First Basemen and Outrageous Contracts

Prince Fielder shocked the baseball world yesterday when he agreed to a nine-year, $214 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. This excitement comes in the doldrums of a rather boring time in the off-season, when replacement-level players find new homes and spring training is on the horizon. Phillies fans watched from the sidelines, simply glad that yet another top-tier player moved from the National League to the American League.

However, as Fielder just signed his mega-deal and used to be considered in the same stratosphere as Howard (the two have since gone in opposite directions), comparisons were made and questions were asked. Is the Fielder deal worse than Ryan Howard‘s five-year, $125 million contract? Ruben Amaro actually feels quite content, believe it or not. Per Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News:

“I’m kind of happy,” [Amaro] said. “Really happy. Because if I would have had to put an 8- or 9-year deal on Howard’s deal right now, that would be a little disconcerting. Right now, we have Howard for the next 5 years. I kind of like that idea rather than having to do an 8- or 9- or 10-year deal.

“You can say what you want about Ryan Howard and how he stacks up against those guys, but there’s not too many people who, over the last several years, have had this kind of production – and he’s right there in the mix with those guys.”

Obviously, a deal that is nearly twice as long and twice as rich comes with exponentially more risk, but there are three big factors at play here:

  • Fielder is currently 27 years old; Howard is currently 32 years old, both entering the first year of their respective deals
  • Fielder has outproduced Howard by  more than 30 points in wOBA over the last three seasons (.403 to .372) and more than doubled his fWAR (15.3 to 7.6)
  • Fielder is expected to outproduce Howard in each and every season going forward

Because of Fielder’s young age, he can still be expected to improve slightly. The ten-year forecast from Baseball Prospectus saw Fielder posting a 5.0 WARP last year (he actually produced 5.3) and improving to 5.1 in 2012 and 5.3 in 2013 before dropping down to 5.2 in the next two seasons. Howard was expected to hit the slopes years ago; Prospectus projected 4.0 WARP last year (Howard posted 1.6 in reality) and expects gradually less with each coming season.

As details of Fielder’s contract have not been published yet, we will have to assume an average annual value of $24 million per season. Over the length of Howard’s contract, Fielder will make only $4 million more in the first two years. From 2014-16, Howard will earn $1 million more than Fielder. Should the Phillies pick up Howard’s $23 million option in 2017, Howard will make $1 million less than Fielder.

The following are two tables depicting the players’ projected WARP along with their salary, and how much their respective teams will pay for 1 WARP every season. Generally speaking, 1 WARP costs about $5 million in free agency.

Prince Fielder
Year Age PA WARP Salary $/WARP
2012 28 783 5.1 $24.0M $4.7M
2013 29 789 5.3 $24.0M $4.5M
2014 30 787 5.2 $24.0M $4.6M
2015 31 783 5.2 $24.0M $4.6M
2016 32 768 5.0 $24.0M $4.8M
2017 33 760 4.9 $24.0M $4.9M
2018 34 744 4.6 $24.0M $5.2M
2019 35 734 4.5 $24.0M $5.3M
2020 36 723 4.3 $24.0M $5.6M
Ryan Howard
Year Age PA WARP Salary $/WARP
2012 32 666 3.7 $20.0M $5.4M
2013 33 654 3.6 $20.0M $5.6M
2014 34 637 3.3 $25.0M $7.6M
2015 35 628 3.3 $25.0M $7.6M
2016 36 614 3.0 $25.0M $8.3M
2017 37 595 2.9 $23.0M $7.9M
2018 38 579 2.5
2019 39 563 2.5
2020 40 543 1.9

Here is a pretty chart that illustrates the difference:

Depending on the distribution of the $214 million in Fielder’s contract, his blue line can move up or down at either end (here is a hastily-thought-of example). Because the Phillies backloaded Howard’s contract and he is projected to decline precipitously into his late-30′s, the Phillies are paying significantly more per WARP than the Tigers will pay on average. An additional caveat is that Howard’s projections are likely optimistic as his 2011 was well below expectations and Prospectus has not updated their projections as of yet (as far as I know, anyway).

