It is interesting how many players in their early 30′s are receiving long-term contracts. Relievers in their mid-30′s are getting two year deals, and in some cases three. Thirty-one-year-old outfielder Jayson Werth signed a seven-year deal worth $126 million with the Nationals, shocking the baseball world. Thirty-two-year-old Cliff Lee was looking for a seven-year deal this offseason before choosing to sign a five-year pact with the Philadephia Phillies. Adrian Beltre, who 31 and 32 in early April, is about to sign a contract with the Texas Rangers worth $96 million over six years.
Players thought to be nearing the edge of their prime are being signed as if they are 25, the age of baby-faced Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’s teammate Troy Tulowitzki, 26, inked a seven-year contract worth $134 million earlier this offseason, keeping him under team control through the 2020 season. Tulowitzki is one of the best shortstops in baseball and hit .315 with 27 homers and 95 RBIs in only 122 games this past season.
He was especially remarkable during the Rockies playoff push that fell short, but Colorado wouldn’t have been in the position they were in mid-September had CarGo not teamed up with Tulo.
Tulowitzki’s deal may seem like a bit much, but when factoring his age it’s far less risky than some.
And the organization was especially smart signing him longterm for two reasons: first, it keeps him off the market, thereby keeping big spenders like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees from snagging him for a cool $200 million, and second he will remain at high-altitude, so it’s a relative guarantee, barring injury, that he will produce at a high level given his skill-set.
Colorado smartly kept this reasoning in mind when it came to Gonzalez’s situation. Gonzalez was under team control through 2014, but the Rockies wanted to make sure they had him for longer. Gonzalez, with a powerful stroke from the left side, was their best player in 2010, his first full season.
He hit .336 with 34 homers and 117 RBIs to finish third in the National League MVP voting. The organization, anchored by General Manager Dan O’Dowd, was wowed by his sensational season and knew he could get even better with the Rockies if locked up throughout his prime.
Reports are Gonzalez is close to signing a deal worth $80 million over seven years. Given his agent is Scott Boras, this is a steal. And to think Beltre received $16 more million being nearly seven years older.
Reaction, as can be imagined, was all positive from the Rockies side as documented in the Denver Post by Troy E. Renck.
Tulowitzki: “CarGo’s a five-tool talent and brings it every day he steps on the field. Winning is his No. 1 priority. We complement each other well. If this deal gets done, it just shows the organization and his teammates he’s in this for the long haul. That’s all you can ask for.”
Closer Huston Street: “I don’t believe it. I’m so pumped. I’m driving right now attempting to do cartwheels. Sometimes as a player, you have to follow your heart and do what’s best for you. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Tulo just signed and CarGo decided, ‘This is where I want to be.’ “
Considering Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez will cost the Boston Red Sox approximately $280 million, the Rockies ability to sign Gonzalez and Tulowitzki for a combined $214 million is a coup, especially when taking into account how much they could have commanded on the open market following their previous deals.
Some players don’t need to wait for the biggest bucks, though Tulowitzki’s and Gonzalez’s new contracts are by no means paltry.
In leaving money on the table their motivations were clear. Colorado is where they want to be; to play with enjoyable teammates, to perform for an appreciative front office, to excite faithful fan-base and to take full advantage of hitter-friendly Coors Field.
“Eight years ago, this wouldn’t have happened. Guys would come to Colorado but just use it to go somewhere else after a rebound year,” career-long Rockie Todd Helton said in Renck’s piece. “We have some really good young players. It’s exciting to know they are going to be around for a long time.”
Even after his contract is over, money will still undoubtedly be out there for Gonzalez in particular. With the way deals have been handed out of late to players in their 30′s—like Beltre, for instance—he may be in line for another seven-year deal.
And given his team-first, unselfish attitude and how much he enjoys Colorado, re-signing with the Rockies would be his goal–for a discount, too, of course.