Yesterday the Boston Red Sox signed free agent pitcher David Price to a $217 million contract over 7 years. That is a mighty big splash in the free agent signing world. Another player was signed yesterday as well. The announcement of that signing was more like a ripple than a splash. The Minnesota Twins signed Korean Baseball League star Byung Ho Park to a 4 year / $12 million contract. Dollar for dollar when it is all said and done I suspect that the Twins will be very happy with what they paid and the production that they receive. The only way the Red Sox will be satisfied with the contract that they signed Price for is if they get lucky. Hope is not a business plan as we all know. I outlined the dangers of large contracts like the one Price signed and talk about smarter moves like the Twins made in a previous article titled Money Haul.
First let’s look at the Red Sox signing. $31 million a year is a lot of cabbage and a pitcher entering his 30’s is a lot of risk. I believe that Price has some good seasons left in that arm but the likelihood of him fulfilling this contract to full expectations is nearly impossible. I will give the Red Sox credit for one thing though. They are not afraid to climb back on that horse when they get thrown off of it. This time last year the Red sox were announcing the signing of free agents Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to a combined $183 million. Sandoval was a complete bust in 2015 and it is likely he won’t be around for long in Boston if he flops early in 2016. Ramirez continued his decline as a baseball player in 2015 to the point where The Red Sox would love a “do over” on this contract as well. Those two disastrous contracts coupled with the $95 million they gave below average pitcher Rick Porcello and the $72 million thrown at their very disappointing Cuban player Rusney Castillo are enough to make anybody a little hesitant. The Red Sox are all in with the Price signing even though history tells us that this deal will bite them on the fanny eventually.
The Twins on the other hand have done what I think is the more prudent move and the one that has a much higher probability of being successful even if Park does not hit as well as expected. Imagine that a scenario could be deemed a success even if the player does not fulfill expectations. That is a novel concept indeed if I do say so myself. Park hit .343 with 53 HR’s and 146 RBI’s last year in the Korean League. He just had back to back 50 homerun seasons. I think it is safe to assume that half of that production is what the Twins would be looking for. A .280 hitter with 25 HR’s and 75 RBI’s for $3 million a year is a pretty good deal. If he hits .250 with 15 and 60 it is still a good deal. If he hits .240 with 10 and 40 then you got what you paid for and you are not crippled financially. What happens if he hits 40 HR’s and drives in 100 runs? I will tell you what happens. It softens the blow a bit of paying Joe Mauer $23 million a year to play 1B and hit 10 homers and drive in 66 runs. These are the types of business decisions that small market teams like Minnesota have to make to compete. If the transition of Jung Ho Kang to the major leagues last year from Korea is any indication, then I think the Twins will be in good shape. Kang was signed by the Pirates last year to a deal similar to Park’s and he also was a slugger in Korea. He was hitting 40 homers in the Korean League and finished last year with a .287 BA with 15 HR’s and 58 RBI’s in 467 at bats before he injured his knee and missed the remainder of the season.
The strategies and navigation of a major league payroll are ever changing. The big contract signing will never go away. The GM’s and owners just can’t help themselves. The TV contracts, the luxury boxes and the ridiculous ticket prices need to be justified especially in places like Boston, NY, L.A. etc. However there is always more than one way to get the job done. The Price was right for Park and now only time will tell which team made a better business decision.