Yesterday, ‘Duk of Big League Stew posted this on his Twitter page.
Evan Longoria has already earned twice what the first four years of his contract are worth. http://twurl.nl/pbzn20
That sounds great, on the surface. But let’s dig a little deeper.
From 2006 through yesterday, BJ Upton has been worth $36.1 million for the Devil Rays according to Fangraphs. In those four seasons, the Devil Rays ($26) have paid Upton about $1.5 million.
In other words, Upton has been worth about 24 times as much he has been paid. Why? Because young players make very little money compared to veterans, even when they sign a long-term extension in their first 3 seasons. It is basic baseball math.
Let’s take a look at James Shields who signed a long-term deal after his second season. In his first four years (including this season), Shields will have been paid approximately $3.2 million. 2008 and 2009 are part of the 7-year, $39.25 million deal. During these first four years of his career, Shields has been worth $47.9 million to the Devil Rays or about 15 times what he has been paid.
When teams sign young stars to long-term deals, they are not saving money up front. In fact, if Upton had signed a long-term deal in 2007 or 2008, he would have made more money and the differential between what he has been paid and what he is worth would be less.
Where teams hope to save money is at the back-end of the deals. Sure, Shields and Evan Longoria have been worth much, much more than what they have been paid. That was never in doubt this early. The question is: Do they continue to develop and avoid injuries to the point where they are a bargain in the last few years of the deal?
In the case of Scott Kazmir, no. In 2008 and 2009, the first two years of his contract extension, Kazmir will have been paid roughly $10 million. So far in those two seasons, Kazmir has been worth $9.5 million. And he is still owed $20 million over the next two years. Does anybody think Andrew Friedman deserves praise for that deal right now?
In the end, it means little how much a young player is paid in comparison to how much he is worth, because all young stars outperform their salaries whether they have signed an extension or not. It is only at the end of the long-term deals do we know for certain if the ballclub has saved money and whether Friedman truly deserves credit for making a great deal.