Money. Money money money. Television money. Internet money. Merchandising money. MLB Advanced Media money. Gate receipts. Television money. New ballparks, often billed to the taxpayers. Television money. Television money. Television money.
Now that I've caught you up with the business of baseball over the last decade, let's see what we hath wrought.
Free-agent right-hander Ervin Santana is seeking more than $100 million on a five-year deal, and righty Ricky Nolasco $80 million over the same term, according to major league sources.
Why not? As in, it's November 9, and games don't start for five months. If you want to pull a pitcher off the market this early, you're going to have to pay him enough to think there's no way subsequent negotiations will help his position.
Man, I've been waiting to use that for a while. Felt totally appropriate in this context.
Because here's what we were thinking about Santana at this time last year: Woof. That guy is cooked. He is bad at pitching. And the Angels agreed, sending him to the Royals for a 26-year-old lefty reliever just to get something before they declined his option. By declining Santana's option or trading him, the Angels could buy more pitchers, which they desperately needed.
Here's what we were … no, wait, here's what Don Mattingly was thinking about Nolasco just last month: Nope, can't trust him. Nolasco was madduxian after joining the Dodgers, dominating for almost two full months. But it took two or three bad starts to set everyone on edge, and by the time the NLCS rolled around, Nolasco was on the kind of leash you'd expect to see on Barry Zito or post-40 Tim Wakefield.
The guy who wasn't worth $13 million to the Angels last year is now looking for $100 million, reportedly. The guy who was yanked after four innings in his only postseason appearance is now looking for $80 million.
Their price will come down. Everyone laughed at Cody Ross when reports came out he was looking for three years and $25 million. Then as the offseason went on, things settled down, and Ross eventually signed for … three years and $26 million.
We really are going to see a $100 million Santana, aren't we?
I'm still saying no. But with these two pitchers, and with Ubaldo Jimenez, who is going to make me look like an idiot, we have bellwethers. Baseball is flush. There's money everywhere. Sure, the Dodgers became the Entertainment 720 of baseball, but the first sign teams were going crazy was probably Jayson Werth. How could a last-place team with good-not-great attendance afford that luxury? But they could. And salaries ticked upward. The inflation was apparent at the bottom, too, with Kevin Correia getting two guaranteed seasons for $10 million. Jeremy Guthrie got three years, and the Royals probably feel pretty lucky to have him.
If Nolasco and Santana get close to those rumored figures, we'll know we're in a new era, the far edge of the pendulum swing, where there's so much money flying around that teams can't help themselves. You'll see more and more teams taking advantage of pre-arbitration leverage, like the Rays did with Matt Moore, the Giants did with Madison Bumgarner, and the Rangers did with Martin Perez. And the ones who don't have those kinds of pitchers will have to pay for Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco.
Seriously, think about those names. Think of how ridiculous this post would have been last year at this time, when the Angels were having troubles giving Santana away for the price of his contract, and the Marlins couldn't give Nolasco away.
The pendulum will swing back, and teams will start panicking and making counterintuitive, cheap decisions. Don't forget the offseason of 2002, when teams were actively non-tendering young, tradeable players like David Ortiz and Jose Cruz, Jr. because they were absolutely terrified of being stuck with their modest salaries. We won't get there for a decade or so, I'll guess. But eventually the Offseason of Nolasco-Santana Excess will seem weird and bizarre, if it actually happens.
If the contracts for Nolasco and Santana make our jaws fall off, we'll know we're staring into the abyss. If they get modest Guthrie-to-Edwin contracts, we'll know we're in the same place we've been for a while.
I get that baseball's rich now, and it likes to show off through a perverted kind of trickle-down economics. But I can't fathom the GM or owner who would be willing to make Santana a $100 million man. Or $80 million man. Or even $60 million. Not yet.
The cackling sound you heard the entire time you read this was coming from Clayton Kershaw, by the way. It creeped me out, too.