In 2000 owners spent like there was no tomorrow: tomorrow is here.
- It’s hard to fathom that the good-old days of free agency are not old at all. It was just two years ago, during the winter following the 2000 season, when the dollars flowed as never before. Even Marvin Miller, longtime king of the players’ union, had cause to gasp.
Shortstop Alex Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers – the largest deal in the history of pro sports in the United States. Outfielder and former Indian Manny Ramirez went to the Boston Red Sox for $160 million over eight years. Pitcher Mike Hampton signed with the Colorado Rockies for eight years and $121 million.
Four other players agreed to contracts worth more than $40 million. Fifteen signed for at least $20 million.
This winter, no player has sniffed the $100 million mark. The closest, Jim Thome, signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for $85 million over six years. He is the only player to have bagged more than $40 million.
Eight have secured deals for at least $20 million. One of the game’s most accomplished catchers, Ivan Rodriguez, remains unsigned. Four-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux opted for arbitration with the Atlanta Braves and its accompanying one-year deal.
The trickle-down effect is palpable, as well. Mid-level veterans no longer merely hold out their hands, as often happened in 2000 and, to a lesser extent, 2001. They scramble for anything that remotely resembles their previous deals, assuming they are coming off a decent season.
The Indians signed four pitchers who largely struggled in 2002 – Terry Mulholland, Dave Burba, Brian Anderson and Jason Bere – to one-year contracts worth a combined $3 million in guaranteed dollars. (Burba signed a minor-league deal). Last year, they made a combined $16.25 million in base salary.
Where did the cash go?
….When owners sign players to contracts of any size, let alone mind-boggling figures, they expect results on the micro and macro levels. Rodriguez and Ramirez, when healthy, have delivered on the individual front, but Hampton did not. All three have been unable to lead their teams anywhere.
Rodriguez’s Rangers are 145-179 with no playoff appearances in the two years since he joined. Ramirez’s Red Sox are 175-148 but have failed to make the playoffs. Hampton’s Rockies went 146-178 with no playoffs; he was traded to Florida then Atlanta in November. [Cleveland.com]
Plus the economy is down, and the Indians, until recently a premium bidder for free-agents, have taken themselves out of the picture for now. They signed – now calm yourself – Shane Spencer today.