Should the Jays do $300 million deals?

Monday, February 07 2022 @ 01:00 PM EST

Contributed by: John Northey

This is a big question with Bo & Vlad, and the possibility of trading for Jose Ramirez among others. Lets look at history to get an idea on this.

Yeah, by 2024 some of those mega deals could look bad, and some could look great. Mega Deals = over $250 mil. As a rule you want 1 WAR for every $9 mil spent but 1 per 10 isn't horrid.

  1. Mike Trout - $426.5 mil (2019-2030) - should be good overall, age 27-38, 11.5 WAR so far actually low for him over 3 years. Injuries this year make it a lot riskier than it seemed at first. Just 32.5 WAR to go to break even.
  2. Mookie Betts, $365,000,000 (2021-32) - age 28-39, yikes. 4.2 WAR last year. I see lots of risk here.
  3. Francisco Lindor, $341,000,000 (2022-31) - age 28-37. 3.1 WAR last year - has to be above that level to make it a good deal. I wouldn't bet on it.
  4. Fernando Tatis, $340,000,000 (2021-34) - age 22-35, early years a lock to be great value, the later will be the question 6.6 WAR last year, I like the odds of him averaging 3-4 WAR throughout.
  5. Bryce Harper, $330,000,000 (2019-31) - age 26-38, 12.3 WAR already (1 MVP), I like the odds of him getting them 20+ WAR over the next decade.
  6. Giancarlo Stanton, $325,000,000 (2015-27) - ugh. age 25-38, started out good, 22.5 WAR so far, but slowed drastically with just 4.1 over the past 3 years. 6 years left to get 10 WAR, could happen he has the raw power to do it in one or two years easily but the Yankees right now would probably love to dump him.
  7. Corey Seager, $325,000,000 (2022-31) - age 28-37 - just 3.7 WAR last year, they need him to average roughly that over the next decade. I don't like the odds. 2017 was the last time he had 3+ WAR. I expect this to become an anchor on the Rangers in 3 years.
  8. Gerrit Cole, $324,000,000 (2020-28) - age 29-37, opt out after age 33 season or Yankees can guarantee $36 mil for his age 38 season to lock him in. Smart move by his agent. 7.8 WAR so far, so good. But with pitchers I always get very nervous about long term deals at record dollar amounts. See David Price for an example. Jays came in 2nd iirc but settled for Ryu instead (at a far lower cost).
  9. Manny Machado, $300,000,000 (2019-28) - age 26-35, 10.8 WAR so far, 20 more needed. Looking good so far but my gut says this won't end well. Could easily be very wrong.
  10. Alex Rodriguez, $275,000,000 (2008-17) - age 32-41, didn't play at 41 or 38 (PED suspension). 23.1 WAR so not horrid but not what was hoped for obviously. Even before factoring in the media circus (bad levels even for NY).
  11. Nolan Arenado, $260,000,000 (2019-26) - age 28-36. 12.8 WAR so far, so 24 more needed over 5 years to break even, not easy but could happen. You can see why the Rockies had to pay a chunk of the salary to deal him.
  12. Alex Rodriguez, $252,000,000 (2001-10) - age 25-34 (Yankees bought out the last 3 years as part of his next deal) 71.4 WAR. Actually a very good contract if you look at it objectively, but the Rangers did tons of stupid moves around it and ended up needing to trade him to avoid massive money troubles iirc. The Rangers overpaid for the era, even though it wasn't a bad deal - he got MVP votes every single year of the deal with 2 wins, 4 others times in the top 10.
So looking at mega deals I see lots of 'this could be bad' and few easy wins. Best bets to work are Tatis, Harper, Cole, Machado, A-Rod's first deal (even if Texas screwed it up). Most likely to blow up are Betts (too many late 30 years), Lindor (same), Stanton, Seager I'd be shocked if he comes close to $10 mil per WAR, I expect he'll produce at half the rate they need once it is all said and done. A-Rod's second deal was a bad deal at the time and looks dumber after the fact, the Yankees should've let him finish the first deal then tried to sign him.

