Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
It still has a chance, but there are other contenders now.
Evan Longoria is still paid less than what he would get on the open market. Evan Longoria can probably afford the extended warranty on the next Corolla he buys. Both can be true, now that Longoria has signed a six-year extension on a contract that already ran through 2016. Longoria isn't going to make as much as Joey Votto or Ryan Braun will for their mega-extensions, so it looks like the six-year, $100-million extension still makes for a team-friendly deal for the Rays.
For a while there, the Rays had Longoria signed to the most team-friendly deal in recent baseball history. The team had a star locked up at regular-player prices, and they had him for years and years at rates that never threatened to cripple the team.
Now they have him locked up, but there's a lot more risk. The Red Sox would have loved to do it for Nomar Garciaparra at some point, for example, and that wouldn't have worked out well. Discs slip, ligaments fray, and concussions linger. Which isn't to say that Longoria is at special risk for anything like that. Just that baseball players are, generally, which means any sort of nine-figure contract can make a team sweat.
It's still a fantastically team-friendly contract. The extension puts Longoria at ten years, $136 million, with an option for the 11th year, which is about $70 million less than he would get on the open market, give or take. Is that cost certainty enough to keep it the best contract in the game, though? The contenders:
The Pirates' center fielder has five years and $51.5 million left on his extension, with a $14.75 million option for another year after that. In the season that followed his extension, McCutchen had his best season ever. He would have been a free agent shortly after turning 28, and he would have made a squillion dollars. As is, he'll make something that might compare to the deal that Nick Swisher will get.
If the Rays want to pay Moore $36 million to pitch through 2019, they'll have that chance. If they want to cut their losses after 2016 and pay him a combined $12.5 million, they can do that, too. Young pitchers are always risky, but the worst-case scenario for the Rays is paying Moore the equivalent to a season-plus of Jake Westbrook. The best case is paying an ace for seven seasons at far below the going rate.
The difference between this contract and McCutchen's is that Moore was already locked up for dirt cheap; he was going to make close to the league minimum in 2013 and 2014, and if his arm detached and flew into space, the Rays wouldn't have had to pay him anything. So if you're looking for a reason why Moore agreed to such a contract, there it is.
Fans love to say "hometown discount." When they say it, confetti falls from above and Conky 2000 screams. But actual hometown discounts are rare creatures. Fans should know better than to expect a player to give up his last chance at financial security for future generations, just because he likes the fans or the weather or the local cuisine.
But Weaver actually signed one. He was going to get a deal similar to Matt Cain or Cole Hamels, but he settled for a relatively modest five-year contract. He has four years and $71 million left on his deal, which is about all the risk you want with a pitcher.
Like Moore, he was already making relative peanuts -- note to SB Nation: I would like to make baseball-relative peanuts, and you have my number -- so you have to grade the deal on a curve. Still, he's due $21 million for the next seven years if the Royals want to keep him. That deal bought out two years of free agency, plus it means he'll make far less during the years in which he would have been arbitration-eligible. We're still just 437 at-bats into his career, though, so it's probably premature to make it a finalist. Still, I love this deal for the Royals.
Perez is out because he's not close to a star yet, and he was already locked up for five years at below-market rates.
Weaver is out because while it's a good contract, it doesn't have the team options that Moore's has. Moore is locked up for younger, but the team doesn't have a lot of risk in those final years.
It's between Longoria (still), Moore, and McCutchen. Moore gets bounced because of the inherent young-pitcherness of young pitchers.
The Rays have Longoria for four more seasons (potentially five), and they're guaranteeing him $70 million more than McCutchen over the life of their contracts. That's for Longoria's age-33 through age-37 seasons, though, so there is no guarantee he'll be the same player, or anything close to it. That risk balances out the relatively short contract for McCutchen.
It's McCutchen by a nose. For several years, we didn't have to think when asked to come up with the most team-friendly contract in baseball. Now it takes a bit longer and the answer is different. But congratulations, Pirates. The fate of the franchise would have been miserable if they had waited just a couple months longer. The fate of the franchise is probably still a burial-ground curse because that's just how it is, but still. It was the best financial move in the last 20 years for the Pirates, and it isn't really close.
The Longoria deal is still pretty cool for the Rays, of course. He can afford 3,885,714 caps over the life of his current deal if his current cap gets stolen. It would probably be cheaper for him to buy cap insurance. Not that he cares.