The One Contract to Rule Them All

by on February 12, 2011 · 31 comments

I’m not good with deadlines.  All the guessing games annoy me, and quite frankly I’ve grown tired of people tossing numbers around like they’re plotting their strategy for cowchip bingo or something.  10/300?  8/225?  Can I get a 15/450?  Seriously.  Stop it.  Move past the basic parameters of a regular contract and start thinking in terms of something more complex.  Use your imagination a bit. 

Why can’t the contract extension for Albert Pujols be full of escalation clauses, opt-outs, buyouts, bonuses, and a bag of chips?  Put all those things on top of a really nice base salary, and you’ve got the makings of something that works for both sides.  Consider what I’ve conjured up in my own little twisted mind:

  • Year 1 (2012, age 32) – Base pay $25M guaranteed, $3M bonus for 6.0+ WAR [triggers $5M bonus for year 3]
  • Year 2 (2013, age 33) – Base pay $25M guaranteed, $3M bonus for 6.0+ WAR [triggers $5M bonus for year 4]
  • Year 3 (2014, age 34) – Base pay $22.5M guaranteed, $3M bonus for 5.5+ WAR [triggers $2.5M bonus for year 5]
  • Year 4 (2015, age 35) – Base pay $22.5M guaranteed, $3M bonus for 5.5+ WAR [triggers $2.5M bonus for year 6]
  • Year 5 (2016, age 36) – Base pay $20.0M guaranteed, $3M bonus for 5.0+ WAR [triggers $2.5M bonus for year 7]
  • Year 6 (2017, age 37) – Base pay $20.0M guaranteed, $3M bonus for 5.0+ WAR [triggers $2.5M bonus for year 8]
  • Year 7 (2018, age 38) – Base pay $20.0M guaranteed, $3M bonus for 4.5+ WAR [triggers $2.5M bonus for year 9]
  • Year 8 (2019, age 39) – Base pay $20.0M guaranteed, $3M bonus for 4.5+ WAR [triggers $2.5M bonus for year 10]
  • Year 9 (2020, age 40) – Base pay $20.0M guaranteed, $3M bonus for 4.0+ WAR
  • Year 10 (2021, age 41) – Base pay $20.0M guaranteed, $3M bonus for 4.0+ WAR

Add in a $1M bonus for each All-Star selection, and a $1M bonus for each Silver Slugger award and Gold Glove award.  $2.5M bonus for hitting each of the 500, 600, 700, and 800 hr plateaus.  $1M bonus for winning a league MVP award.  $2M bonus for the team winning the World Series.  So, let’s add everything up:

  • $215M in guaranteed base pay over 10 years
  • $25M in pay escalators as bonuses
  • $30M in performance-based (WAR) bonus money
  • $10M worth of bonus money for All-Star appearances
  • $10M in bonuses for Silver Slugger awards
  • $10M in bonus money for Gold Gloves
  • $10M in extra cash for hitting some home run marks

By my count that’s a maximum of $310M without including MVP or World Series-related bonus money.  Maybe the 800 hr plateau is a stretch, and it’s unlikely that he’ll collect all the bonuses for All-Star appearances, Silver Sluggers, and Gold Glove awards, but he’ll still be in the $300M neighborhood. 

As for opt-outs?  Albert gets an opt-out after year 4 and year 6.  Will he really want to leave that much money on the table?  Will anybody want to pay offer him a long-term deal after his age 35 season?  I can’t see into the future, but I’m going with “no” and “no” on both of those, anyway. 

Let’s say that Albert signs this contract and goes out and hits all the performance marks for WAR each season, so he triggers all the base pay escalations.  Along with his $215M in base pay, he’ll collect $25M in escalators, and $30M in bonus money.  That’s $270M right there.  He’ll likely eclipse the 500 and 600 hr plateaus along the way, so that’s another $5M – taking his total to $275M.  If he can manage another 7 All-Star appearances, 4 Silver Sluggers, and 4 Gold Glove awards, he’ll collect a cool $15M for those achievements, thereby raising his total earnings to $290M.  That still leaves him shy of the $300M mark.  Even if he can manage a MVP award or two along the way, he’ll still be short.  Even if he hits the 700 hr plateau, he’ll be a million or two south of $300M.  Looks like he’ll just have to deliver a World Series winner (or two).  Seems like a win-win to me. 

TIDBITS:  By no means do I think that there is a perfect contract format or a way to structure a contract that works well for both the player and the team.  However, I’d like to see this contract extension meet two objectives.  First, it should compensate Albert based on his performance and his value to the organization while keeping him in St. Louis for the rest of his career without any more squabbling over money.  Second, it should provide some flexibility for the team to surround Albert with the talent required to be competitive for the duration of the contract, even if he has an off year or suffers an injury.  A $20-22.5M base salary in 2021 represents a relatively palatable fraction of the overall payroll at that point, so it’s possible that he won’t be a complete albatross.  Even if he is, I’d argue that it’s a reasonable price to pay at the end of 20+ years of watching him play.

MORE BITS OF TID:  If Alberts maxes out the contract, the Cardinals will be paying top dollar for 10 consecutive years of All-Star level performance.  That shouldn’t be an issue.  If he goes more to the low end of the deal, he still makes around $240-250M over 10 years, and that’s probably not a horrible deal for the team, either.  Do you really think that the “low end” for Albert means dropping well below a 5.0 WAR value for all 10 years of the deal?  I don’t. 

Like it?  Want to conjure up your own version?  Follow gr33nazn on Twitter and conjure away!

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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