Just missing are nightmare deals like Miguel Cabrera ($248 mil, age 33-40 with 2 more vesting options which are highly unlikely to happen) - has produced 4.0 WAR so far and I doubt he'll reach 10 total by the end of this deal in 2023, heck he might go down as he is just a DH now and from 2017 to now has produced negative WAR), Stephen Strasburg ($245 mil, age 31-37, -0.3 WAR so far) who might recover but I sure wouldn't want to be on the hook for $200 mil counting on it. Etc. Lots of other bad ones in teh $200+ area (Anthony Rendon, Albert Pujols) with others that are 'meh' at best (Robinson Cano - 25.2 WAR for $240 mil and 2 years to go but PED issues are killing him now), and one that worked well (Joey Votto 30.3 WAR with 2 years to go for $225 mil).

Bottom line? Sign them by age 26 or you are probably going to regret signing them to these mega $200+ mil deals. So Bo & Vlad might work out in the end, but Ramirez could be a mistake even if he does fit perfectly today (any big money deal would be to have him for age 31 and beyond). Father Time is a cruel thing to ballplayers and the age 32 curse is near universal sans PEDs. (by 32 the 'outfield of the 80's' were all washed up).

Want more proof of age 32? OK....
Great Jays post age 32...
I could go on but the trend is clear. After age 32 don't expect much from a guy. If you are lucky you'll get 1 or 2 more solid years but that is it unless PEDs are involved or extreme luck. So guaranteeing anything more than $100 mil past age 32 is writing off the cash. A big warning for the Jays I'd say. Applies to athletic players like White, and not as athletic ones. To SS's (Fernandez), 2B (Alomar), 1B (Delgado/McGriff/Olerud), OF (lots of examples), etc. Pitchers can adjust to be 'smart/crafty' but hitters can't. They can take more walks but that is about it. No shock that Bautista is the best post age 32 guy I checked, but I was a bit surprised McGriff was 2nd and Encarnacion 3rd.

What about guys the Jays brought in after age 32?

Dave Winfield: Age 33-end - 18.4 WAR with a year off for injuries. His year here was age 40 with 4.1 WAR (negative post that year)
Paul Molitor: Age 33-end - 29.0 WAR - wow. 5.6 his first year here. He was a big exception to the rule I'd say.

For FYI on PED effect....
Barry Bonds - age 33 to end - 71.0 WAR, 91.8 before 33 as an FYI. Age 33 was his last non-PED year according to the book on him.
Mark McGwire - age 33 to end - 22.4 WAR (included 70 HR season) 39.8 before that, identical to Fred McGriff pre-33. McGriff didn't do PEDs as far as we know (zero rumors on that front and his stats fit a normal age curve) so if the vets are really anti-PED they should put McGriff in next winter and leave McGwire on the outside looking in.
Alex Rodriguez - age 33 to end - 16.3 - losing a year to PED suspension, then being pretty much told to retire thanks to the media circus around him cut that figure, if he had got away with it he'd probably be well over 20.

Seems PEDs do slow the process but don't stop it. Other known users include - Manny Ramirez (caught twice) had just 18.6 post 32, Jose Canseco 6.0, Rafael Palmeiro 28.2 (including 3 of his best 6 seasons), Ken Caminiti 16.4, Jason Giambi 9.5, Benito Santiago 5.8, Gary Sheffield 23.0, Wally Joyner 11.3, David Segui 4.9, Melky Cabrera -1.4. Some did lousy, some great. I'd say a guy getting over 20 WAR post 32 is a warning sign but hardly a lock - Hank Aaron had 46.7 post age 32, Willie Mays 58.2, Ted Williams 39.3, Babe Ruth 58.8 for example. But those are VERY big exceptions to any rule (inner circle HOF'ers). Derek Jeter never was accused (amazingly enough given he played with plenty of known users from A-Rod to Pettitte to Giambi) and had 17.3 WAR post age 32. Would be interesting to do an in-depth study of it.

Basically if you sign a hitter for age 33 and beyond expecting anything beyond 5 WAR you are hoping you have a high level HOF'er on your hands. A guy who is willing to work his butt off to keep going well past when most give up the ghost.

For our big 2 - Vlad, free agency just before his age 27 season, Bo just before his age 28 season. So if you can get them to sign for a 10 year deal today (covering Vlad 23-32, Bo 24-33) you'd hit the ideal window, but it is closing fast. Odds are both will want 12+ year deals to go deep into the post 30 window, or to have shorter deals so they can be free agents pre-age 30.