Yesterday, I saw some responses to the Fielder contract from Phillies fans that viewed the exorbitant price as a justification for the Howard contract. They were saying that the Howard contract looks less silly in comparison, but that isn’t the case. Spike Eskin put it best on Twitter yesterday:

If you buy an overpriced car, and someone else also buys an overpriced car, you still have an overpriced car.

The Fielder contract not only fails to justify the Howard contract, it makes it look even more silly. The Tigers bought a Mercedes-Benz for the sticker price; the Phillies bought a used Camry for a Mercedes-Benz sticker price.

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46 comments

  1. Will

    January 25, 2012 12:01 PM

    The car analogy is not correct. Within the car market, a purchase of a Mercedes-Benz will not materially impact the availability of other options. Whereas in the 1B market, Fielder’s contract has a real impact on other teams’ 1B options, and in turn an impact on other teams’ contracts. The lack of easily determinable substitutes within the baseball market dictates that prices for one contract will directly impact another contract.

    This does not make the Howard contract any better, but does show it likely was within market (Howard is still viewed as an “elite” 1B, right or wrong). It seems to me, baseball prices are tiered, not linear, which makes sense given the limited amount of positions on the field.

    In general, 1B appears overpaid relative to what WAR states the players are worth. However, I’m not sure if this is an issue with WAR, or due to baseball managements’ antiquated views. I tend to view it as a mix.

  2. JC

    January 25, 2012 12:14 PM

    @Will,
    I’m not sure this shows that the Howard deal was within the market. It was a few years before this 1B market even opened really. Maybe this could apply if Prince and Pujols both signed extensions with their previous clubs. But what would Howard’s market have been if he were a free agent this year, in decline and injured?

  3. Phillie697

    January 25, 2012 12:48 PM

    JC is right, IF Howard is FA this year, he would also, by your explanation, Will, affected the market of both Pujols and Fielder, not to mention himself. For example, had Howard been around (this is assuming my prayers would have been answered and RAJ doesn’t jump the gun to sign a 1.4 WAR 1B…), do you think Detroit signs Fielder to replace Martinez, or do they say, “hey look we can go a much cheaper route and sign Ryan Howard instead.” Given their reluctance to sign Fielder prior to the Martinez injury, I think that is a very likely scenario. Then where does Boras turn for his lifeboat? Maybe then RAJ swoops in and get Fielder for less than 200M, using our allure of being a serious contender to extract a discount. All of this further makes Howard’s extension look even sillier.

    @BB,

    If Howard produces according to the chart you put up, I will promise to shut the hell up about his contract. But he won’t.

  4. Adam Orman

    January 25, 2012 12:58 PM

    I’m no happier about any of RAJ’s contracts but, as far as the Fielder analysis goes, who signs a 285 pound 27 year old for 9 years? Howard’s production has declined but he’s in somewhat better shape than he was 4 years ago so always has the chance to make adjustments and improve. After Fielder’s first lower body injury, he will never be the same.

  5. hk

    January 25, 2012 01:10 PM

    Adam Orman,

    It seems inconsistent to state that Fielder will never be the same after his first lower body injury, but that Howard, who is 4.5 years older and has had three leg injuries in the last three seasons, still has the chance to improve. I get that they have slightly different body types, but it’s not like you’re comparing Dom Brown’s body to Prince’s.

  6. Bill Baer

    January 25, 2012 01:12 PM

    Do we actually have any evidence about “body types”, in terms of longevity, production, etc.? I don’t like throwing around those labels without a clear-cut definition and expectation.

  7. LTG

    January 25, 2012 01:21 PM

    There was a study published on Fangraphs that showed the average “heavy” player (I forget the standard) peaks earlier and declines earlier and more rapidly than the average “normie.” But I’m not sure that Howard wasn’t in the “heavy” group. In fact, I think he was. At any rate, according to that study Fielder has at least 2 more peak years left. Certainly, Howard does not and would not even if he were not as big as he is and as hobbled.

  8. MisterZoomer

    January 25, 2012 01:40 PM

    I’m just happy that the Howard deal is done in five years. That is the only satisfaction I get from all of this.

