An Evaluation Of The Long-Term Contract

ARLINGTON, TX: Pitcher Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers speaks with the media at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas. Darvish and the Texas Rangers came to an agreement on a $60 million dollar contract for six years on Wednesday. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

That's a mighty big contract that the player just signed. Here we take a close look at it and figure out what it means for the team going forward.

The baseball world was stunned upon learning that the player had agreed to a long-term contract with the team. It's not that the player is a complete and utter shock, or that the team is a complete and utter shock - it's the terms that are raising eyebrows. The player has struck it big, as the team has demonstrated its willingness to make an enormous commitment.

There's always a certain sequence of events with these things. It's very simple. First, people want to know what the news is. Second, people want to know what the implications of the news are. We've got you covered right here with everything that you'll need to know.

The news, again, is that the player has signed a long-term contract with the team. The years are significant. This contract isn't going to expire for quite some time. But the money is staggering. With this contract, the player is set for the rest of his life, and the team is expressing confidence that the player will be a big-time contributor now and well into the future.

As for the implications, the first thing we all need to understand is the present. Obviously, the player is a great fit for the team. This move doesn't get made otherwise. The team believes it can build around the player, and that's because the player has been terrific. If you look at the numbers, the player's easily among the best at his position in the league, if not among the best overall. There's no denying that he's performed at a very high level. He's established himself as a star.

So in the short-term, this is an obvious investment. There was a star player, and there was a baseball team that wanted to lock that star player up. Not literally. I don't think anybody's really that worried about the short-term.

It's in the long-term where things start to get a little hazy. See, this is a long contract, extending into the future. The player's now going to be making big money well into that future. How can we know how the player's going to perform down the road?

The best thing we can do is to look at a sample pool of comparable players in the past. Ideally, by finding a group of players similar to this player, and then seeing how those players did in the years to come, we can better understand how this player might do in the years to come.

I've assembled and investigated such a group of similar players throughout history. Encouragingly, you can see that some similar players maintained their performance levels for a good long time. Durability, fame, elite-level results - it's all there. There's an argument to be made that the team won't get just a good return; there's an argument to be made that the team could end up with a bargain. Players like this have been excellent players for a long time before.

Less encouragingly, you can also see declines. Some of them gradual, some of them more steep. There are similar players who have continued to be great for a while, but it's hardly guaranteed. Age frequently takes its toll. Other things frequently take their tolls.

And of course, there isn't only the prospect of a potential decline. There's also the matter of a potential injury. Within the group of similar players, we see careers ruined by injury. Injuries are unpredictable, and while some can be prevented, others cannot. You just don't know when a player's going to do something wrong and screw up his body. It could happen, even if he does everything right.

So there's a risk. Of course there's a risk here, because if there weren't a risk, the player wouldn't have gotten a very good deal. In signing a contract like this, the player settles for less guaranteed money than he could make, and the team accepts the risk that the player could get worse or even reach a premature end. There's no getting around it.

We can't talk about all this and ignore the PR side of things, though. The player's a huge name, and a marketable name. The team could make some of the money it's spending back on jersey sales and the like. The player could bring more fans out to the ballpark. By giving the player this contract, the team is making a statement that it's willing to spend and that it's intending to win, and that it's intending to win for a while. You can expect the fans to respond to that, because the message is strong. Nevermind the cost/benefit analysis; this'll be a popular move, and the fans won't care about the end of the contract. The fans will care about the reality of the contract, and the significance of the contract. The player's a great player. He'll belong to the team for years.

Ultimately, with situations like these, you end up thinking about the risk. We're all naturally risk-averse, and one can't help but feel like the team is gambling. But gambling is only dumb when the odds are bad, and the odds here aren't so bad. Players similar to the player have performed well for a very long time. If you want to look at the averages and acknowledge the likelihood of age-related decline, the team's probably not going to be thrilled with this contract in the second half, but for the first half, the player should be terrific, and he should be popular. Based on what we know, the player is set forever, and the team is taking a risk that might just work out.

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