When fans discuss the players on their team and other players around the league, the conversation usually starts with talent and production. After all, if a player isn't worth his weight in veggie "burgers" nobody is going to give a damn anyway, right? Next on the checklist though is the player's cost. Alex Rodriguez is an amazing player obviously, but has he ever been worth his salary? That's debatable at the very least.
In a perfect world, every team would have a few players producing top-of-the-line production at a below market price. If only life in the owner's box and Front Office were that easy. In an ESPN Insider piece, Jim Bowden discusses some of the best contracts in Major League Baseball. It's no surprise that the Tampa Bay Rays have several listed.
- Robinson Cano - 2008-2011, four years/$30 million, AAV: $7.5 million - The New York Yankees are not as fortunate anymore as Cano's options will cost $14 million this season and $15 million in 2013. He's the best second baseman in the game though and the Yankees aren't hurting for cash.
- Justin Upton - 2010-2015, six years/$51.25 million, AAV: $8.5 million - The scariest thing about this is that Justin Upton is only 24 years old and already deserves to be mentioned as one of the best players in the game.
- Tampa Bay Rays - Evan Longoria (six years/$17.5 million), David Price (six years/$8.5 million) and Matt Moore (five years/$14 million) - The Rays aren't the first team to lock up young players, but they might be the first to do so as early and aggressively as they do. How long will it be before half of the league is playing copy cat?
- Starting pitchers - Ricky Romero (five years/$30.1 million), Yovani Gallardo (5 years/$30 million), Johnny Cueto (four years/$27 million) - These deals aren't as friendly as the Rays', but they traded some financial savings for more certainty.
Who doesn't love the contracts to which the Rays have signed some of their top talent? They really don't have much of a choice under their financial constraints. For teams that have more money I think waiting a few years is the way to go. Prospects - especially starting pitchers - can be extremely unpredictable once they make it to the Major Leagues. For those that can afford to, it makes sense to pay a little extra for more certainty. There is nothing worse than committing millions of dollars to a player that does not produce.