  9. Rob SJ

    January 25, 2012 01:53 PM

    All this discussion about Ryan Howard’s contract comes down to one thing – do you think Ryan Howard is an elite 1B in the same class as Pujols, Tex, Gonzalez, and Fielder. If so, and you want a player like that, you’d say the Phillies did ok to lock him up early given what those players got in FA, or near FA like Gonzalez. This site has pretty much categorically decided he is not in that class, and that decision is based on sound statistical evidence from the past few years. If you say he’s not in that class, then any comparison to the Fielder or Pujols contract is worthless. You don’t even have to get as far as saying “if one team overspent it doesn’t justify the Phillies having overspent on that same thing.” Because they did not overspend on that same thing, they overspent on something less valuable.

    That being said, and if anyone’s still reading, what would you all have preferred the Phillies do? Sign Howard to a more reasonable extension, or go in a different direction entirely, and if the latter, what reasonable move would put them in a better position now? I’m not so sure I’d feel a whole lot better about 10 years of Fielder than I do about 5 years of Howard (granted they clearly could have gotten 5 years of Howard for less if they waited).

  10. hk

    January 25, 2012 02:30 PM

    Rob SJ,

    I would have been more comfortable (then and now) if RAJ had waited 12 months and extended Howard in April 2011, nearly a full season before he was set to hit free agency. Coming off his injury plagued age 30 season and with Fielder and Pujols both looking like they’d be free agents after the season, RAJ might have only had to pay $72M (maybe $80M) for 2012 through 2015.

  11. LTG

    January 25, 2012 02:32 PM

    This.

  12. Phillie697

    January 25, 2012 02:38 PM

    I second hk. My problem isn’t with having Howard on the team per se, but that we are paying him 25M a year to be on the team. Had we waited until this year, and signed him to a much reasonable extension? I probably wouldn’t use the words “Ryan Howard” even once a month, let alone the daily barrage it is today.

    I think 80M for 4 years is too high hk… I think after the past two seasons, his asking price can’t be more than 15M a year (especially with him starting the season injured), and if RAJ plays it patient with him ala JRoll, we’d get him for 12, maybe 13M a year. At that price, Ryan Howard would be my hero, not my scapegoat.

  13. Dante

    January 25, 2012 03:57 PM

    The problem with that hk is what we’ve been discussing on Brotherly Glove, that there is basically no precedent for signing a (perceived) high-end player to an extension within 1 season of entering FA. It didn’t even happen with Pujols and everyone thought that was pretty much going to happen. Yes Amaro should have based it on future performance, but the guy was due for a $20 mil salary in 2011 (blame the arbitration process on this) and was going to demand at least that much per year. He also could have very easily had a very good 2010 and demanded more than the 5 years he got. I dislike the contract as much as everyone else, but you have to consider the context too. How could they have known he’d blow out an ankle, costing him part of 2012? Sometimes, it seems some folks here sound like they should have known precisely how his 2010 and 2011 were going to play out. Of course, now that they have, the gamble Amaro made looks even worse than before.

  14. hk

    January 25, 2012 04:08 PM

    Dante,

    The bigger point with Howard was that, at the time of the extension, Fielder, Gonzalez and Pujols were all also projected to be free agents at the same time and the Yankees were also expected to not be in the market for a 1B. Therefore, at the time – and I remember ESPN’s Keith Law making this point in a debate with Mike Missanelli right after the extension – the expected supply and demand of this off-season’s 1B free agent market was such that RAJ should have known that he’d get a good one, even if he waited until they all reached free agency to sign one. At that point in time, if RAJ knew he had up to $25M of AAV budgeted for his 1B in 2012 and beyond, he had to think he’d end up with one of the aforementioned four. What was the perceived upside of signing Howard in April 2010?

  15. Bobby Yost

    January 25, 2012 04:12 PM

    Fangraphs touched on the weight/aging thing back in October with Fielder:
    www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/how-will-prince-fielder-age/

    But I remember reading it somewhere else too, just can’t think offhand.

    In my opinion, those WARP projections seem pretty bullish for both players(especially Howard). And that their respective declines will be quicker.

