Before I get into the big signings from yesterday, I didn’t want to forget about Jorge Posada’s retirement announcement. Posada said that it was at the end of last year that he knew he wasn’t going to play another year. Posada’s numbers, both statistically and the number of rings he can wear on his fingers, will merit Hall of Fame consideration for sure. He only had two real standout years offensively (2003 and 2007), but he was a consistent force throughout the lineup for the Yankees in the late 90s and throughout the 2000s.
There were two signings yesterday, but to be fair, most of baseball was only interested in one. Prince Fielder is a large man. The Detroit Tigers signed him to a large contract. Give my friend Brad Evans credit for dubbing him the Prince Of Motown.
During the day, the scuttlebutt was that the Washington Nationals had the inside track and were talking to Fielder and his agent Scott Boras about an 8-year deal. Out of the blue, word came out that it was the Tigers who signed him, adding a 9th year to the deal. The total sum amounts to a robust and girthy $214 million. Fielder’s contract is the second this off-season to surpass the $200 million mark. Albert Pujol’s vacation to Disneyland will net him $246 million.
I think eyes are going to be wide open on Fielder over the length of his deal. As I stated above, Fielder is a large athlete in a day and age when almost all athletes of his size are trying to control the line of scrimmage on the gridiron, or inside a WWE wrestling ring. To give Fielder a 9-year deal is a risk that probably only the Detroit Tigers were willing to take. Unless Fielder turns a lot of that fat into muscle (the right way), you can imagine the scale is going to be monitored just as closely by the Detroit media as his batting average will be.
It’s almost certain that his production will decrease simply because athletes get worse with age. Jonah Keri covered this very thing. But will his athletic ability leave him more quickly because he’s large and in charge? I’d guess so. More than likely, Detroit is paying for the next four or five years and hoping that it will be enough for a championship or two, because he’s probably going to Barry Zito them by the end of the contract.
Someone who knows knows a little bit about Barry Zito’ing something is none other than Tim Lincecum. He’s watched his teammate Barry Zito earn a ton of money while handcuffing his team because of his lack of production. Yesterday, Lincecum signed a two-year deal with the Giants for $40.5 million. Once the deal is over, Lincecum will be a free agent. It was a bit of a risk for Lincecum in that by signing a short deal, he’s counting on still being one of the top pitchers in baseball by 2014. It was rumored that the Giants offered him a 5-year deal in the neighborhood of $100 million dollars, but I didn’t expect him to sign it because it would eat up the first three years of his free agency period and who knows how good he’d be in five years. It’s a better bet that he’s still on top of his game after two years rather than five and then he can really test the market, maybe like no other pitcher has ever done before.
I think Giants fans understand the situation from both sides. The ball club needs to get out from under the Barry Zito contract, which also has a minimum two more years left, and by then, they’ll have more money to throw at Lincecum. But they are in a bit of a catch-22. One of the ways they can entice Lincecum to stay is simply by fielding a strong baseball team over the next two years. But if Zito’s contract truly hurts their ability to get a top tiered free agent hitter, they won’t be able to go after one until Lincecum’s contract is over. If I’m the Giants, I spend some of that Zito cash a little bit early, simply to give themselves a better chance to keep their golden goose. When the Yankees, Red Sox, or maybe even his hometown Mariners give him a better than Barry Zito-like contract in 2014, it will send deja vu shivers up and down Brian Sabean’s spine. If Lincecum leaves the team, there goes the neighborhood.