Megadeal = Megasteal

Giancarlo Stanton, a right fielder for the Miami Marlins has already received several notable accolades in his short career.  He’s a two-time all-star, a winner of the NL Silver Slugger Award, and finished as the National League MVP runner-up.  He is also the winner of the coolest first name in baseball award and can hit a baseball like it bad mouthed his mother.  If Mike Tyson would’ve punched Evander Holyfield half as hard as Giancarlo Stanton hits a baseball he wouldn’t have needed to bite Holyfield’s ear off.  Giancarlo Stanton punishes breaking balls like a Southern mother whose daughter finished fourth place in the regional beauty pageant.  The point is, Stanton is good at baseball.  He’s a career .271 hitter, his OPS is over .900, and he’s sitting on 154 home runs.  At age 25, Stanton has a realistic possibility of being one of the top home run hitters of all time.

Which is why he was recently gifted the largest contract in the history of North American sports: 13 years, $325 million actual dollars.  Sure that seems like a lot of money, but no worries, that contract number is just a number, no way he’s making all of it. Except he is.  Baseball contracts, unlike NFL contracts or hockey contracts, are guaranteed, meaning Stanton will make all of that money, which is around $25 million annually.  That number, surprisingly, only places Stanton in a tie for 6th among current players in total salary.

Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, cost $280 million to build, around $350 or so adjusted for inflation.  Stanton is just shy of being worth the same amount of money as a professional football stadium.  How?!?!

Easy. Because much like ladies who use Lorea’l body soap, he’s worth it.

The contract itself seems huge, yes, in both years and salary.  However, after six years, Stanton has the option to opt-out of the contract.  Why would he opt-out of $25 million a year?  Because his annual worth could go higher.  If Stanton continues his torrid pace, hitting .270 with 40 home runs and 100 RBI’s a season, he’s going to be worth more money.  In baseball, players who are in their early 30’s are considered to just he hitting their prime, meaning Stanton could potentially cash in on an annual salary eclipsing $30-35 million annually.  That means Stanton could buy the actual Magna Carta one and a half times and still have some money left over to get McDonald’s for lunch.  More likely, the Marlins are still the Marlins in six years, and Stanton goes somewhere like New York or Los Angeles to actually play for a team interested in winning games.

The whole “winning games” thing could prove to be troublesome for the Marlins.  As a small market team, the Marlins won a couple World Series titles the last decade or so, which is impressive.  However, in 2012, the team busted open their wallets, spending over $300 in one offseason to acquire free agent talent in an attempt to be a serious contender.  They even built a brand new stadium with money Dade Country taxpayers were more than happy to fork over.  One year later Jeff Loria, the owner of the Marlins, traded all of those shiny new players, and the Marlins’ stadium is nearly empty most times.  Obviously, this infuriated Stanton.  Before signing his new deal, he wanted assurance the team would compete, to which Loria said, “pssh, yeah, probably..if we do our best.  We promise,” before bursting into tears and begging Stanton to take his money. Presumably a mob of very angry taxpayers were waiting pitchfork in hand outside of team headquarters during this tense exchange.

So clearly this deal is awesome for Stanton and his 1.5 brand new Magna Carta’s, as well as for his potential future earnings, but it’s also great for the Marlins, who now have a franchise centerpiece to build around.  The deal is also beneficial to other players not on the Marlins!

Mike Trout, without question, is the best baseball player on the planet right now.  He is a do-everything center fielder for the LA Angels, a three-time all star, two-time AL MVP runner up, and winner of an AL MVP.  He hits for power and average, stole 50 bases one year, and has narrowly missed several Gold Glove Awards, and that’s only because Alex Gordon and Adam Jones were born to catch baseballs.  Needless to say, Trout is going to cash in as well.  And he already has.  He’s currently sitting on a 6 year, $144 million deal.  Trout is 23 years old, meaning when his contract runs out, he will be two years younger than Stanton, and if Trout keeps up his current level of production it is entirely possible, if not inevitable he gets a $400 million contract.

People complaining about baseball contracts being so big need to look at the big picture.  Sure, baseball isn’t a “contact sport” like football, but there’s more games.  Over 162 games, a $25 million contract equals $154,320 a game.  Eli Manning, who has thrown at least 20 interceptions in an NFL season four times, is making $16 million this season.  Which means on a per game basis, Eli Manning is making six and a half times as much money as the most dominant force one the baseball diamond.  I wasn’t entirely fair, I guess, since NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed.  In that case, Eli’s contract guarantees him $35 million over the course of the deal which averages out to be about $5.8 million a season.  This means Eli still makes about $360,000 a game, double what Trout makes.  Kinda makes baseball contracts looks a little better, doesn’t it?

I’m not going to pretend for a minute that professional athletes are underpaid workers whose talents are exploited by greedy, white-collared businessmen.  But from a strict, value based standpoint, a mega-deal like Stanton received, or like Trout will receive, really is a bargain.

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