  16. hk

    January 25, 2012 04:13 PM

    Dante,

    Are you sure that no high-end players have ever signed an extension during the season prior to them becoming free agents?

  17. Phillie697

    January 25, 2012 04:14 PM

    @Dante,

    Wait wait wait… So RAJ can’t get an extension for Hamels signed a year before his foray into FA, and we’re suppose to give RAJ credit for signing Howard early because, “what else was he going to do?” I rather he did what he’s doing with Hamels to Howard and gave Hamels an expensive extension instead.

  18. GB

    January 25, 2012 04:16 PM

    Dante – its not that any of us know how future seasons will play out; its that analyzing the stats, studies, track records (based on similar player types etc.) will pretty clearly show the odds of Howard, in his age years 32-37 with his body type and power hitter approach, continuing to be even close to the productive player he was are quite low.

    Therefore, if Amaro analyzed in a similar way and decided the risk was worth taking OR (crossing fingers/toes) Amaro did no analysis at all or felt he had “no choice” but to extend Howard we have every right to be dissapointed in Amaro & the Phils and worried about how that mistake will impact the competitiveness of our team moving forward.

    The Hamels ripple effect has already been documented along with not having the $$ to address 3B as well…add in Papelbon now and I and others start to shred our finger nails…

  19. hk

    January 25, 2012 04:26 PM

    Dante,

    In April 2010, the Boston Red Sox signed Josh Beckett, who was in the final year of his contract, to a 4 year, $68M extension.

    In February 2011, two months prior to beginning his final season before he could become a free agent for the first time, Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays avoided arbitration and agreed to a 5 year, $65M extension.

    I don’t have a great database for searching for these types of extensions, so I went to Cot’s and started going team-by-team and player-by-player. It took me three teams (the Yankees were first) and ten minutes to find Beckett and Bautista. I suspect that I would find more if I took the time to search, but I’ll pass since I think Beckett and Bautista are precedent enough.

  20. awh

    January 25, 2012 04:27 PM

    Valdez traded.

    The Phils bench just got a lot worse.

  21. Phillie697

    January 25, 2012 04:29 PM

    @awh – sarcasm doesn’t suit you, LOL :P

  22. hk

    January 25, 2012 04:32 PM

    awh is right if this means Michael Martinez makes the 25-man roster.

  23. hk

    January 25, 2012 04:34 PM

    …and the Reds bullpen just got better.

  24. awh

    January 25, 2012 04:38 PM

    hk, that is exactly what I mean.

  25. Scott G

    January 25, 2012 04:47 PM

    I’d have been much happier had RAJ waited longer to re-sign Howard if ever. If it got to the point where Pujols and Fielder re-signed before hitting FA, then I’m sure the Phils could have locked up Howard. If they all hit FA, I would have been much more content with overpaying for Fielder or Pujols for 10+ yrs than signing Howard to a fair contract for any length of time.

  26. Phillie697

    January 25, 2012 05:15 PM

    @hk,

    I can’t get worked up over two replacement-level players, LOL. Besides, Martinez at least theoretically still can improve because of his minor league numbers and that absurd BABIP, not to mention 5 years younger.

  27. Jesse

    January 25, 2012 05:57 PM

    I think the car analogy is overstated. I’d classify the Howard contract as paying sticker BMW price for a used Audi. We still have the appearance of luxury for a while.

  28. jauer

    January 25, 2012 06:05 PM

    How often did we see Manuel allow Valdez to swing at 1-0, 2-0, and 3-1 pitches with a runner on first base and less than two outs? Valdez has one of the highest GIDP rates in the history of the game, yet Manuel never stopped letting this guy (on the team purely for defense) hack away in obvious take-situations.

    If I’m forced to have Manuel as the manager, I’d trade Valdez for one of Dusty Baker’s toothpicks.

  29. Jonny

    January 25, 2012 11:44 PM

    “The Tigers bought a Mercedes-Benz for the sticker price; the Phillies bought a used Camry for a Mercedes-Benz sticker price.”

