The time of free agency parody
College Contributor Network
Let's play a little numbers game. I'll give you a dollar amount. For argument's sake, let's say, at least $112,390,772.
Now I'll give you a whole number. Let's go with 12. Pretend the 12 represents the amount of people given at least the aforementioned amount of money.
And of that 12, only five find what society deems as "success." As we jealously work to achieve that same success with less assets, we wonder, why were the others even given that amount of money in the first place if they made nothing of it?
Welcome to the world of Major League Baseball payrolls, where seven of the top 12 payrolls missed the postseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers, the league's top spenders with a $235,295,219 bill in 2014, were disposed quickly in the early goings of the playoffs. Names also underachieving include the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.
And yet, the Kansas City Royals, 19th in the league in terms of dollars shelled, took the eventual World Series Champion San Francisco Giants (seventh in payroll) to Game 7.
I initially intended to write this piece about entering a new period of free agency parity within Major League Baseball, where now, seemingly everyone has a chance at a big name. But after some careful consideration alongside re-evaluation of the signings that have gone down thus far this offseason, I have to make an amendment to that title: it's no longer parity, it's parody.
This is as weak of a free agency market we've seen in some time, but the players who are part of it are left salivating. The quality of the market has driven their values up (like, way up), and they are reaping the benefits. And the teams who are paying the contracts? Well, frankly in some cases, they may look like fools.
Yet, it wasn't hard to see coming. I did a radio appearance a couple weeks ago, and we played a prediction game for each major free agent. The first man brought up? Russell Martin, who I thought would be grossly overpaid by the Toronto Blue Jays at $78 million.
And Toronto complied, giving him a five-year deal at $82 million. Martin is Canadian, and the fit seemed almost too good to be true. A team, looking to prove it is a player in the market and in the divisional race, going big for a "big name."
If there's anyone who cashed in on a market in an advantageous manner, it was Martin. At age 31, one has to wonder how many quality years he has left at catcher (it would not be absurd to suggest he doesn't make it to age 36 as a full-time catcher). He's played in more than 140 games in a season just three times in his career, and not since 2009 (his 111 in 2014 was his lowest in four seasons).
Yet his .290 average put him atop the catchers' market. I won't call it misleading, but numbers don't lie, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that number is an outlier given the highest he had hit in the past three seasons was .237.
But hey, capitalism!
New Oakland Athletics signing Billy Butler had the worst statistical season of his career in 2014, with his batting average having dipped more than 40 points since 2012. But Butler shined at the right time, as the minuscule payroll of the Royals put out a playoff team that gave him an opportunity to put himself on the national stage. And he did, with a solid hitting frame in the postseason.
The good news for Butler is that he doesn't miss a whole lot of games. That will be important, as he now plays for a team that just spent a solid chunk of its payroll on him as it promotes player development.
At least Addison Russell will be there soon for Oakland. Oh wait...
The Tigers were able to re-up with power force Victor Martinez for four years at $68 million. Martinez's 2014 campaign certainly was deserving of a quality contract, among the better ones in baseball, in fact.
But do recall that he is 36 in December, and will, by the back-end of his deal, primarily be a designated hitter. That much money for someone who will ultimately be a full-fledged DH is a lot, especially with injury concerns since 2010. It's hard to fault the Tigers by any means, but it begs the question: if a younger power pop was out there this offseason, would they have been as invested in dishing out that much money for Martinez?
This is also where I remind you the far more offensively efficient Martinez got significantly less than Martin.
Then there's the monstrosity that is the contract of Giancarlo Stanton. It would be a waste of space to go into the details that make this deal one of the most ridiculous contracts in sports history, so I'll try to leave it at this hypothetical scenario.
Stanton struggles, for whatever reason, in the first five years of his contract. He decides not to opt-out, since the contact is incredibly back-loaded and he will make the bulk of the $325 million (it's still hard to type that) in the final seven years of the contact. The Marlins, with Jeffrey Loria out of the equation after he jumped ship to buy the recently relocated Montreal Rays, attempt to trade Stanton, but can't because no one wants to take on the mass amounts of money left on the deal.
Realistically, he doesn't even need to struggle. He could just want to pocket the money.
It sounds out there, obviously, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. It's laughable, honestly.
There will be a few who have earned their keep. Pablo Sandoval will get his due pay, as will guys like Max Scherzer (though that too may eventually cause a chuckle). But kudos to these men, who have carried out the principles of capitalism and earned themselves the piece of the American Dream.
Jon Alba is a senior at Quinnipiac University. There he serves as general manager of the school's television station, Q30 Television. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAlbaSFC