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Aramis Contract Redux: Rebuttal Edition
by Derek Smart
Difficult as it may be to believe, there are occasions when people don't completely agree with Alex or I, despite our flawless logic, natural charm, and rapier wit. In this case, Rich Lederer of the always excellent Baseball Analysts has a bone to pick with my latest assessment of the Ramirez deal, and when a man as smart, talented, and just plain nice as Rich takes the time to thoughtfully disagree well, it deserves its own post. So what follows is Rich's response to my latest Ramirez missive, reprinted with his permission.
There is no doubt Ramirez is one of the top half dozen or so third basemen in baseball. He might even be the Cubs best position player. What do you pay for that?
Well, based on the Chavez contract last spring and the Beltre and Glaus deals this winter, I would think he is worth about $10M - $12M per year. Call it $11M if you'd like.
OK, with that as a baseline, how much do you subtract for two conditions that favor Ramirez and Ramirez only?
1. The opt out clause is a huge advantage for Ramirez. He is guaranteed the $42M but has an opportunity to make even more than that. The Cubs are guaranteed to pay him at least $42M and may have little or no say in whether he stays beyond 2006.
2. Let's not kid ourselves here. 2009 is NOT a mutual option. Ramirez is guaranteed another $11M if he averages 135 games in 2007 and 2008. It doesn't matter how well he performs, only how many games he plays.
To my knowledge, Chavez, Beltre, and Glaus do not have similar conditions. Therefore, comparing Ramirez's contract (without factoring in the opt out and the auto extension) to theirs is apples and oranges. No way he should get the same guaranteed money AND have the luxury of leaving for greener pastures after 2006 (or forcing the Cubs to pay an even higher salary) plus have the right to bind the Cubs for an extra year at $11M when, in fact, he may not be worth it at that point.
With respect to the latter point, if Ramirez is worth $11M or more per year, you can rest assured that he will get whatever the market will bear at that point. If he is not worth $11M, you can also rest assured that the Cubs will be stuck paying him just that.
Like JD Drew, Ramirez is an outstanding player. However, like Drew, the club is taking virtually all the risk and not getting anything in return.
You wanna opt out after 2006, fine, that'll cost you a $1M per. You want us to guarantee your salary should you play 270 games (big deal, btw) in 2007 and 2008, fine, that'll cost you another $1M per.
The bottom line is that contracts need to be a two-way street. Either the players should be willing to accept less money or absorb some of the risks. I don't think they should be able to have it both ways, if you will.
The Cubs may or may not get the shaft here, but you can be sure that teams are going to get hurt if these types of contracts become the norm.