    No no no, You’re mixed up. More accurately. The Tigers Leased a Mercedes Benz for the full price for 9 years; the Phillies leased a mustang GT for 6 years at a Mercedes Benz lease rate. ;)

    I’d say I like the less years with the higher AVV even if it comes with less production. I feel the last 4 seasons of the Fielder contract will be ugly and Howard’s contract will be over with. The 89 million dollar difference is nothing to sneeze at. On top of that the Tigers don’t even really have a spot for him with Miggy. V Mart is coming back and he’s not really movable either. Third base is going to kill Miggy. They have 3 DH’s now.

  30. hk

    January 26, 2012 08:05 AM

    “No no no, You’re mixed up. More accurately. The Tigers Leased a Mercedes Benz for the full price for 9 years; the Phillies leased a mustang GT for 6 years at a Mercedes Benz lease rate.”

    No…the comparison has to take into account the 4.5 years of age difference. The Phils just leased a 5 year old Mercedes for the next 6 years for a slightly higher annual payment than the Tigers are paying to lease a brand new Mercedes for 9 years. In baseball terms, Jonny, the Tigers position problems aside, why is it that you feel the last 4 seasons of the Fielder contract will be any worse than the last 4 seasons of the Howard contract? The Phillies are paying a higher AAV for Howard’s age 32 to 36 (or 37) seasons than the Tigers are paying for Fielders age 28 to 36 seasons. Even if Fiedler declines as expected, at least the Tigers get his age 28 to 31 seasons. Also, when you factor in the time value of money, the Tigers are paying even less for Fielder’s age 32 to 36 seasons relative to what the Phils are paying for Howard’s.

    In comparison to Fielder’s recently signed deal, Howard’s deal still sucks.

  31. Jonny

    January 26, 2012 09:25 AM

    You got me wrong hk, I’m just saying both contracts are not team favorable. And we really won’t know for 8-9 years which one was worse. Howard’s being worse at this point is probably debatable, but one I’m not willing to debate really. Only because debating projected outcomes is kind of fantasy really. Another way to look at which “deal” is worse (some people will look at it this way since Prince is new to Detroit) Is to combine Howard’s 2006-11 seasons with the new contract then come to the conclusion that the Phillies overall got a much better deal. Overall. Without even doing that It’s still debatable which is worse since neither contract has even kicked in yet and both are long enough to just wait and see. Who knows? Maybe Prince blows out a knee and never hits well again? No one saw Howard blowing out an Achilles. I still think the Tigers don’t need another DH/1st baseman so this seems extra strange to me. I guess they plan on not needing much defense. I don’t feel the Fielder contract will be worse in the last 4 seasons actually, I feel they will be bad enough though for the Tigers to wish they paid a higher AVV without the last 4 years of the contract existing, kind of like a 5 year deal like Ruben cut for Howard. BTW, I replied to you on the Hamels thread. ;)

  32. Phillie697

    January 26, 2012 10:03 AM

    @Jonny,

    All full-priced market-value contracts are not team favorable. You want team favorable contracts you do what Tampa Bay does. RAJ had the right IDEA trying to extend Howard early, except he gave him WAY too much money.

  33. hk

    January 26, 2012 10:25 AM

    Right, the only reason to extend Howard that early would have been in exchange for a discount from Howard. To extend him that early at a premium left no upside and all downside for the team.

  34. Greg

    January 26, 2012 11:02 AM

    Sigh… even when someone else signs a player to a ludicrous contract, it STILL makes Howard’s deal seem worse.
    Still, I used to get upset when thinking about how the Phils could’ve been players in the Pujols/Fielder market if they hadn’t extended Howard, but at least now it’s hard to even imagine the contract RAJ would have offered Prince. 13 Years, 400 mil?

    Of course, if he’d just waited he could’ve gone after Votto… Oh well, maybe when Howard’s contract is up, he can trade the farm for Jonathan Singleton.

  35. Jonny

    January 26, 2012 11:17 AM

    697, Right, but thinking Pujols and the Prince were going to hit the market for the highest contracts ever made him make a choice to do so. I like less years even if it’s more money.

    And Tampa? They are wizards. They seem to sign guys before they get good. I’d like to see the Phills follow their model more closely, but that’s tough in a big market with lofty expectations.

