In other news, the Soriano signing may mean, as Gammons says, that the Cubs are turning themselves into instant contenders; it also highlights just what a good deal Manny Ramirez is for the remaining two years (and $36 mil or so) of his contract. In order to land Soriano, the Cubs shelled out $136 million over eight years. For those of you keeping track at home, that means Soriano will be earning $17 million a year through 2014, when he’ll be 38 years old. Seriously, think about that: Congressmen will need to run four times before Soriano needs to think about his next job. There’ll be two presidential elections. Even Senators will need to make their case to the public. But not Alfonso…who has never been as consistent an offensive force as Manny (and is arguably as much of an adventure in the field).
The Soriano deal shows the extent to which the market has gone crazy; it’s the biggest deal since the $141 million contract extension Todd Helton landed before the 2001 season, and pretty much marks an official return to the 2000-2001 insanity. (If history holds, only a couple of this year’s mega-signings will pan out; Manny and Mike Mussina are the only guys from the 2000 class who can be said to have paid off.)
This year’s funny money contracts also point to why the Sox’s mega-offer for the negotiating rights to Matsuzaka arguably makes sense. As the always eloquent David Leonhardt points out in yesterday’s Times, “Matsuzaka is unlike any other free agent on the market this year â€šÃ„Ã® or almost any other year. He is 26, an age when a typical pitcher is in his prime and yet usually too young to be a free agent. Players who come up through the minor leagues generally donâ€šÃ„Ã´t have the chance to test the market and choose their own team until after they have spent six seasons in Major League Baseball, according to free agency rules. By then, they are typically in their late 20s, or even their early 30s, and their performance is already starting to slide. This, more than anything else, explains why so many free-agent signings turn out to be busts.” (Why is it that it takes a business writer to explain the economics of baseball? Why couldn’t, say, the Times‘s baseball columnist have attempted to understand (and explain) this?) This is also the framework through which it makes sense to look at a bunch of the Sox’s recent moves: the Arroyo for Wily Mo (D.O.B. 1/23/82) deal; the Crisp (D.O.B. 11/1/79) acquisition; even the Beckett (D.O.B. 5/15/80) deal.
It’s not even Thanksgiving (you remember Thanksgiving, right?) and the Hot Stove has already boiled over. (I’m sorry. Really: I’ll avoid the stupid stove puns for the rest of the offseason.) It’s going to be an interesting couple of months.