The 2000 free agent class and why Manny Ramirez will likely remain with the Red Sox

June 26th, 2006 → 11:39 am @ // 2 Comments

It’s been five-and-a-half years since the Red Sox signed Manny Ramirez to an eight-year, $160 million contract, which was at the time—and remains today—the second largest contract in the history of baseball, behind only Alex Rodriguez’s $252 million, ten-year deal. Manny and A-Rod signed their deals within days of each other (A-Rod on December 11, 2000, Manny on December 13), and while their contracts were the offseason’s gaudiest, those two deals ended up being the smartest long-term deals given out in the winter of 2000. In one two-week span, from November 30 through December 13, seven players signed contracts worth a total of $770 million. The average annual salary of those deals was $16.7 million. Outside of Manny and A-Rod, the only other deal that worked out—and the only other deal that was really justifiable at the time—was the six-year, $88.5 million contract Mike Mussina got from the Yankees.

The other four deals would be funny if there weren’t families living in this country that can’t afford food or health care. Denny Neagle got a five-year, $51 million contract from the Rockies; that deal included a $9 million buyout for 2006. Neagle pitched a total of 370.3 innings in 2001, 2002, and 2003; over that time he had a 19-23 record and a cumulative ERA of 5.57. On December 4, 2004—exactly four years after he signed his contract—the Rockies terminated their deal with Neagle after he was busted with a hooker. (Neagle sued the Rockies and the two parties eventually came to terms. How things have changed: In 1960, both Ted Williams and Stan Musial insisted on pay cuts–Williams from $125,000 to $90,000; Musial from $100,000 to $80,000–after sub-par 1959 seasons.)

Amazingly, Neagle wasn’t the biggest mistake the Rockies made that offseason. Five days after signing him, Colorado inked Mike Hampton to an eight-year, $121 million deal. Hampton lasted two years with the Rockies before being shipped off to Atlanta, going 14-13 with a 5.41 ERA in 2001 and 7-15 with a 6.15 ERA in 2002.

At least Hampton had a decent track record. Darren Dreifort was a career 39-45 pitcher who’d had exactly one season with an ERA under 4.00 when the Dodgers gave him $55 million for five years. Driefort didn’t pitch in 2002 and likely won’t ever pitch again. For those $55 million, he went 9-15 with a 4.64 ERA, picking up approximately $267,000 per inning pitched and $6.1 million per win.

By those measures, the Mets deal with Kevin Appier—he was given $42 million for four years—looks almost rational. Appier spent a season in Queens, going 11-10 with an ERA about half a run under the league average, before being traded to Anaheim (for Mo Vaughn, of all people). Last year, with the Royals, Appier pitched a total of four innings.

In the five-plus years that Ramirez has been in Boston, one of the most enigmatic players ever to wear a major league uniform has been the focal point of any number of controversies. Ramirez was signed by former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette, and the Red Sox and Ramirez have been on the verge of severing ties on any number of occasions since John Henry and Tom Werner bought the team in 2001. (You’ll need to read the book to find out the real stories behind the various times Ramirez and the Red Sox have come close to parting company.) But with a two-and-a-half years left on his deal, it’s increasingly likely that Ramirez will finish out his contract in Boston, and perhaps even retire as a member of the Red Sox.

In the eleven years since Ramirez became a full-time player, he’s hit 416 home runs and driven in 1349 runs. That’s an average of 38 HRs and 123 RBIs a year. In the five full seasons he’s been with Boston, his production has been remarkably similar, with an average of 40 home runs and 122 RBIs. There are those odd times when Ramirez decides he needs a day off, but he’s averaged 143 games a year since 1995; since coming to the Sox, he’s averaged 144 a year. This year, Ramirez looks like he’s heading towards his twelfth straight year of 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs: as of this morning, he has 20 homers, 51 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.027. There have been plenty of times the Red Sox have been frustrated by Ramirez’s petulance, his intermittently lackadaisical fielding, and his failure to hustle. But the Red Sox realize that Ramirez is rarely a clubhouse distraction, they appreciate his consistency, and are often as awed by his hitting prowess as the rest of us. Ramirez, for his part, seems to realize how good he has it in Boston—for all the talk of the city’s voracious press corps, Manny is pretty much left alone—and he’s kept his pre-season promise to hunker down and focus on his game.

Assuming Ramirez doesn’t get dealt before the July 31 deadline, there’ll be two more years on his contract. This year, he’s one of 18 major leaguers making $14 million a year or more. Is he overpaid? Sure. Are there cheaper options out there? Not really. (It’s worth noting that that hasn’t always been the case in the last several years.) The league’s exuberant revenue sharing policy means more medium- and small-market teams are signing their young stars to long-term deals before they hit free agency, and even the Mets finally seem to understand it makes sense to hold on to prospects who can be cheaply controlled for the first years of their careers. If Ramirez maintains his production—and he shows no signs of significantly slowing down—paying a premium for that kind of power (and that kind of protection for David Ortiz) isn’t the worst thing in the world. The Red Sox–who have one of the smartest front offices in the game–realize that.


Post Categories: A-Rod & Manny Ramirez & Red Sox ownership

2 Comments → “The 2000 free agent class and why Manny Ramirez will likely remain with the Red Sox”


  1. Kent Bonham

    11 years ago

    Seth:

    Look forward to the book.

    RE: Manny, I think the larger issue is whether or not his production can be re-couped in the aggregate. As Mitchel Lichtman noted in his “What’s Manny Worth?” piece, it might be that this can be accomplished in a few different ways.

    I am skeptical of even the most current defensive metrics, but they do influence my opinions. So much so, that I am firmly of the opinion that Manny can & should be dealt.

    Thanks again.

    – Kent

    Reply
  2. […] So: here are a couple of flashbacks from way back in June. Despite knowing full well the considerable risks involved with writing about Manny, I’ll offer up a June 26th post on the free agent class of 2000 and what it means for Manny’s future with the Sox. […]

    Reply

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