  36. Cutter

    January 26, 2012 02:39 PM

    Why did they give Howard the contract two years ago?

    It probably comes down to three factors:

    1. Even though we all recognize Pujols as the superior player, arbitrators and Howard’s agent hold them as comparable players.

    Whatever value Pujols (and Fielder) set the market at, Howard was going to be asking for something that was in the ballpark.

    And while people here may rant and rave about him not being worth the money, there’s a good chance at least one other GM out there is fascinated by the power numbers and would have offered him what he wanted.

    2. They didn’t want to deal with both Howard and Rollins being free agents at the same time.

    Many fans might panic if the Phillies were faced with the prospect of losing not one, but two franchise stalwarts.

    3. Since 2008, every move that the team has made – with one notable exception – has been designed to help them win the World Series in the immediate future.

    Despite what the team may say publicly, what happens in the seasons from 2014 on doesn’t seem to matter much.

    When Howard’s contract was signed, it certainly seemed like they would have a much greater chance of winning the World Series in 2012 and 2013 with him than without him.

    If the contract became somewhat of an albatross in the later years…well, the thinking was that two or more titles in six years would make that a little more tolerable.

    Personally, I’m much more in favor of a team that actually goes “all-in” rather than be constantly worried about what tomorrow may bring.

    Also, we should also reserve judgement on the contract until we see if it does actually affect the team’s ability to make other moves.

    If Howard’s contract was limiting them, then why did they sign or re-sign Papelbon, Kendrick, and Willis when cheaper options were available?

    Maybe if they let Cole Hamels leave, then it will because they didn’t have enough money for him…or it could be because they didn’t want to tie up 60 million + on starting pitching.

  37. Phillie697

    January 26, 2012 10:13 PM

    @Jonny,

    Ahm, I think the Tampa method works even BETTER with clubs like the Phillies. We have the resources to recover from the mistakes/freak injuries that sometimes results from signing players early. It just takes a little guts, which I have to say RAJ does NOT have. That’s why he likes 30-something players and lets Dom rot in the minors.

    @Cutter,

    Yeah… not wanting to tie up 60M on pitching is really good explanation not to extend Hamels. If THAT was really the goal, I wouldn’t have signed Lee and extended Hamels. Younger and just as good.

  38. Cutter

    January 27, 2012 09:27 AM

    Once again, remember that the team has been in “win now” mode.

    Maybe extending Hamels instead of signing Lee would have helped them down the line. But in theory, having Cliff Lee gave them a better shot to win in 2011 and 2012.

  39. hk

    January 27, 2012 11:17 AM

    Cutter,

    1. Just because arbitrators and Howard’s agent believed that Howard was comparable to Pujols and you believe another GM would have paid Howard as such does not justify the Phillies GM thinking as such. If Howard’s agent insisted on Pujols money two years before Howard’s free agency, RAJ should have said no and insisted on a discount in exchange for providing Howard the additional security two years in advance.

    2. Fans would not have panicked if both Howard and Rollins had been free agents this offseason. In fact, judging from the comments on this site following the Howard extension, many fans would have rejoiced had Howard been a free agent this off-season. Also, judging from the way that the Rollins situation played out where Ruben used time and leverage to his benefit, many fans would have preferred to see the same thing occur with Howard.

    3. Being in “win now” mode in 2012 and still having a chance to be a legit contender in 2014 did not have to be mutually exclusive when you consider the players, the payroll and the farm system that Gillick left for RAJ. RAJ’s bungling of the Howard extension and his overpaying of free agents (in years and/or dollars) has made it so.

  40. Cutter

    January 27, 2012 12:19 PM

    1. There was no indication that Howard would have taken any sort of discount.

    Why would he? As I said, someone was probably going to give him that much money or more as a free agent.

    I’m guessing that RAJ either decided he could either: 1. Give Howard that contract two years ago. 2. Give him an even longer deal when he became a free agent. 3. Let him walk.

    RAJ clearly wanted to keep Howard so 3 was not an option. I’m guessing that option 1 seemed better than option 2.

