Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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From the likes of Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano to Miguel Cabrera and Clayton Kershaw, baseball has seen it’s fair share of mega contracts over the last few years. Over time, I’ve always known that baseball contracts would continue to swell up like a balloon, but like a naïve baseball fan, I didn’t want to believe it. Just a few days ago, the Miami Marlins went above my own expectations as they signed their stud 25-year-old outfielder, Giancarlo Stanton, to a record-breaking contract of $325 million over a 13-year period. Even though this is currently the largest and longest contract in American sports history, I believe that these lengthy and pricey deals will only get bigger as baseball does the same.
Over the last six seasons, the seven largest baseball contracts over that period of time (excluding Stanton) have averaged out to just over a nine-year duration, with an average cost of $26.2 million per year. Of those seven players, including Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Clayton Kershaw, only two of them were under the age of 30 when their contract went into effect (Fielder and Kershaw). After turning 25 just 11 days ago (belated Happy Birthday, Giancarlo!), Stanton is the youngest player to ever sign a deal of this magnitude, and in my opinion, this is where baseball is headed.
Even though baseball's attendance totals have been progressively dropping over the last few years, the money is still there. Between ticket and concession prices to broadcasting rights and television deals, MLB owners are doing a fine job of lining their wallets with a little extra green. That extra money has allowed for a larger investment on superstar players, and even though the numbers are getting bigger, the ages are getting younger.
Take Clayton Kershaw for example. The best pitcher in all of baseball just signed his seven-year/$215 million contract this last off-season with the Los Angeles Dodgers a couple of months before his 26th birthday. Granted, the way that Kershaw is going, the 2014 National League Cy Young Award winner and MVP will still be a top free agent when his contract ends at the age of 33, but at such a young age with incredible talent, the Dodgers would've been stupid to not lock him up through the prime of his career. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that after Stanton's deal, the Dodgers will look to extend Kershaw's existing contract over the next few years and keep him in L.A. for life. In my opinion, this is just a sign of baseball adapting to the fact that their future should be in someone's prime, not past it.
The same can be said for Mike Trout. The 23-year-old superstar from Vineland, New Jersey has done nothing but take baseball by storm since making his MLB debut back in 2011. Throughout his first four years in the league, Trout has compiled 98 home runs, 307 runs batted in, a batting average of .305, a .395 on-base percentage, and most importantly, the 2014 American League MVP. I think Stanton is an amazing talent, but Mike Trout is the best player in all of baseball under or at the age of 25, period. Trout is about to begin a six-year/$144.5 million contract starting in 2015, which will make him just over $24 million per year until his age 29 season in 2020. There is no doubt that if Trout keeps up his current pace, he will have another substantial deal waiting for him at the end of it. Just like my thoughts on Kershaw, I think the Angels will be wanting to renegotiate another gigantic contract in a few years, which will make all parties involved very happy.
Now, I understand that no athlete is guaranteed to stay healthy and be worth the value of his contract, but wouldn't you rather have that faith in someone under 30 rather than over it? Sure, it was cool when A-Rod signed a 10-year contract at the age of 33 and the Yankees kept their guy in house, but look and see what kind of mess they have now.
Yes, Rodriguez is a rare case, but I think these general managers and owners are finally tired of paying this big money to guys at the end of their prime. We saw it with Alex Rodriguez and we will soon be seeing it with Albert Pujols. If you are going to invest years and dollar signs, do it with a young talent with stardom written all over him, and I think management has started to see that.
Yes, Stanton's contract is heavily weighted on the back end, but that is for the franchise to have some wiggle room and bring in better talent over the next few years. Regardless of how you look at it, the Marlins have kept their young gun and Stanton is about to become a very rich man. The Dodgers did it with Kershaw and the Angels have started with Mike Trout, Miami’s deal with Stanton is just falling in line with this new age of baseball and where it is heading.
On behalf of “Our Sports Report”, we would like to congratulate Giancarlo Stanton on having the largest deal in baseball history, and most importantly, having more money than Davy Crockett. It may still be America’s Pastime, but baseball is in a new age, and Kershaw, Trout and Stanton have become the new faces of it.