Over the last 10 years, a growing appreciation for the concept of service time has swept Major League Baseball. One of the effects of this has been a willingness for teams to mitigate risk by locking players they consider to be franchise cornerstones into long-term deals. For the team, this provides a degree of budget certainty and avoids the hassle of arbitration. For the player, it might not represent maximum earning potential, but it’s a balance between the risk of going year-to-year and the safety of guaranteeing oneself some degree of financial security.
The Toronto Blue Jays and slugger Adam Lind continued this trend on Saturday, as the Jays locked up their offensive cornerstone with a 4-year, $18 million deal that buys out 3 arbitration years and gives the club options on 3 free agent years. According to reports and Cot's Baseball Contracts, here’s how the money breaks down:
Scheduled Salary, 2010-2016
Thus, if all options are picked up and the contract is not bought out near the back end of the deal, Lind will earn approximately $38.5M through the next 7 seasons. Viewed in a vacuum, this stands to be an excellent value for the Blue Jays. However, when one looks at the contract in comparison to another AL East outfielder who signed a similar deal covering the same period of his career, the value for the Jays begins to look even better.
Scheduled Salary, 2009-2015
On the flip side, if Nick Markakis has all of his options exercised, he will earn over $62M for the same portion of his career that Lind will earn under $40M. While the merits of Markakis’ deal can still be strong, it helps to shed light on just what type of bargain the Jays can expect to recoup. This is aside from the fact that while it looks like Lind’s trajectory is on its way up, Markakis looks decidedly stalled.
Lind blossomed into a true heart-of-the-order power threat in 2009 (his .257 isolated power mark ranked 15th in MLB), while Markakis saw most of his offensive indicators take a step backwards. He regressed in his ability to get on base (.409 OBP in '08 to .347 in '09), to hit for power (.185 ISO to .160), and even to hit for average (.306 to .293).
The money is such that even if Lind regresses to something like .280/.350/.500, the Jays would still be likely to come out ahead. Meanwhile, if Lind duplicates his 2009 season, the Jays will have one of the best values in baseball locked up through 2016.
So while the immediate future in Toronto might not be particularly bright with the departure of Roy Halladay and the albatross that is Vernon Wells, the new regime clearly understands the concept of locking young, talented players into affordable, long-term deals. Lind is just one piece of the puzzle moving forward, but he’s one that will be in Toronto for the foreseeable future – at a very team-friendly cost, particularly relative to some of the comparable situations.