    2. I wouldn’t take the commenters on this site as a true representation of the Phillies fan base as a whole. For every fan who wished Howard was gone, I’m sure there’s another who would be devestated if he left.

    And just because the Rollins negotiations played out one way, it doesn’t mean Howard’s would have been the same.

    In fact, if both players were free agents, it might have made each individual negotiation that much more difficult, as the agents would have known that the team wouldn’t let both players go.

    3. If there’s anything that’s going to keep the Phillies from contending in 2014, it isn’t because RAJ gave out big contracts.

    The Phillies aren’t the Rays who need to be conscious of every dollar spent. All evidence points to the Phillies being able to support a massive payroll.

    If Hamels does indeed leave, then maybe you can make that case, but there is certainly no evidence to support it now.

    If the Phillies do indeed fall out of contention in 2014 forward, it will be due to the lack of minor league talent to replace their aging stars.

  41. hk

    January 27, 2012 01:18 PM

    “1. There was no indication that Howard would have taken any sort of discount.

    Why would he? As I said, someone was probably going to give him that much money or more as a free agent.”

    Because that’s what players and agents do (in the 29 other MLB cities). They give a discount in order to be extended years in advance of free agency. Otherwise, why did the Phils sign him so early? There was no upside to doing it other than preventing the fanbase from the panic that you imagine would have ensued. Even if the Phils thought another team might be willing to pay him his expected full market value upon his reaching free agency, the Phils could have waited until the middle of last season to offer him his perceived full market value of $125M for 5 years. Of course, had they done so, they would have realized that he is actually not even close to being Pujols or Fielder and they probably could have gotten him to sign for $70M for 4 years instead. And, before you claim that hindsight is 20/20, this is the exact reason why many of us on here complain about these deals when they happen and don’t always wait for results-based analysis as other commentors have suggested we do.

    “3. If there’s anything that’s going to keep the Phillies from contending in 2014, it isn’t because RAJ gave out big contracts.

    The Phillies aren’t the Rays who need to be conscious of every dollar spent. All evidence points to the Phillies being able to support a massive payroll.”

    You are right as long as the Phils are willing to pay whatever amount of the luxury tax is necessary to retain their top talent and to acquire new top talent to replace existing top talent when it departs. You are also right that we probably won’t know this for sure until we know who is the #3 starter in 2013.

  42. paperdyer

    January 27, 2012 03:15 PM

    Many of you, IMHO, are forgetting to take a look at what’s in the minors behind Ryan. Matt Rizotti can hit, but is a weak fielder. Even if RAJ waited for teh FA market, there’s no guarantee either Puljos or Fielder would come here. RAJ took what he had and ran with it. If Howard hadn’t gotten injured and kept producing, most of you would be saying “What a deal!”

  43. hk

    January 27, 2012 03:29 PM

    paperdyer,

    Most of us were saying it was a horrible deal when it happened and continued saying it after Ryan posted a 1.4 fWAR / 2.0 bWAR season in 2010. It’s only gotten worse in the past four months with Ryan’s injury and with Prince Fielder signing for a lower AAV than Ryan. Also, what most of us are saying is not that we dislike Ryan Howard – some of us even defend him and think better of his recent production than others. What we dislike is that he’s going to be paid $125M and projects to provide $50M to $75M of value.

  44. hk

    January 27, 2012 03:29 PM

    Edit that last sentence to read as follows: What we dislike is that he’s going to be paid $125M and, before the injury, he only projected to provide $50M to $75M of value.

  45. bill

    January 27, 2012 05:15 PM

    Waiting in the minors? What the Phillies couldn’t sign Carlos Pena and get equal production for 1/5 of the cost?

  46. Phillie697

    January 31, 2012 10:07 AM

    The “we signed Howard because we didn’t have anybody in the minors” excuse is about the worst excuse ever. We had Singleton at the time. We wouldn’t have traded him if we DIDN’T sign Howard to that ridiculous contract. There was absolutely no upside for signing Howard that early for that much money; the BEST RAJ could have hoped for was breaking even, and on Day One that was already an unlikely proposition. And now the eggs are coming to roost, and nobody likes what’s coming out of them, as everyone here expected.

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