Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lockin' up the youngins

Curtis Granderson is the latest pre-arb player to get a long-term deal:
The five-year contract is guaranteed at $30.25 million. It includes a $13 million team option for 2013, or a $2 million buyout. It allows the Tigers to retain control of their center fielder two years past what would've been his free-agent year, and it allows Granderson to still potentially hit the open market at age 32, the same age Torii Hunter is now after signing his free-agent deal with the Angels.

As is the case with so many of these deals, it's great for both sides. Granderson is set for life and the Tigers have cost certainty (and a reasonable salary given Granderson's production) at one of the most important positions on the field.

The Indians did this sort of thing in the early-mid 90s, but aside from them, locking up the young starts prior to free agency is a relatively new and, in my view, overdue practice. The current system puts players like Granderson onto the open market -- where they command their largest salaries -- at an age when their best baseball is usually behind them. Why not pay for Granderson's prime now? Even if the Tigers want him for a second tour of duty in five or six years they'll be in a much stronger negotiating position, free of the commonly-felt moral obligation to pay him what he earned -- but didn't receive -- when he was 27 years-old. And make no mistake, that money Granderson will be getting when he's 27 years-old will be far less than what the Tigers would have to pay for similar production out on the market.

I still maintain the owner with the best approach to free agency -- at least from the owners' perspective -- was Charlie O. Finley who proposed making every player a free agent all at once, every offseason. Fortunately for the players he was shouted down by his brethren. After more than thirty years, though, his brethren are finally starting to get smart about things.


Pete Toms said...

Craig, I think this is interesting too. Tulowitzki is another example of this trend.

Owners are avoiding Free Agency. The diminished # of FA's - particularly of high quality - these past few offseasons is well documented. Granderson & Tulo are part of this same change in approach.

On the same theme, Jayson Stark wrote last week about the unprecedented # of FA's still on the market - unprecedented for this time of year.

Interesting times...

Deaner said...

No one deserves long-term security at a young age more than Curtis Granderson. Not only is one of the games great young players, he is also a great person and ambassador for the game.