Why I’m Scared of Johan Santana’s Contract

Dollar Signs

Johan Santana is currently Elias‘ highest rated starting pitcher in the AL, ahead of the likes of C.C. Sabathia, Josh Beckett, and Roy Halladay. He’s a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and the 2007 Gold Glove Award winner. He’s a three-time AL All-Star. He’s an incredible pitcher and probably the second best the Mets have ever had. Don’t forget about Hall of Famer Tom Seaver.

I’m thrilled that Santana’s a Met, but his contract frightens me and you should be scared too. Exceeding the $100 million mark hasn’t been done often in baseball, especially for pitchers with good reason. Look at the historical examples of Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton, and most recently Bary Zito. Do you think the Dodgers, Rockies, and Giants have been happy with the way those contracts worked out? I don’t either.

The Mets now have two players whose contracts exceed $100 million. This is nothing new to the likes of the Yankees, but breaking new ground for the Mets. Carlos Beltran isn’t the only mega millionaire in Queens now.

In the coming days we’ll look in depth at the performance of Brown, Hampton, and Zito. We’ll talk about the impact that the money has on players. It’s one thing to be scraping by on $14 million/year and quite another to have $137 million guaranteed for Santana. We’ll also look at the worst Mets current contracts and try to forget about the past transgressions of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, and other high priced under performing Mets.

Santana Contract and Physical Finalized

Johan Santana took his physical examination in New York today and passed. The contract terms were finalized as a six year deal with a team option for a seventh year. The last year could become guaranteed based on performance marks. The total value of the contract could exceed $150 million.

Of course, the value of this contract seems ridiculous. The only method to determine Santana’s value is based on players with similar skills that have recently signed contracts. The closest source of comparison is Barry Zito and his 7 year $126 million contract. That had to be the starting point for the negotiations. In the end, the total value of Santana’s contract is relatively reasonable.

It’s not often that a team gets a shot at a 29 year old two-time Cy Young Award winner. As a matter of fact, it almost never happens. Most of the top performing pitchers that are still in their prime playing years (28-32) never get to free agency. Just look at the Padres contract extension with Jake Peavey. The Mets had to jump at this opportunity.

Even though the Mets will be married to Santana for longer than they probably wanted to be, I believe that it’ll be looked at a successful trade for the Mets. They have plenty of revenue to start with, their own TV station, a new stadium next year, and several big salaries are going off the books after the 2008 season: Delgado, Pedro, Alou, El Duque, and Billy Wagner goes off the books in 2009.

The Mets are in a position of financial flexibility from my perspective. Nice job Omar!

Santana Rocks!

He’s here… and at a reasonable price. The Mets didn’t have to give up Fernando Martinez or Mike Pelfrey. This could work out to be Omar Minaya’s crowning achievement. Obviously, having the Wilpons checkbook helps but he still had to work the Twins down to four promising young players.

The Twins won’t know if this deal worked out for them for a few years. They have a new stadium coming too, but Carl Pohlad doesn’t empty the safe for players like the Wilpons do. Carlos Gomez should start in centerfield and Phil Humber should get more than a look for a spot in the rotation. I’m still surprised they couldn’t get more out of the Mets though.

I’ve read that the Mets are hesitant to offer Santana more than a five year deal. I think they have to look at the Barry Zito deal with the Giants, and then up the ante a little. The Giants set the bar pretty high but the Mets can exceed anything the Giants can do financially. Zito got 7 years for $126 million.

You’re in luck if you have tickets for opening day… Johan Santana vs. the Marlins in Florida. I’m sure tickets are available for that one. Maybe not for long though.