Baseball's Megadeals Rarely Work Out, but Giancarlo Stanton's Is Different
Business + Economy

Baseball's Megadeals Rarely Work Out, but Giancarlo Stanton's Is Different

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Some numbers have a hallowed significance in baseball. Sixty feet, six inches. Jackie Robinson’s 42. Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs, and Hank Aaron’s 755. You can add 325 to that list, at least for a while. The Miami Marlins have reportedly agreed to a record-setting 13-year, $325 million contract with slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. The deal would be the largest ever in North American professional sports, easily surpassing the 10-year, $292 million guaranteed total that Miguel Cabrera received from the Detroit Tigers in March.

Those kinds of multiyear megadeals haven’t always panned out — see Rodriguez, Alex — leaving at least some question about whether the Marlins will get their money’s worth on the field. But the Marlins have good reason to hope signing Stanton will pay off.

Related: Why A-Rod Is Still Rolling in the Dough

Unlike more veteran players who get large long-term deals after they’ve likely had their best seasons, Stanton is young (just 25 years old as of Nov. 8) and already dominant (37 home runs and a .950 OPS, fourth best in the Majors, in an injury-shortened 2014 campaign). Stanton finished second in the balloting for the National League’s Most Valuable Player this past season and it’s no stretch to see him winning the award multiple times in the decade ahead, which should still include his best seasons. That makes it more likely that paying him $154,000 a game yields decent returns. (Stanton reportedly will get a full no-trade clause and will be able to opt out of the deal and seek an even better one after six years.)

Locking up Stanton should also help the Marlins from a marketing perspective, and could convince fans that the notoriously thrifty team is serious about being competitive over the long term rather than just binging on players and purging them when the win totals don’t match the payroll or a fancy new ballpark still fails to attract fans. The $325 million deal suddenly has sportswriters putting “Miami Marlins” and “credibility” in the same sentence.

The contract is the biggest example yet of a new wave of deals in which teams look to lock up their best young players for longer, even if it means paying them more early on. Still, there’s no guarantee that Stanton’s record-shattering deal will pay off for the team or its fans. For further evidence of that, we’ll repost below the lists of the most overpaid and underpaid players who entered Major League Baseball between 1985 and 1995.

Mike Cassidy, a policy associate at The Century Foundation, compiled these lists for The Fiscal Times using data from Lahman’s Baseball Database and Cassidy used Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, to compare the value that players contributed compared to the compensation they received. You can read more about his methodology and findings here:

Related: Madison Bumgarner Is Exhibit A in Baseball’s Screwball Salary System

You’ll see below some of the reasons Cassidy concluded that baseball’s compensation system is neither efficient nor fair. The Marlins are hoping that their aggressive, landmark deal with Stanton breaks that old mold.


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