With his new 10-year, $240 million deal with the Mariners, Robinson Cano joins baseball's $200 million club. There have only been five other $200 million deals in the history of the game to break the $200 million barrier prior to Cano's. No pitcher has ever received such a deal. Triple Crown-winner and two AL MVP Migeul Cabera doesn't have one yet. Even Derek Jeter has never managed the feat. The $200 million club is as exclusive as it gets.
The members of this club have all been made wealthy beyond belief, but the deals that have earned them their place in the one-percent aren't always looked upon fondly after the ink dries and the excitement dies down. If the other $200 million deals are any indication, the Mariners could be in for a bad case of buyer's remorse.
Here are the five other members of the $200 million club presented in chronological order
2001: Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers - 10 years, $252 million
The first ever $200 million deal is still the second largest contract ever given to a player and that is not surprising given the impact that deal had on the Texas Rangers. At the time he signed the deal, Rodriguez was an easy pick for the best player in the game, an elite defensive shortstop coming off of hitting .285/.357/.586 with 41 home runs and 132 RBIs in the unfriendly confines of Safeco Field. He was not yet tainted by PED allegations and at just 25, he wasn't even in his prime yet. He didn't disappoint on the field for Texas, hitting .305/.395/.615 over his three years there, leading the American League in home runs in each year and winning his first MVP award in 2003. However, the Rangers finished last all three season and his contract became seen as a major hindrance in the team's effort to build a contender. Prior to the 2004 season, the Rangers dealt A-Rod to the free-spending Yankees after a deal with the Red Sox was nixed by the player's union because it required Rodriguez to defer some of his gigantic paycheck.
2008: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees - 10 years, $275 million
After they assumed all of the money remaining on A-Rod's first mega-deal, the Yankees coasted on to four consecutive playoff appearances while Rodriguez added two more MVPs to his trophy room from his new position at third. Even though he was about to turn 32, the Yankees still met his demand for another record-setting deal with minimal foot-dragging. The team clearly had their eyes on his seemingly inevitable march through the record book, as the incentives in his contract based on marks along the way to the home run record show.
Today, the Yankees appear willing to do just about anything to dodge paying Rodriguez. The team and the player have engaged in battles in the media and on twitter over his health and his ever-expanding list of PED-related legal battles. Rodriguez has even accused the team of working behind the scenes to help Major League Baseball suspend him for the 2014 season. His steroid-use has made him a pariah in the eyes of many fans, but his declining health and poor performance are almost certainly bigger issues for the Yankees. Rodriguez played in just 44 games in 2013 after batting a hip injury late in 2012 which required surgery. He hit .244/.348/.423 in 181 plate appearances last season and while that is still firmly above-average, it is hardly the production teams expect for $28 million.
2012: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels - 10 years, $240 million
Over the first eleven years of his career, Albert Pujols won three MVP awards, two Gold Gloves and hit an incredible .328/.420/.617 with 445 home runs and 1,329 RBI. Even though he had just led the Cardinals to a World Championship, St. Louis balked at paying the face of their franchise over $200 million at the age of 31. Pujols landed in the $200 million club with the Angels and almost immediately spiraled into decline. He slumped horribly to start the 2012 season and finished with a batting line of .285/.343/.516. While that might be a career year for almost any other player, all three number represented new lows for the slugging first baseman. Injuries limited him to 99 games last season, and his slash dipped again to .258/.330/.437.
2012: Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers - Nine years, $214 million
The Tigers aren't likely to have the same kind of buyer's remorse over Prince Fielder's contract that the Angels and Yankees are suffering over their $200 million club members, since Fielder is now a member of the Texas Rangers. Unlike Pujols and Rodriguez, Fielder has at least remained healthy since inking his mega-contract. His first season with Detroit was on par with his better years as a Brewer. Fielder hit .313/.412/.528 in 2012 as the Tigers marched through the AL Central to a World Series appearance, but in 2013 he showed some troubling signs. The heavy-set slugger reached a new low in slugging, hitting .279/.362/.457 in 712 plate appearances in 2013. With no value on defense or on the bases to help his cause, the Tigers cut bait on their own $200 million man before it was too late, sending $30 million with him to Texas to get Ian Kinsler.
2012/2014: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds - 10 years, $225 million
Although this extension deal was struck in April of 2012, Votto is technically just starting his days as a $200 million man. The 2010 NL MVP was locked up through this past season by a three-year/$38 million deal signed before he was arbitration-eligible. The Reds didn't want to chance losing him on the open market so they extended him almost two seasons before he would hit free agency and put him in the $200 million club with a 10 year deal. Votto has not given the club too much cause for regret since he signed the deal, but there is still plenty of time remaining. 2013 marked the third straight season that Votto led the league in walks and the fourth in which he led in OBP. However, his uber-patient approach drew some criticism from some observers who pointed to his 73 RBIs as evidence that he was not an effective run producer. The more troubling sign for the future might be a career low in doubles (30) last season.
While Cano has every reason to celebrate now, fans of the Mariners might want to temper their enthusiasm just a bit. The limited history of the $200 million club is littered with regret for the teams handing out such deals.
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