People smarter than me have written that Giancarlo Stanton is worth the 13-year, $325 million contract he'll sign with the Miami Marlins. (As expected, Jayson Stark reports that the contract is heavily backloaded. Stanton will make $30 million over the first three seasons and $218 million over the final seven seasons.)
Dan Szymborski on ESPN Insider writes:
Assuming each win above replacement costs $6 million in the free-agent market this offseason, and with 5 percent yearly overall salary growth, plus taking into account that Stanton would have been arbitration-eligible the first two seasons, ZiPS values a 13-year contract for Stanton at $316 million on the open market, not too much below that $325 million figure.
Grantland's Ben Lindbergh writes that Stanton's age separates this contract from some of the other mega-deals:
Stanton turned 25 earlier this month. If, against the odds, he plays out the contract as it's currently structured, he'll be 37 when it ends. Compare that to other mega-contract ending ages: Alex Rodriguez will have turned 42 by the close of his current 10-year contract. The Angels will be paying Albert Pujols through his age-41 season. Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera will be 40 in the final guaranteed seasons of their deals, and Joey Votto will have turned 40 before the Reds' obligation is up. Stanton signed the longest contract ever, and he'll still be significantly younger when it's over than the players you probably thought of when you mentally compared Stanton's contract with others of a certain size.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs/Fox Sports didn't have a problem with the Marlins topping $300 million:
So Stanton's worth a big average annual value, and he's young enough to be worth a long commitment. Put those together, and factor in that there's more money in the game than ever, and reaching the $300 million mark isn't a challenge.
Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus writes on the Stanton signing under the headline "When $325 million is an easy decision."
So the sabermetric community, from what I can tell, is united. The contract makes sense. Yes, the analytical community just agreed with Jeffrey Loria.
There is the other side. Jerry Crasnick presents one angle that I agree with: The Marlins' window to win is probably three years, maybe four, because once guys like Jose Fernandez, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich start getting expensive, they'll probably hold a fire sale, one that may or may not include Stanton.
Joe Posnanski, while not necessarily criticizing the contract, points out that Jason Heyward -- the much-maligned Heyward, at least in some circles -- has produced a higher WAR than Stanton. Along the same line, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs estimates Heyward's next contract (he's a free agent after 2015) will be in the $200 million range -- with his 2015 performance dictating which side of $200 million he'll fall on. Will a team pay for Heyward's defense the way the Marlins just paid for Stanton's offense? We'll see, but I'll take the under on the $200 million.
Here's a question: Would Stanton get a $325 million contract in free agency right now? I'm not sure that he would. What's interesting about many of the highest total value contracts given out is many of those players never tested free agency. The Yankees extended Alex Rodriguez for $275 million after 2007 after he opted out of his 10-year, $252 million deal, but he never really tested the free-agent waters (and wouldn't have received $275 million). The Tigers extended Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander before they hit free agency. Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez never became free agents. The Reds gave Joey Votto $225 million.
From the list of the 20 highest total value contracts on Cot's Baseball Contracts, only seven were given to true free agents: The first A-Rod deal, Albert Pujols to the Angels, Robinson Cano to the Mariners, Prince Fielder to the Tigers, Mark Teixeira to the Yankees, Manny Ramirez to the Red Sox and Masahiro Tanaka to the Yankees.
So A-Rod's $252 million deal with the Rangers, way back in 2001, remains the highest total value given to a free agent. Sam Miller's piece included a tweet that said in today's dollars, that $252 million would be worth more than $400 million. (I'm not sure what that figure comes from; I put $252 million from 2001 into an inflation calculator, I get $336 million in today's dollars.) Anyway, whatever the numbers, I do know this: Giancarlo Stanton, as great as he's been, is no Alex Rodriguez (which, in many ways, is a good thing).
Age 20: Rodriguez 9.4 WAR, Stanton 2.8 WAR
Age 21: Rodriguez 5.6 WAR, Stanton 4.1 WAR
Age 22: Rodriguez 8.5 WAR, Stanton 5.5 WAR
Age 23: Rodriguez 4.7 WAR, Stanton 2.3 WAR
Age 24: Rodriguez 10.4 WAR, Stanton 6.5 WAR
Maybe Stanton will be "worth" $325 million. But that doesn't mean it will be a great contract for the Marlins.