Last year, it was the Washington Nationals and the Jayson Werth deal. This year at the Baseball Winter Meetings, the bar was on Sunday when the Miami Marlins signed Mets free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes to a 6-year, $106 million deal, pending a physical.
The deal is significant on a number of levels. The Marlins, who are now flush with revenues before their new ballpark opens this spring, are clearly trying to make a (no pun intended) splash. With the signing, they make that move, of what could be more.
In terms of the structure, we don’t know how much Reyes will be paid annually, but based on the numbers, the annual average value (AAV) of the deal is $17,666,667, ranking him as the second highest paid shortstop in MLB by AAV behind only Derek Jeter’s 3-year contract with options reached last year (AAV of $18.9 million). According to Jeff Euston of Cot’s Contracts, he will become the 27th highest-paid player in-between Ken Griffey Jr. $116.5 million 2000-08 deal and Kevin Brown’s $105 million 1999-2005 contract. It does not have a no-trade clause. The deal is technically $102 million over six years with a $4 million buyout.
But, whether it is now the trend, or the only way the Marlins could make the deal work, the risk in the deal is its length. As Joel Sherman notes, 6 years is 972 games. Here is the Reyes’ DL stints, courtesy of the Daily News and other sources:
2003: Placed on the 15-day DL on Sept. 5 with a Grade 2 left ankle sprain that ends his season.
2004: Placed on the 15-day DL on March 15 with a strained right hamstring, which keeps him sidelined until June 19.
2009: Playing with a right calf strain, Reyes leaves game on May 21 after aggravating injury. Placed on the 15-day DL, does not return that season. Leaves a minor-league rehab assignment game on June 3 with what is called "discomfort in his right calf."
--The next day, the Mets announce that Reyes has a tear in his right hamstring tendon.
-- The Mets announce on Oct. 5 that Reyes will have offseason surgery to clean up scar tissue around the hamstring tendon.
2010: Placed on 15-day DL with hyperactive thyroid, reinstated April 10.
--On June 30, suffers a injury to right side in batting practice, misses six games.
-- On July 10, he re-aggravates injury, does not return until July 20.
--Removed from a game on Aug. 26 after aggravating oblique injury. Does not return until Sept. 10.
2011: Placed on 15-day DL for hamstring injury on July 7 misses 12 games.
-- Aug 8, placed on 15-day DL for left hamstring, comes back on Aug 28.
Finally, watch how the deal is finally structured. As of now, we only know total years and dollars. It is possible that the contract will be frontloaded – larger salary early in the contract as the Marlins have more money to play with, than in later years. That could be good or bad. It’s good in that if Reyes does hit the injured list often, the Marlins will be in a position to move him easier. It’s bad in that if attendance doesn’t hold, or if the Marlins continues to spend aggressively in free agency this off-season on high-cost talent, the club could be constrained.
Bottom line, the deal is a gamble in terms of length. Reyes showed that he’s the premiere plum of the shortstop crop this off-season.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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