FanPost

King's Ransom: Holliday & The Other Ten-Millionaire OFers

 

i have entered a shiny new realm
a very different and very spoiled world
it's with great pleasure i introduce myself
to call and thank you for such delicious pie

-- Guided by Voices, Big Boring Wedding

Seven is the new six--a serious number, especially when it is the number of years in length of a baseball contract for a player who, in one year's time, will be on the wrong side of thirty. How poetical, then, that Holliday, persumably with an eye on merchandise sales, has given the no. 15 jersey back to the nostalgia of the Aughts and placed his contract's year total on his back, so that every plate appearance, catch in left field, inning played, game won, and year completed, we as fans can constantly be reminded of the one thing many of us found wrong with the new (and, hopefully, soon-to-be-replaced) Biggest Contract In Franchise History: its length. (Take heart fellow VEBers, Mr. DeWitt is not worried about the length.)  

Much ink has been spilt over this deal with some proclaiming it one of the worst in baseball history, others--like our very own chuckb writing under the imaginative nome de plume "Chuck Brownson" (like that could be anyone's real name)--are not thrilled with it, and still more saying the contract isn't really good or bad.  What the contract has done is to raise the spectre of other players who, not so very long ago, signed expensive deals that have evolved into albatrosses for the signors. This Fanpost deals with those members of the surprisingly obscure (I only just heard about it last week), Ten-Millionaires Club and how Holliday, as a player, compares to other players who have joined this club via free agency. While Dan is arbitrarily pulling names like Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells out of thin air, I plucked Soriano and Carlos Lee's names arbitrarily out of the same big-contract ether earlier in the Hot Stove (funny how our rivals' prize of a Hot Stove Past immediately comes to mind when contemplating albatross contracts), purely as a "be careful what you wish for" type of warning. Deservedly, the poorness of my comparisons was pointed out to me, so I wrote a sequel which focused on those players most similar to Matt Holliday through Age 29 and then looking at their Age 30 through 37 seasons. (How prescient, eh?) The problem with that post is that most of those fellows who played in earlier eras did not have weight-lifting programs, protein shakes, and other modern amenities. So, I am going back a little over ten years, to Manny Ramirez's first monster contract, and comparing Holliday as a player to those outfielders who have signed big-dollar deals to see who he lines up with and whether we can expect him to age like a fine French wine as opposed to a Belgian/American beer.

First, let me point out a short article by Buster Olney about the present-day valuation of Matt Holliday's contract:

The details of Matt Holliday's contract with the St. Louis Cardinals have been finalized, and the present-day value has been assessed at $113,580,723 by the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Holliday will be making salaries of $17 million for seven seasons, and of that, $2 million is deferred without interest, which reduces the present-day value.

The Cardinals' present-day assessment will be less than that of the union, because it uses a higher discount rate.

I don't even know what that last sentence means, so I defer to those better versed in such matters than I. 

Now, let us sally forth to Ten-Millionaire comparisons. River Avenue Blues has posted a sign which reads, "Beward the $100 million contract," and flanked it with pikes displaying the shrunken heads of Jason Giambi, Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano and other dead $100-millionaire ballplayers. (Yes, a Yankees blog is warning of $100 million contracts. No, really. I'm serious. Click on the link.) The list:

1. Albert Pujols (2004-2010) 
2. Alex Rodriguez (2001-2010) 
3. Manny Ramirez (2001-2008) 
4. Derek Jeter (2001-2010) 
5. Carlos Beltran (2005-2011) 
6. Todd Helton (2003-2011) 
7. Miguel Cabrera (2008-2015) 
8. Alex Rodriguez (2008-2017) 
9. Jason Giambi (2002-2008) 
10. Mark Teixeira (2009-2016) 
11. Carlos Lee (2007-2012) 
12. Ken Griffey, Jr. (2000-2008) 
13. Alfonso Soriano (2007-2014) 
14. Vernon Wells (2008-2014) 

Obviously, we run into some comparison problems, mainly because only three of these $100MM contracts are in the rear view mirror of baseball's historical highway. The Pujols, Jeter, and A-Rod deals are basically over and done with (and so totally worth it). The Carlos Beltrain and Todd Helton contracts have two years remaining. The rest will be over with in a rather long time. Therefore, I don't really like this list for our purposes, but I thought I'd pass along the link and the list for your perusal. I have plucked a few names from this list and added a few more. My pickings: Manny, Beltran, Lee, Junior Griffey, Soriano, and Wells. My additions: Vlad, Sheffield, Jimmy Edmonds, Bernabe "Bernie" Williams, JD Drew, Bobby Abreu and Larry Walker. (I admit that I should have probably done more comparisons, but I have a job where I find myself at my office seven days a week so I only did thirteen and the list is based purely on my own curiosity.)

We will begin by looking at the OPS+ for each player by seasonal age.

Player

Age 30

Age 31

Age 32

Age 33

Age 34

Age 35

Age 36

Age 37

Mannywood

184

160

152

153

165

126

165

155

Larry Walker

178

158

163

110

160

150

121

153

Carlos Beltran

125

129

143

-

-

-

-

-

Alfonso Soriano

135

122

119

84

-

-

-

-

Carlos Lee

126

125

144

118

-

-

-

-

Junior Griffey

133

124

103

145

122

144

99

119

Vernon Wells

88

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Vladimir Guerrero

154

138

147

130

106

-

-

-

Gary Sheffield

139

176

164

138

162

141

137

107

Jimmy Edmonds

146

149

158

160

170

137

110

88

Bernabe Williams

149

140

138

141

107

108

85

96

Bobby Abreu

145

126

126

113

120

116

-

-

JD Drew

126

105

137

133

-

-

-

-

AVERAGE

141

138

141

130

139

132

120

120

First of all, there will be a down year or two or three (in the event of some sort of injury). Larry Walker had a down year. Alfonso Soriano had one last year. Junior Griffey had two. Vlad's Age 34 season was forgettable, earning him a make-good deal with the Rangers this Hot Stove. And, then there is Gary Sheffield who was consistently excellent throughout his thirties until last season's pedestrian 107 OPS+. (Looking at Manny and Sheff, is it wrong that a small part of me actually hopes that Holliday is using HGH?)

