Finally a winter of sensible contracts

February, 19, 2009
As of this morning, the Red Sox hadn't sold out every game this spring. John Henry and Larry Lucchino are talking about salary caps (though Lucchino prefers a more elegant term: "payroll zone"). What is going on this winter? In the Boston Globe, Amalie Benjamin:

    It was a great time to get a one-year contract. But not much else.

    Still, before the Sox reduced contracts to Brad Penny- and John Smoltz- and Rocco Baldelli-sized deals, limited in both money and length, they attempted to negotiate one that would have represented the biggest outlay of cash in the eight-year tenure of the current ownership -- to Teixeira.

    So how does that jibe with the economic forecast?

    "I think it starts from one essential fact: that there is a commitment to winning," Lucchino said. "It is the foundation on which John [Henry], Tom [Werner], and our entire ownership group has built this franchise. That commitment to winning occasionally requires that you reach into the free agent market and try to acquire the best available pitching talent or position player talent in that year's market. We thought that if we could still justify that in light of the expectations we had for the revenue of the franchise, [we] saw it as an important effort at least to improve this team for our fan base."

I have little doubt that the economy impacted teams' spending this winter. But there's an incredibly fundamental reason for the Red Sox's willingness to spend big on Mark Teixeira (and for the Yankees' willingness to spend bigger): He's worth the money.

If you look at the free-agent contracts that have been signed this winter, what's striking is just how many of them actually reflect the objective value of the player.

In the 23rd century, when robot/human hybrids are zipping about the universe in their star cruisers and "writing" about the grand history of the Galactic Pastime, they're going to write about the winter of 2008-2009 as the moment when the men who ran the sport finally realized that you should pay players what they're actually worth. How terribly radical.



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