Too often in baseball, we think only of scores and standings, and of salaries and mega-deals. We forget that there are real people with real struggles throughout the game that we love, and tend to swap out morals for dollar signs and wins.
Sometimes, it's important to take a step back and take a look at things as bigger than the game of baseball. On Tuesday, top prospect Jon Singleton signed a long-term contract extension with the Houston Astros that guarantees him $10M over the next five seasons with the potential to reach $35M with options and incentives. That deal was heavily criticized by rival agents (speaking anonymously) who characterized it as a team-friendly contract that could hurt future players in similar situations. In this business, it's hard to find agents who are friends with each other, and they are all very quick to criticize their competitors publicly and anonymously. It's easy to find agents who only care about the bottom line, and don't pay any attention to the morals behind the decisions that they are making.
Matt Sosnick, who represents Singleton, has a reputation of not being one of those agents. Once deemed "the most honest agent in the game" by a reporter on Twitter, Sosnick is known for caring about what's best for his clients, regardless of the financial implications for himself or the rest of the league. Frankly, Sosnick shouldn't care about how his deals affect the markets for future players or the union, because that's not his concern. He should care about doing what's right for his clients, even if the deals are thought of as "team-friendly" by rival agents and commentators.
Singleton's case is a little bit different, as he has a past with drugs and alcohol that makes him far from a sure bet in the long-term. He told the Associated Press in March that it was "pretty evident" to him that he was a "drug addict", and that he "just [didn't] like being sober". He tested positive for marijuana twice in 2012, and was suspended for 50 games before being sent to an inpatient rehabilitation center. He even admitted to drinking alcohol as a substitute, telling the AP that he "woke up hung over every morning".
Very few people in that situation are blessed with the athletic abilities that Singleton has, and even fewer have the chance to earn a guaranteed $10 million at age 22 by simply signing a piece of paper. Sosnick likely saw a chance for long-term financial security and life-changing money for someone he cared about, and jumped on the opportunity as soon as he was presented with it. On the business side of things, Singleton would have probably stayed in the minors for a while longer in order to guarantee Super Two status, enabling the Astros to keep him under team control for an extra year and delay a potential major payday.
I don't think Sosnick cares about what his competitors think of his deals, and he probably shouldn't. Though claims were thrown around yesterday about his "fear of losing clients", my research shows that Sosnick has only lost one major league client over the last six years--Rangers infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff, who came back a couple of years later and is a current client of the firm.
Also, to characterize all of Sosnick's deals as team-friendly is a bit ridiculous. This is the agent who signed Dontrelle Willis to a three-year, $29M deal with the Tigers in 2007 after he posted a 5.17 ERA in his last season with the Marlins. Willis went on to win three games over the life of that contract, and was out of baseball two years later. Sosnick also got Ricky Nolasco a great deal with the Twins early last offseason, having him sign a four-year, $49M before superior starters Matt Garza (four years, $50M with the Brewers), Ubaldo Jimenez (four years, $50M with the Orioles) and Ervin Santana (one year, $14.1M with the Braves) signed shortly before spring training. Nolasco has posted a 5.65 ERA in twelve starts with Minnesota, but will receive the full $49M regardless of his performance over the next four years.
Yes, Singleton's deal with the Astros will probably hurt players in similar situations in the future. Rival agents with top prospects are angry, because their wallets just got a bit lighter because of the precedent that this deal set. But money isn't everything, and we should stop thinking that it is.
Singleton may be a solid player in this league, or could even develop into a superstar for the Astros. But if the skeletons in his closet happen to get the best of him and his career turns out to be a failure, he still has $10 million in the bank that he wouldn't have without this deal.