Does Buster Posey Deserve to Surpass Joey Votto as MLB's Longest Contract Ever?
Asking what Buster Posey is worth to the San Francisco Giants is kind of like asking what the Statue of Liberty is worth to the United States, the Eiffel Tower is worth to France and the Great Wall is worth to China.
After all, Posey, the 25-year-old catcher with both National League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards on his résumé—who's also been the driving force behind two Giants World Series championships in three years—deserves his own monument in The City by the Bay, no?
Bronzing Buster is probably still a few years off, but there is another way for the Giants to celebrate and reward their best player: with a big contract.
Turns out, a deal is already being discussed, as CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman writes. Nothing is imminent at this point, although both sides appear willing and able to enter into legitimate negotiations.
So what would it take to lock up the main man of San Fran?
If they sign him long term, how many years should the Giants give Buster Posey?
We're not talking about some mini-extension that would cover Posey's three remaining arbitration years. (As a Super Two qualifier who's eligible for four rounds of arbitration instead of the usual three, Posey agreed with the Giants on an $8 million salary for 2013, the highest-ever figure for a first-year arbitration settlement.) Such a deal would probably cost around $50-60 million at the going rates.
You know, chump change.
We're talking about a major, massive monstrosity of a contract. What would that look like? And is Posey worth it?
Back in January, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com suggested that a seven-year, $120 million deal might be worthwhile to both parties, based on these back-of-the-napkin numbers:
Three arbitration years worth $40 million plus four free-agent years worth $80 million would amount to seven years, $120 million. And yes, given where Posey is starting in arbitration, his free-agent years almost certainly would be worth $20 million per season, if not more.
So we're getting somewhere. But is that even enough for Posey?
Here's what Heyman wrote:
For the Giants, the key is figuring out the fair length and price.
While a deal for 6-8 years might better suit the team's bean counters, it makes no sense for Posey to sign a mid-range contract such as that since he currently stands to become a free agent at 29, when barring injury he'd likely break a team's bank, and then some.
Posey is an unusual case because of his age, his position and his early special accomplishments. He is almost without peer. It's a perfect storm.
But Posey surely would prefer to remain a Giant, where he has built a name and a brand. And most important for him, they win.
So if the starting point for Posey already is at eight years, as Heyman suggests, why not just go all out and bring up the Joey Votto contract, as ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney did earlier this month:
Buster Posey is not close to an extension. If one develops, then the best comparable is probably the Votto 12-year commitment--not 3 years.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 11, 2013
You'll remember last April 4 (almost a year ago), Votto, the Cincinnati Reds' superstar first baseman and former NL MVP, signed the extension to end all extensions. It essentially amounted to $251.5 million over 12 years. All guaranteed. In other words, in terms of guaranteed seasons of team control, it was the longest contract in the history of baseball.
(Votto was due $26.5 million on the last two years of his initial three-year extension, and the club tacked on $225 million over 10 additional years.)
Certainly, there are reasons not to give Posey a Votto-like extension. Chief among them? Posey's already suffered a career-threatening injury while playing a position that's both more physically demanding and makes for a shorter shelf life than most others.
To wit, Posey has been worth 4.2 and 8.0 wins above replacement (WAR), per FanGraphs, in his first two full (non-injured) big league seasons, respectively.
In the past 50 years, there have been only 35 individual catcher seasons worth more than 4.2 WAR among catchers 30 years and up. None of the 35 instances have been above 7.4 WAR.
That goes to show how risky handing out such a long-term, big-money contract to a backstop—even one as great as Posey—could be. Sure, Posey could move out from behind the plate and play first base as he reaches his early 30s in order to help keep him healthy for whatever's left on his deal, but the Giants would be paying him now based on his value playing a premium defensive position.
Speaking of great catchers, there's an obvious comparison to make in Joe Mauer. Like Posey, Mauer was a first-round draft pick whose career got off to an incredible, batting title-winning and MVP award-worthy beginning. And much like Posey seems open to doing, Mauer intended to stay with the organization who drafted and developed him from the start.
Mauer's deal, inked back on March 22 of 2010 (three years ago Friday), was for $184 million over eight seasons. At $23 million per, that would translate to $276 million for 12 years, which, again, is the length of Votto's guaranteed contract.
Admittedly, that—the largest contract in terms of years and money in baseball history, besting Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million record deal by a cool mill—is not happening.
Plus, there's one key factor that's being overlooked in all of this Posey speculation: He still has four years to go before free agency. By comparison, Mauer was just a season away from the open market when he signed, and Votto was all of two years out.
By that logic, Posey has a lot less leverage at the moment. So if he's really going to sign any time soon, he would get not only fewer dollars than Mauer did, but also fewer years than Votto.
Maybe, though, the Giants could help move negotiations along by agreeing to get started on building that bronze Buster.
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