Moving big-dollar deals
Jayson Stark [ARCHIVE]
ESPN.com
May 6, 2012
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Hey there. Any chance you've got $50 million or so lying around on your kitchen table? If so, we're guessing that Alfonso Soriano could be all yours if you'd like to pay him. And the Cubs probably wouldn't even ask for your best pepper mill in return.
Or if you have $60 million stuffed in your mattress, there's an excellent chance the Angels would gladly send Vernon Wells over to recline on it for the next three years.
But here at World Rumblings Headquarters, we're betting you're probably not interested. Not in Soriano or Wells. Not in Barry Zito or John Lackey. Not in any of the members of the all-star team we're about to roll out for you today.
It's the All-Most-Immovable Contracts team. And we've assembled it this week with the help of nine general managers, assistants and high-ranking executives who contemplate this stuff all the time.
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But you should know something, right off the top: However many names you'll find on this list, they're just the tip of the immovable iceberg.
We counted 17 active players who began this season with more than $100 million left on their contracts -- "and I don't know if any of those contracts can be moved," said one American League GM. "I'll put it this way: If you put all those names on outright waivers right now, would any of them get claimed?"
Hmmm. Excellent question. So we posed it to a few other GMs. And we came up with this list of players who were at least likely to have some team put in a claim: Matt Kemp, Troy Tulowitzki, CC Sabathia, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Cain and Cliff Lee. Possibly Matt Holliday. But even that group wasn't unanimous.
So you get the idea. We could easily nominate two or three dozen players for this All-Most-Immovable team -- if the definition is "contracts clubs couldn't move without eating any money." But the survey has spoken. So these were the guys who made the cut:
Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder
Wait. Did we just say Albert (10 years, $240 million) and Prince (9 years, $214 million)? Didn't they just sign their contracts like 20 minutes ago?
Fielder
Pujols
Well, it was actually several months ago. But as you may have noticed, these were lonnnngggg deals. And how many teams out there (A) need a first baseman and (B) have a quarter-billion dollars or so freed up to make dealing for these guys palatable?
In Albert's case, he'd be a tough sell "not just because he is underperforming right now," one AL executive said. "More so because this was a 'win-now' signing, which gets progressively more difficult to handle as the contract progresses. I don't believe anyone would be eager to carry the close to $120 million due between 2018-21 on Albert into his 40s."
And Prince? Same deal: "He's a great player right now," another AL exec said. "But I don't know anyone that believes it's going to hold up for much longer."
Incidentally, in their case (and others), we should probably concede that this entire discussion is totally academic -- because their teams have no interest in moving them in the first place. But let's just say that, well, that could change.
Carl Crawford (6 years, $127 million left)
Crawford
Poor Carl Crawford. Not only is he apparently stuck in extended spring training for perpetuity, but he got more votes than any other player in this poll.
"Between his wrist and his elbow, that would scare me," an AL GM said. "And the wrist scares me more than the elbow. How many guys hurt their wrist and take forever to get back to what they were? And some don't ever get back. So that's a contract that would have to get paid down so much, it wouldn't make sense for the club to move him."
Ryan Howard (5 years, $125 million left)
Howard
Here's a scary thought about Howard's deal with the Phillies: It didn't kick in until this year. So he still hasn't played a single game to start convincing his many critics that he's worth it -- or even half of it. And now he has the uncertainty of Life After A Ruptured Achilles to make the masses even more wary of him.
"I don't think anyone would take Ryan Howard right now," one GM said. "Even before he got hurt, he wasn't hitting left-handers anymore and he has defensive problems. At $25 million a year, I wonder if we're looking at a modern-day Mo Vaughn deal."
Alfonso Soriano (3 years, $54 million left)
Soriano
He's been the captain of this team for so many years, we could include him just from force of habit. But Soriano still belongs, because he's a guy his team would gladly move -- even for a deep-dish pizza -- and has tried to, with zero success. It also isn't doing wonders for his marketability that he's now up to 80 at-bats without a home run this year.
"That isn't helping," an NL GM laughed. "But you know what? With the length of this deal [shrinking], somebody might take him. I actually think they can move him if they choose to. They'd just have to eat a significant amount of money. At least you can see the finish line now."
Barry Zito (2 years, $46 million left)
Zito
If Soriano is the captain of this squad, what does that make Zito -- the poster boy? His deal looked like a disaster when it still had five years to go. Now, even though he's down to the final two years and pitching respectably, he still got a slew of votes.
"I know he only has two years left," one GM said. "But I still think Zito is totally not moveable."
Jayson Werth (6 years, $112 million left)
Werth
The good news: Werth is playing a lot better in Year 2 of his monster deal than he played in Year 1.
The bad news: The many teams that hated that contract when he signed it haven't learned to hate it any less now. Consider this sampling of reviews:
"He was overpaid from the beginning." … "He's not a bad player, but he's not that kind of player." … "I can't imagine anyone biting into that one."
Joe Mauer (7 years, $161 million left)
Mauer
Even in a year in which Mauer has played in every game but one and racked up the best on-base percentage (.394) among AL catchers, he still got a bunch of votes in this poll. Too many years. Too many dollars. Too many doubters.
"You can't count on him to stay behind the plate, and you've got a severe injury risk," a National League GM said. "Even if he moves to first base, it's still an albatross. You know, I understand why the Twins did what they did. But it's still a contract they'd have an extremely difficult time moving."
Alex Rodriguez (6 years, $143 million left)
Rodriguez
Other teams watch A-Rod gimping up the line with his sore hip, covering...
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