Since there seems to be some growing unrest in Cardinal nation about the contract status of one Albert Pujols, I thought it might be a good idea to survey the current free agent landscape for clues of what the future might bring. The present might be a poor predictor of the future, but that’s never stopped otherwise intelligent people from buying Google shares on the way down, so let’s go for it. In my case, I’m using the “Abner Doubleday Agent-speak-to-English” translator to decipher what is being communicated between agents and front offices. The translator was created with the assistance of “YankiLeaks” which is an organization that is dedicated to rooting out private information and making it public in the interest of fame. PH8 has no connection with YankiLeaks, and absolutely no money, favors, or anything of value was exchanged in return for the information acquired by YankiLeaks. Here is a great example using the ongoing, high-profile negotiations between Derek Jeter and the Yankees. (Translated portions appear after the “=>“)
Hal Steinbrenner (on WFAN):“There’s always the possibility that things could get messy.” => I’ve met Derek’s agent, Casey Close, and we can never agree on an appetizer. Of course, that’s probably because those really nice two-fork restaurants never have SpaghettiO’s.
Casey Close: “There’s a reason the Yankees themselves have stated Derek Jeter is their modern-day Babe Ruth. Derek’s significance to the team is much more than just stats. And yet, the Yankee’s negotiating strategy remains baffling.” => I really like the mozzarella sticks, but Hal always insists on asking for crayons and doodling on the linens first. He can never find the right “Yankee” blue, either. Very annoying. I’ll admit that “baffling” isn’t the right word. “Stupid” is the word that I wanted to use. It’s a good thing I usually win rock/paper/scissors for the mozzarella sticks, though. I’d starve if not for that.
Brian Cashman: “We’re not going to be interested in retaining players because of future milestones.” “The stars don’t put fannies in the seats. Wins do. If it’s a bad team, people will stop showing up in July. They’ll go to the beach.” => I’m lying. I’m completely lying about this, and everybody in NYC knows that I’m lying, because Yankee’s fans aren’t idiots (except for the ones who were spitting on Cliff Lee‘s wife). “Stars” actually do put fannies in the seats. If our starting five included Pavano, Burnett, Hughes, and two players nobody heard of, people wouldn’t show. I really wish I could find my dark emperor robes. The use of the dark side of the force is starting to make my face look really pale. Maybe I can teach Hal how to use the dark side to beat Casey in rock/paper/scissors. I’m like 6-7 against him right now. That’s okay, because I like mozzarella sticks anyway. I need to txt Hank. I need a good laugh, and his impression of Clemens testifying is superb.
Casey Close (in response to the Hal “messy” statement and after Cashman’s “milestones” statement): Saying that Jeter’s value to the Yankees “cannot be overstated” => Really? Really! I just happened to notice that Alex Rodriguez has $30M in marketing bonuses for HR milestones 660 – 763. Hmmm. Guess you must be keeping Alex, because of his value as a paragon of virtue and role model standing in the community. Oddly enough, you guys are only offering Derek a 3 year deal. That seems like a strange number. Why is that? Funny. I just noticed that Derek has 2926 career hits. Carl Yastrzemski has 3419 career hits. By my rudimentary math using Hal’s crayons, I estimate that Derek should reach Yaz in just under 3 years, even if he does lose a few games to injury. Wow!!! That’s interesting. Well, it’s interesting to me, anyway. You guys obviously don’t care, because you aren’t the least bit interested in milestones, especially milestones of players who are absolutely iconic players in Boston history. Silly me. I’m still not sure why Brian insists on waving his hand in my face and muttering “these aren’t the appetizers you are looking for” when we do lunch. Now, I just need to get Jeter to marry Minka to raise his Q-factor a bit more. At least he’s not walking around in bars anymore asking women “Would you like a little Captain in ya?”
Brian Cashman (after offering 3 yrs / $45M): “We understand his contributions to the franchise and our offer has taken them into account. We’ve encouraged him to test the market and see if there’s something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That’s the way it works.” => We’ve already made so much money off of that cash cow that we can pay him whatever we want. I just picked $45M outta my head after eating too many mozzarella sticks. I’d offer a 4th year, but Derek will probably come back and hit .320 next year with 195 hits, so he’ll catch Yaz without a problem. If he actually tests the market, I’ll look like a complete jerk, but I look like one anyway. It’s the hair. The use of the dark side of the force just does that. Look at what it did to Palpatine. Heck, look what it did to Yoda, and he was on the “good” side. Of course, I don’t know who we’d play at SS, if he does leave. I never really gave that much consideration. Maybe Cano can cover both 2B and SS with his range. Then again, maybe we’ll up the offer a bit and try to get this done, before we do any real damage.
Hank Steinbrenner: “I feel confident that Derek will remain with the Yankees, and my brother does, as well.” => If Cashman would stop asking me to do my impression of Roger Clemens testifying, I’d have time to focus on these negotiations. As it is, I can’t even find that blue crayon that Hal dropped. I really don’t understand all the fuss. We’re already headed well over $200M for an opening day payroll, and we haven’t even signed that Cliff Lee guy yet. What’s an extra $2-3M to Jeter? It’s worth it just to keep Minka in the stands. Besides, I heard a rumor that Cano won’t be happy if we don’t keep Derek happy, and that’s a BIG deal that nobody is talking about. That’s enough business crap for one day. I gotta meet Sabathia at that pizza place in 15 minutes. He’s challenged me to a pizza eating contest at a pizza buffet, and that man is doing down!!! Oh look! It’s Cashman’s dark emperor robes with a blue crayon sticking out of pocket. Sneaky Cashman.
So, how does all of this apply to AP’s contract situation? Well, it’s a great example of the reality that an aging superstar player faces when they reach a point where their skills begin to deteriorate. If the latest rumor of a 3 year offer of around $51M is accurate, then that would exceed the annual value of the contract extension just signed by Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, and that’s definitely representative of more than market value for Jeter. While Jeter is currently 36 and Pujols is only 30, the concerns are still similar for both players and the respective management teams. Consider the fact that the Cardinals signed Matt Holliday through his age 36 season with a team option for his age 37 season, and it’s not unreasonable to expect the team to attempt to do something similar with Pujols in terms of contract length. From a team’s perspective, a 7 year deal for 7 truckloads of money trumps a 10 year deal for 10 truckloads of money, even if each of the 7 truckloads are slightly larger than each of the 10 truckloads. At least, that’s what I made up just now was taught.
As for Jeter, he hasn’t really had to say much, and that’s a credit to his agent. I don’t have a horse in this race, but for Yankees’ fans, I’m optimistic that a deal gets done soon. I’d guess 3 yrs for $54M with a 4th yr team/mutual option that’s likely to have some reasonable trigger clause.