Are Baseball Salaries Getting out of Hand?

On December 21st, 2013, it was announced that the Texas Rangers had signed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to a 7 year $130 million dollar contract, making him the third player to collect a contract worth more than $100 million dollars in Major League Baseball this off-season along with Jacoby Ellsbury (New York Yankees) and Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners). All three players have been productive at their respective positions, but are they truly worth a nine figure salary? Their stats may say yes right now, but there is one lingering fact that all three have in common that makes their signings come into question.

Cano, Choo, and Ellsbury are all either 30 or 31 and will be pushing the age of 40 (Cano will be 41) when their respective contracts expire. That means that they will be averaging more than $20,000,000 each when they are playing in their late 30’s. Something just does not add up here. Can we really expect Cano to continue to put up extraordinary numbers and earn his $24 million dollar per year deal while playing middle infield for so long? And what about Ellsbury who has had numerous injuries, will those just go away as he gets older? So many questions arise about these three, however, these are not the only guys that are making an astronomically high salary who are in the later stages of their careers.

Brian Wilson is coming off of a season where he missed the first half of the year and was placed in a set up role and was rewarded with a one year $10 million dollar contract to re-sign with the Dodgers. Curtis Granderson missed over 100 games last year and hit .229 in the games he participated in and for that effort he was given a healthy 4 year $60 million dollar deal with the New York Mets. The last player I want to look at is Hiroki Kuorda who re-signed with the Yankees for $16 million dollar on a one year deal. All of these guys are going to make over $10,000,000 this year and none of them have had great numbers (Kuroda had the best season). So why are they earning this much?

Let’s compare sports. We’ll start with football. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to 3 Super Bowl appearances, including 2 victories, and will still make less than 38 year old Hiroki Kuroda. Yes, Kuroda is going to pitch in twice as many games than Roethlisberger will start at QB, but it still just does not make sense by any means to pay a 38 year old pitcher that much money when a 2-time Super Bowl winner isn’t making $15 million dollars. In the NBA, the best player in the league, LeBron James, is going to make a steady $19,000,000 this season with the Miami Heat. This after winning 2 straight NBA titles, 2 straight MVP’s, 2 straight NBA Finals MVP’s, and an Olympic gold medal. He’s going to make less than Kuroda, Ellsbury, and Cano. In what world are these guys more valuable to their teams as much as LeBron James?

We’ve seen that MLB players typically make more than any other player in any other sport and for many it can be confusing as to why. Football has overtaken baseball as America’s sport and the drama filled with the NBA can be seen by some as more attractive and appealing than a baseball game, but why is the MLB paying their players so much? A lot of this can be attributed to the fact that Major League Baseball has yet to install a salary cap among teams so why wouldn’t owners throw out money if they can afford it in order to bring a championship team to their city? We must all remember that sports teams are organizations and are focused on generating a profit, and we know that in order to make money, we have to spend money. I believe that the Seattle Mariners did a fantastic job by bringing in Cano. He is one of those players that people will come out and spend money to see. This is going to help bring attention and money to the Mariners organization which should help them build long term stability both on and off the field.

However, the quickest way to attract fans to a team’s games is to win! It doesn’t matter who is on a certain team, but if that team isn’t winning, it isn’t worth the average fan’s money to come see. I have gone to multiple Rockies and Braves games throughout the past year, teams filled with guys like Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Heyward, the list keeps going! But still, the stadiums are lucky to be at half-capacity Yes it does help to bring in big name players with big contracts to try to bring fans to the stands, but it means nothing if there is no success. And how is a team going to be able to afford players if those fans aren’t coming to watch? Look at what the Oakland A’s did. They have one of the lowest payrolls in all of Major League Baseball and they have found a way to win the last two years. What did that do? It brought in more fans. And what is the result of bringing in more fans? The end product is a potentially brand new stadium that could be opening. That stadium is going to generate even more money for the team and should provide the team some more stability money wise.

So are baseball players making too much right now? My answer is yes, not because they’re athletes and that whole debate, but because it is not healthy for the teams from a business standpoint. What is going to happen if Major League Baseball ends up creating a salary cap? What happens to the Dodgers, Yankees, Rangers, and Red Sox? So maybe Billy Beane was onto something in his “Moneyball” tactics. Maybe it isn’t just for on the field success, maybe it’s also for the organization’s financial success as well. Who knows? What’s your opinion on the matter?

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