A few weeks ago when I was analyzing the Ryan Braun signing, I stumbled on the website Spotrac. I used to go to either Rotoworld or Cot’s for my contract information, but this site organized all four of the major sports contracts in a way that was much easier to follow. I asked the site owner and sports contracts expert Mike Ginnitti if he would answer some baseball questions that will be relevant in either the short term or long term to various fantasy leagues. Among the topics we crossed were whether or not Liriano will be moved, the future of signing superstars, and who will be the biggest spenders at next year’s winter meetings.
FBHS: I know it’s early, but no team is further down in the standings than the Minnesota Twins. Francisco Liriano will be an unrestricted free agent going into this next off-season. What are the chances he is not pitching for Minnesota in August? What is his price tag on the open market?
SPOTRAC: I think Minnesota has every wish to deal Liriano by the July 31st deadline. But his inconsistencies, paired with less than prominent output from the pitching staff in AAA Rochester this season are making things difficult. The Twins’ only viable option may be, of course, the New York Yankees, who are hanging by a thread in their rotation from spots 2-5. If A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia, or Bartolo Colon fall back to earth, the Yankees will look to add a piece to this staff, and Liriano may be worth that risk. His 1 year $4.3 million contract is modest based on his pre-Tommy John performances, and it indicates that even the Twins had little faith in him returning to full form. All signs point to Liriano being dealt prior to the deadline as a pure rental player.
As for a new contract, he’s not making things easy for himself (and his agent Greg Genske). Other notable aces who have recovered from Tommy John surgery have all returned to some form of consistent stability for their respective rotations. They include:
- Tim Hudson (ATL, 3 years $28 million)
- Ryan Dempster (CHC, 4 years $52 million)
- A.J. Burnett (NYY, 5 years $82.5 million)
- Josh Johnson (FLA, 4 years $39 million)
Liriano will need his next 6 to 7 starts to be noteworthy in order to garner the attention he’ll need to earn a veteran long-term contract in 2012.
FBHS: What is your opinion on the re-signings of Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Braun over the past couple of months? Are these decisions risky or smart? Who will be the next player to receive this type of contract?
SPOTRAC: The 2010 offseason was flooded with seemingly under-the-radar names receiving overwhelming 6-figure paychecks. I’ve heard many experts coment on the foolishness of signing a baseball player into his mid-to-late 30′s. I prefer a more optimistic approach to these signings. In a generation of baseball where Chipper Jones, Jorge Posada, Todd Helton, and Derek Jeter appear to be the notable few who will remain “single-team-loyalists,” maybe these deals are replenishing that trend – a great one I might add.
The Troy Tulowitzki deal has little downside, as he’s proven quickly to be an above average shortstop, a freakish offensive force, a leader in the clubhouse, and a lovable personality for the city of Denver.
Ryan Braun’s recent extension has red flags. It was done mid-season, which has a reactionary feel to it. He was already signed five plus years from now, so an extension outside of that is extremely confident. Defensively Braun is more than adequate, with only 26 errors in his career to date, but as a left fielder, he’s not the standout necessity that a Tulowitzki is at shortstop or a Pujols will be at first base. And finally, signing Braun to this deal when they did has all but handed their other star of equal value Prince Fielder the keys to leave town. From a business standpoint, the Brewers may have had good intentions, but poor execution.
FBHS: Based on players that are coming off the books, what team would you expect to be the biggest spenders next winter?
SPOTRAC: It shouldn’t be a big surprise, but if the St. Louis Cardinals are truly forced to let Albert Pujols leave town, I expect them to bid hard for a plethora of free agent pieces. They have a club option on Chris Carpenter this offseason, and can theoretically clear close to $30 million in payroll between those two departures. In the American League this offseason should finally be the time that the Los Angeles Angels finally make the “big splash.” Their financial abilities will hinge on their decision with Jered Weaver, but all signs point to a franchise-changing signing for this team. The Cleveland Indians should be in this discussion with only 3 players under contract into 2011-2012, but their small market franchise has a financial ceiling. The Dodgers also have big pieces off the books, but their organizational troubles may thwart any viable free agent signing.
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