The center fielders of note seem to have followed a rather similar track. I don't count Griffey in this group because he was long ago shifted to a corner outfield position. Edmonds and Bernabe Williams* were great through their middle thirties, but then saw their decline occur rather precipitously. This is especially true for Williams.

My hope against hope is that the painful Jimmy Edmonds Experience does not repeat itself. Obviously, Matt Holliday has done nothing to endear himself to us the way that Edmonds did. Remember, Edmonds loved playing in St. Louis and instructed his agents to get an extension done, complete with pie-induced Hometown Discount. He then went out and was, essentially, a highlight reel both with the leather and the lumber, including some of the most dramatic plays of the memorable Aughts. Then, to watch this otherworldly talent decline to the point where you are counting down the days to his contract expiring, bemoaning his option year being swallowed by a two-year extension, proclaiming his trade to San Diego the best for all parties, and then to have him return in Cubbie blue...Well, it was more painful than Ole Yeller.

*If my given name was Bernabe, I would never, ever go by "Bernie," especially if I were a professional ballplayer.

Not surprisingly, the average OPS+ trends downward. A graph:

 

Quite honestly, if Matt Holliday posts an OPS+ of 120 in his Age 36 season, I will be thrilled.

Here is a chart of these players' respective salaries by seasonal age:

Player

Age 30

Age 31

Age 32

Age 33

Age 34

Age 35

Age 36

Age 37

Mannywood

15.463

20

22.5

22

18.279

17.016

18.929

23.854

Larry Walker

6.33

6.05

5.4

12.67

12.67

12.67

12.67

12.67

Carlos Beltran

13.57

18.62

19.23

20.07

20.07

-

-

-

Alfonso Soriano

10

10

14

17

19

19

19

19

Carlos Lee

8.5

11.5

12.5

19

19

19

19

-

Junior Griffey

9.33

12.5

8.56

12.5

12.5

12.5

10.46

8.45

Vernon Wells

5.14

16.14

26.64

24.64

24.64

-

-

-

Vladimir Guerrero

12.5

13.5

14.5

15.5

15

6.5

-

-

Gary Sheffield

9.96

9.92

9.92

9.92

11.42

13

13

10.76

Jimmy Edmonds

4.5

6.33

7.33

8.33

9.33

10.33

12.07

9.56

Bernabe Williams

9.86

12.36

12.36

12.36

12.36

12.36

12.36

1.5

Bobby Abreu

10.6

13.1

13.6

15

16

5

9

9

JD Drew

11.4

14

14

14

14

14

-

-

AVERAGE

10

13

14

16

16

13

14

12

 

HOLY SHIT! LOOK AT VERNON WELLS'S ANNUAL SALARIES!

Matt Holliday's annual salary, taking the deferred money into account, does not look all that bad by comparison. How anyone can call Holliday's the worst in baseball history in the wake of the Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells, and El Caballo deals is beyond me.  

Here's a graph of this group's average annual salary, Holliday's average annual salary according to the MLBPA's valuation, and Holliday's average annual salary according to the contract (not taking deferred money out).

The trend is for these big deals to expire before the player's Age 37 Season. Then, the players tend to get lesser deals because their production has declined with age. Bobby Abreu, for example, got a tremendously low deal from the Angels last offseason and then had a good year, so he secured a near-$10MM annual salary in his two-year contract this offseason. This happened to Vlad this offseason, as well, and may very well happen to JD Drew also.

That said, Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano will both be making $19MM each year over the last four years of their contracts. Comparing Holliday's to theirs, especially given the reality that Holliday is a better bet to age well than either of them and possesses a better offensive skill set, it makes me feel better about his deal.

 

When looking at these salaries, it is important to keep in mind the context of when they were signed. Jim Edmonds's deal in the Year 2000* is not a good comparison for Matt Holliday's contract nearly a decade later. If anything, the fact that the adjustment seems to have been made by clubs after the drunken free agent splurge that was the '06-'07 Hot Stove makes the Holliday deal seem more palatable, even if the Cardinals were bidding against themselves.

*God bless Conan. I know I will never watch The Tonight Show again. Well done, NBC.

The real problem with the contract, I think, is that we rode an expectations roller coaster during negotiations that were rather excruciating. I went from anticipating Holliday to sign an eight-to-ten-year deal with multiple years in which he would earn $19MM or even $20MM to, in the weeks post-Christmas, actually believing that we might sign him for five years at a salary under $18MM AAV. Well, the salary was under $18MM, which is great, but seven years? Well, that's a serious commitment. The Cardinals cannot easily absorb the loss of Matt Holliday levels of production, especially without improvement down on the farm. And, with each year committed, the likelihood that we will have to absorb average or even below average production at a $17MM price tag goes up. Hopefully the front office's bet on Number 7 proves a lucky one, giving us seven years of injury-free, above-average-to-MVP-caliber production from a player on the decline side of Age 30.

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