The Desire for Hearty Spending and the Reality of Crummy Contracts

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The Desire for Hearty Spending and the Reality of Crummy Contracts

Chicago Cubs

joker burning moneyThe worst transactions of the 2014 off-season, per FanGraphs:

5. Mets sign Curtis Granderson.
Cost: Four years, $60 million.

4. Yankees sign Masahiro Tanaka.
Cost: Four years, $108 million, plus player option for another 3/$67M.

3. Rangers sign Shin-Soo Choo.
Cost: Seven years, $130 million.

2. Mariners sign Robinson Cano.
Cost: 10 years, $240 million.

1. That damn Doug Fister trade, which is such an outlier and not a signing, so I’ll not discuss it here.

You can read why FanGraphs hated the deals (as well as 10 through 6) here. It’s a fun read.

I want to focus on numbers 5 through 2, which really stand out, given that each was at one time a target desired by some contingents of Cubs fans. Bear in mind that the Cubs may have had to top those contracts to actually get the at-issue player, making the contract even worse. And each of the four deals is very instructive for the Cubs:

  • The Curtis Granderson signing involves a large-market team in the middle of a rebuild, one that had a really weak outfield last year, and is trying to improve it this year. But, like, what’s the point? Are the Mets going to be competitive this year? Dave Cameron, who authored the FanGraphs piece, doesn’t like the Granderson contract on its own merits, but it’ll be especially ugly if the Mets don’t figure out a way to contend in the first two years of the deal after signing Granderson and Bartolo Colon and Chris Young (which makes the 2014 Mets something of an interesting experiment for the Cubs – who took the opposite approach, and made no significant signings this year).
  • The Cubs were heavily in on Masahiro Tanaka to the tune of six years and $120 million – with indications that they would have gone higher if it would have made a difference – but the Cubs were never comfortable with the idea of an opt-out after four years. It sounds like Cameron would have agreed with the Cubs’ disquiet: “While Tanaka’s deal is widely reported as $155 million over seven years, the opt-out means that it’s really a contract for $88 million over four years, not including the $20 million posting fee, with some chance that the Yankees will have to pay Tanaka an additional $67 million if he goes bust. Essentially, the Yankees paid $27 million per year for the next four years if Tanaka is good, and if things don’t break in their favor, they pay a $67 million tax to boot.” As I’ve said before, I can appreciate why the Cubs aren’t into opt-outs. In them, the team retains 100% of the downside while giving up a huge chunk of the upside.
  • Cameron believes the Shin-Soo Choo deal is simply a clear overpay, something my own back-of-the-napkin scratchings suggest. As it would have related to the Cubs, the real problem in signing Choo to a massive deal like that is that you’re going to get the majority of value in the first two or three years of the contract … when the Cubs might not be at a win level to maximize the return on that marginal win value. In other words, signing Choo could wind up fine if he contributes critical marginal wins in 2014/15/16, but that probably wasn’t going to happen for the Cubs (definitely not in 2014, at least).
  • Similarly, Cameron says the Robinson Cano contract might prove to be not terrible in the abstract, but it’s terrible on a Mariners’ team that isn’t in a position to maximize the value. Once again, wouldn’t have made sense for the Cubs, either.
  • You can see the FanGraphs’ best transactions of the offseason piece here, too. The list is a combination of value signings, savvy trades, and big money deals. None of the Cubs’ few moves make the list.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.