Buck Showalter and the future of managerial contracts

Al Bello

I don't know about you, but 2018 seems like a long ways off to me. By 2018, we'll be piloting our hover-cars from Alaska to Siberia via the Alaska-Siberia Land Bridge, and Bud Selig will be thinking about announcing that he's considering retiring after just two more years as Commissioner.

Other things that will be happening in 2018?

The Angels will still be paying Mike Scioscia, and the Orioles will still be paying Buck Showalter.

Four years ago, Scioscia got an entirely unprecedented contract: 10 years, $50 million. There had never been anything like it, and hasn't been since.*

* No, Jim Tracy's indefinite contract doesn't count, for a couple of reasons. One, he lasted just one more season. Two, it's not clear that there were any significant dollars attached to it. Tracy's deal was really indefinite.

Wednesday, we got the news that Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette have both earned new contract extensions that will keep them on the payroll through 2018; for Showalter, this represents a five-year deal atop his previous contract, which was set to expire after the 2013 season.

Ten years was a long time for Scioscia, and six (more) years is a long time for Showalter.

How long? By my count, 22 of the 30 current managers aren't locked up beyond 2014. The Marlins' new manager, Mike Redmond, signed a three-year deal through 2015. Joe Maddon's signed through 2015. Oakland's Bob Melvin just signed an extension that takes him through 2016. And two new managers -- Cleveland's Terry Francona and Boston's John Farrell -- got four-year deals that will pay them through 2016.

Most of which is neither here nor there, really. Until recently, there were a couple of big reasons why managers didn't garner truly long-term deals. First, there were a lot more candidates than jobs, which meant the managers didn't have a great deal of leverage. This is still true. Two, owners were smart enough to realize the manager probably wouldn't last long, and they didn't want to be paying a guy for a couple of years after he got fired.

That one's less relevant than it used to be, simply because most of the owners now have more money than they can spend. Joe Maddon, one of the best managers on earth, is making $2 million per season. Let's say you sign him for five years and fire him after three ... so what? That $4 million you're paying him to not manage is a rounding error. But it's even less than that, because you won't have to pay him if he gets another another job. Which he probably will.

It's probably inevitable that managers' salaries will rise, and perhaps significantly. It's also probably inevitable that the lengths of their contracts will rise. But that doesn't mean they'll last any longer in their jobs. Owners are quite used to spending millions of dollars to little effect; a few more millions won't change anyone's mind.

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