concern regarding this signing, but the thought was that it could be a disaster at the tail end of the contract considering Crawford’s value stems from his legs. Unfortunately for him, the struggles struck much earlier than anticipated. Instead of providing the team with the best top of the order combo in the league (along with Jacoby Ellsbury), Crawford instead was stuck towards the bottom of the order due to hitting .255 with 11 HR, 56 RBI, 65 R and 18 SB. Is it time to write him off as a disaster? Absolutely not. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him come back and excel for the next two or three years. Unfortunately, the same concerns we all had about the tail end of the contract a year ago are still there (if not amplified). That’s going to drop him down these rankings and it will be really interesting to see how his struggles affect Jose Reyes’ ability to secure a huge contract (though he already has his own injury concerns).
6. Jayson Werth – Washington Nationals – 7 years at $126 million
Before the ink dried on the contract we all knew this one would be a disaster. Could we have imagined it being as bad as it was? Probably not, though that is of little consequence at this point. Werth battled injuries throughout the season, finishing at .232 with 20 HR, 58 RBI, 69 R and 19 SB. He’s never going to live up to the contract, which figures to be an albatross on the Nationals payroll for the foreseeable future. With the big bats available this offseason, the team would have been better served to wait 12 months and spend the money elsewhere.