Even though we all should know better, the instant a player and team agree to a long term contract or extension, everybody races out to declare a winner. Team friendly or player friendly, good deal or bad deal, the ink is barely try and columnists and commenters alike weigh in with their opinion.
There is a lot more attention given to those who slam deals than those who shrug their shoulders and say “meh. Could go either way.” There is no sex appeal in a column that says “let’s wait and see how this plays out.”
Long-term extensions for players still years away from free agency are the new normal in the baseball world. Players sell off potential future earnings in exchange for the security of a guaranteed paycheck. Sometimes, it backfires on the player. Tim Lincecum probably wishes he signed one of the seven-year deals the Giants slide across the table to him. Evan Longoria might feel otherwise, having “lost out” on millions of dollars by signing his eternal soul and first born child to the Rays minutes after his big league debut.
For teams, the risks are different. The more guaranteed money, the more risk on the club’s part. Injury or underperformance can cut into a deal and make it seem positively foolish after just a few years (looking at you, Colorado. Manny Corpas? Not your finest hour.)
Yesterday, the Padres announced left-handed starter Cory Luebke will miss the entire 2014 season as he requires Tommy John surgery to replace a torn UCL in this throwing elbow. This, of course, comes on the heels of missing the entire 2013 season after another Tommy John procedure in 2012. Yikes.
For all the advancements of modern medicine and the wonderdrug properties attributed to the famous ligament transfer procedure, it is still a complicated surgery that offers no guarantees.
Luebke signed a three-year deal with the Padres during Spring Training of 2012, selling off his three arbitration years with options for two free agent years. He earned $1 million for rehabbing his arm last season and will take in $3 million in paychecks during the long road back in 2014. Provided he comes back during as some point during 2015, Luebke will be 30-years old with free agency looming.
It’s obviously a tough break for Luebke and tough for the Padres, too (such as anything can be in San Diego. Forever floating in a river of beige, not much can deter the Padres from their methodical pursuit of total irrelevance.)
There is always risk. Even in a low stakes deal like this one. Even the Padres can absorb paying somebody these minimal dollars without seeing the player throw a pitch in the big leagues. You just never know.
Is Luebke’s deal easier to swallow because the terms are so minimal? Yes. That changes the equation greatly. Even the laughable Manny Corpas deal linked above didn’t keep the Rockies from doing business as usual. It simply underscores how foolish we all appear when rushing to judgement on a long term contract the day it is made official. Stuff happens. Come prepared.
Read of the Day
Very interesting profile of Oakland A’s front office wiz Farhan Zaidi, the MIT-educated Canadian recently promoted to Assistant General Manager. Interesting to see the progression from full-blown stats nerd to “the tools police”, as the A’s scouting staff refers to Zaidi.
Tracy McGrady is your hero and mine
Every single thing about the Tracy McGrady story delights me to no end. More often than we realize, sports choose the guy rather than the guy choosing the sport. T-Mac has very real love for baseball in his heart and now, as most independently wealthy 34-year old athletic freaks are wont to do, the former NBA swingman will pursue a career as a pitcher.
The road is long and hard and the odds are stacked impossibly against him but I WANT AND NEED THIS. It’s a terrific story, hopefully one that ends with some small triumph on the baseball diamond and not a trip to Birmingham for the two-time All NBA first teamer.