Monday, October 29, 2012

Time to rethink the worst baseball contract ever?

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants on being the 2012 World Series Champions. That team dominated the Detroit Tigers from start to finish in the series and should look forward to their parade. Joy is in the air, and that is why now might be the best time to review the 7 year/ $126 million dollar contract signed by Barry Zito back in 2007.

According to many metrics this has turned out to be a terrible deal for the Giants and likely has made a few teams hesitant to sign pitchers to expensive, long-term contracts. During the regular season his results have been less than encouraging posting a 58-69 record and 4.47 ERA. This was far from what the Giants expected to get from Zito whose Oakland numbers 102-63 and 3.55 ERA were more in line with the teams expectations. As a general rule pitchers transition from the AL to the NL well partly as a result of not having to face a DH in the lineup. Zito was the exception to the general rule and saw his ERA balloon more than a run above his Oakland years. Diminishing returns had many wondering if the Giants would dump his salary for the remaining two years of his contract. Anyway you look at his regular season numbers shows the same thing, he has vastly underperformed his contract value.

However, there are other ways to look at his value. I reviewed Cot's Baseball Contracts and found 36 contracts valued at $100,000,000.00 or more. Players under those contracts have made the world series 18 times. 12 of them have won the world series and 4 others lost to a team that also featured another 100 million dollar man. Keep in mind I limited my analysis to players results based only in years in which a player was under their 100 million contracts, not before or after. Of those players only 3 of them captured multiple world series rings, Albert Pujols (2006, 2011); Manny Ramirez (2004, 2007); and Barry Zito (2010, 2012). Winning the World Series is the ultimate goal of every team year in and year out. Teams shell out big money for players who will help lead the team not just into the postseason, but deep into the postseason. The desire is that their play justifies their contracts, but even if they just keep pressure off other players who are producing as long as they win, that should be enough. San Francisco would be right to have demanded more for their investment, but after 2 World Series victories and only 1 year left on Zito's contract, perhaps the fans should step back and appreciate what Zito helped bring to the Bay. $126 million for 2 rings sounds like a pretty fair trade, just ask Rockies fans how they feel about the Giambi and Helton contracts.