Thursday, January 23, 2014

Day 298: Wait... A Baseball Player Willing to Take Less Money?

My biggest problem with professional sports—particularly baseball—is the exorbitant contracts handed out. It's really starting to get out of control. A guy has one good year and all of the sudden, he thinks he's worth a gazillion dollars. And then he and his agent will stop at nothing to squeeze as much money as possible out of some desperate team who thinks this guy is the answer to their problems. More often than not, that's not the case. More often then not, that once amazing player catches a case of the Big Contract Blues and ends up being more of a hinderance than a help.

We see it over and over. By the time a baseball player has made a name for himself, his ship has usually already sailed. Or—and here's the worst possible scenario—that player used performance enhancing drugs to increase his value and get the big pay day. Then Major League Baseball starts cracking down on the drug problem and we find out that this once heralded player is just run-of-the-mill. The team that just robbed a bank to pay this guy is now burdened with a major disappointment.

Many of these money-grubbing players are in it strictly for the bucket loads of cash—no longer is it for the love of the game. They show no fire, no desire to be on a winning team if it means they won't get paid as much. The goal is to be showered with riches and long-term contracts so they can just get fat and slow and sucky and still guarantee that paycheck is going to keep on coming.

Sometimes, it's refreshing to see a guy who just loves playing the game. Someone who loves playing for a particular team so much that he's willing to negotiate contract extensions before free agency. And sometimes, he's willing to take less money and less time to make it happen. Look at Dustin Pedroia vs. Robinson Cano. Both play the same position, both have similar career numbers (Cano has a little more power, but Pedey has a better on-base percentage) but their contracts couldn't be more different.

Dustin Pedroia chose not to test the free agent market and negotiate his seven-year, $100 million contract with the Red Sox before his current commitment ended. Cano, on the other hand, hit free agency with a vengeance and teams battled for his services. His final deal came from the Seattle Mariners and weighed in at 10 years, $240 million—nearly $10 million more a year than Pedroia. But Pedey loves Boston and he was willing to take less if it meant staying in the city he calls home.

Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester is in the final year of his current contract and will be looking for some of the same love from the Sox front office that Pedroia got. He knows better than anyone that in order to stay with the Red Sox, it's not going to happen with a free-agent deal. The Sox just don't play that way anymore after being burned by too many deadbeat deals.

Lester needs to work closely with the team and his agents to get an extension done before he reaches free agency, ideally before the 2014 season starts. And he knows there's a very good chance he'll be taking a pay cut to stay in Boston. As long as the deal is fair for both sides, there's a very high likelihood that Lester could finish out his career in Beantown.

I mean... after a most surprising World Series win, who wouldn't want to stick around to see what this club can do next?

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