Predicting 'Boom or Bust' for Biggest Risks MLB Teams Are Taking This Winter
Perhaps due to the new television agreements, MLB teams have been spending an inordinate amount of money this offseason. Many of the larger contracts handed out have even prompted many fans and critics to redefine their notion of “value.”
But an increased payroll hardly limits risk. For instance, the very franchise that turned away increasingly expensive stars like Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. inked Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract.
And while Cano certainly provides the Seattle Mariners with a formidable offensive leader, the team will be paying its new star $24 million through age 41.
Read on to see all "boom or bust" predictions for the biggest risks MLB teams are taking this winter.
San Francisco Giants (Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence)
The San Francisco Giants wasted little time retaining two of their fan-favorite players: Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence. The Giants invested $125 million between the pair, handing out above-market contracts to two players past their primes.
Even though $90 million over five years was a bit much to guarantee Pence, it was really the Giants’ decision to re-up Lincecum that cried of desperation. The Giants signed Lincecum to a $35 million, two-year contract despite witnessing his precipitous decline over 2012 and 2013.
After winning two Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009, Lincecum posted a combined 4.76 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 72 ERA+), 1.38 WHIP and 2.31 strikeouts-per-walks ratio over the past two seasons.
No longer the ace he was once was, the Giants are essentially paying Lincecum for his once-promising pitching career—not for the pitcher he currently is and will continue to be.
New York Yankees (Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann)
The New York Yankees didn’t appreciate the game of chicken Jay Z and Roc Nation Sports played between them and free agent Robinson Cano.
Not wanting to be further leveraged into an unscrupulous public relations battle about “retaining” versus “not retaining” their homegrown star, Brian Cashman and the Yankees went full force into free agency. Cashman inked the likes of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran to bountiful contracts.
But while the $300-plus million deal proposed by the Team Cano rightfully didn’t pass the sniff test, many fans and critics still preferred Cano to the array of newcomers the Yankees signed.
Yet as risky as the 10-year deal will be for the Seattle Mariners, signing McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran to a combined $283 million is hardly a sure bet either.
Prediction: collective Bust
New York Mets (Curtis Granderson)
The New York Mets and Sandy Alderson promised fans that there would be a momentous signing this offseason. The promise more or less came true when the team inked former Yankee Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million contract.
From 2007 to 2011, Granderson averaged a park-adjusted 123 OPS+ and 5.1 bWAR, making him one of the more dynamic outfielders in baseball. But as is the case with many players entering their early-30s, the 32-year-old began to noticeably decline in 2012. Granderson hit to the tune of a .232 batting average, whiffed 195 times and posted a 115 OPS+.
The left-handed hitter’s 2013 season was even worse, falling prey to a variety of injuries and only managed a .229 batting average and 97 OPS+ over 245 plate appearances.
Only time will tell if the Mets acquired the Curtis Granderson of 2007-2011, or a past-his-prime outfielder who will continue to head towards the light.
Seattle Mariners (Robinson Cano)
The Seattle Mariners’ interest in Robinson Cano came as a bit of surprise to many people. Looking to upgrade their offensive core—and to make a run at the playoffs, too—the Mariners inked Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract.
Even though the 31-year-old has accumulated 45.2 bWAR in his career—and might have enough left in the tank to emerge as a serious Hall of Fame candidate—the “Cano contract” could either go down as a major win for the organization or a long-lasting albatross.
Cano undoubtedly serves as a massively impactful player, but if the Mariners can’t surround the former Bomber with good talent, then the team’s chances of a playoff berth remain remote.