You are a general manager. You are in a quiet, well-lit room. In front of you is a button. There is nothing in this room but you, a table, the chair you're sitting on, and the button. It's a big, red, shiny button, and on it, there's one word printed: "No."
Now we're going to show you the 10 biggest contracts of the offseason. If you hit the button, the contract is void. The player might or might not fall into a scorpion pit, but that's not your concern right now. Your concern is the contract. Knowing what we know now, do you still give the contract out?
10. Ubaldo Jimenez - 4 years, $50 million
/sound of panicked button-mashing
Of all the teams to take the Ubaldo risk, the Orioles made the most sense. They had the spot in the rotation, they had a contending lineup already in place, and they had room in the budget.
I mistakenly guessed Jimenez was going to accept the qualifying offer, and he's glad I'm not his agent. But there were so many red flags. His freaky hot stretch didn't correlate with an uptick in velocity or command. It correlated with a whole lot of Twins, Marlins, White Sox, and Royals -- four of the worst-hitting teams in baseball last year.
Considering that Jimenez can't throw strikes or prevent runs, and considering the Orioles didn't have a first-round pick in a deep draft because of this deal, they would mash that button so danged hard.
Button: Pushed. So dang hard.
9. Matt Garza - 4 years, $50 million
One of the surprises of the offseason was that there wasn't a team that freaked out and paid Garza like the ace he's never been. In three out of the last four years, Garza has been slightly above average -- no more, no less. Through 16 starts with the Brewers, he's been slightly below average, and he's 30 now.
Except the Brewers are surprise contenders, and without Garza, they might have been tempted to dump what few prospects they have at the trade deadline for a starting pitcher. They have, at the very least, a competent starter for the second half of the season. They might not get their money's worth for the next three years and $38 million, but right now they're not regretting Garza at all. Their wins from the first half aren't going anywhere, and there's a strong chance that Garza will get a little better for the rest of the year.
Button: Not pushed. And they didn't even have to give up a draft pick.
8. Jhonny Peralta - 4 years, $53 million
The Cardinals had everything but a shortstop. Now they have a shortstop. The last two years are probably going to be a mess, but the Cardinals are getting everything they were hoping for, including the counterintuitive defensive numbers.
Button: Not pushed.
7. Curtis Granderson - 4 years, $60 million
This deal never made sense. When the Mets are good, Granderson won't be. If Granderson were good right now, the Mets wouldn't be. I get that they needed an outfielder to field a team, but this one's going to look worse before it gets better. Still, Granderson's hitting .234/.358/.399, which is good for a 117 OPS+ in Citi Field. I guess that's living up to expectations? Maybe?
Button: I push it. I push it back in December. The Mets, though, probably wouldn't. Because if this kind of okay-not-special start scares you away from a 33-year-old outfielder, why would you sign him in the first place? This has to be close to what they were expecting. And if isn't what they were expecting ... well, that would be very, very Mets.
6. Jose Abreu - 6 years, $68 million
We wrote about this after it was clear that dingers resonated pure from Abreu's very aura. There's no way he would sign anything less than a nine-figure deal if he were on the market right now. The White Sox got a steal.
Button: Breakers were flipped off to prevent people accidentally brushing against the button.
5. Brian McCann - 5 years, $85 million
If you want to know why there are so few catchers in the Hall of Fame, McCann's career is instructive. If he were to hit like he has for the first six or seven years of his 30s, he would have a great shot. He will not hit like that. He's a catcher, and he's breaking. McCann bounced back from his subpar 2012, but every additional ring in his trunk makes it less likely for him to bounce back in the future.
This one's going to be ugly, if it isn't already. The Yankees had about 20 different internal options if they were okay with a .280 OBP from a sound defensive catcher.
Button: Pushed, possibly too hard, which breaks an unwritten button rule.
4. Shin-Soo Choo - 7 years, $130 million
Choo's in a bit of a slump right now, but he's been mostly Choo-like over the first three months, albeit with a lower average than he's used to. Arlington isn't boosting his numbers as expected, but it's still early. However, this is a season in which almost everything has gone wrong for the Rangers. Injuries and injuries and injuries and injuries. They're five games under .500 and in fourth place, and their run differential suggests they're even worse than that.
When a team like the Rangers signs a 30-something for seven years, they're not doing it for the long-term health of the franchise. They're doing it for the short term. Right now, the short term looks dismal. It's certainly possible for a 37-year-old Choo to help the Rangers as an elder statesman, as he travels the Carlos Beltran highway gracefully into his late-30s, but that's not what the Rangers were paying for.
Oh, here are the numbers on that "bit of a slump" up there. .175/.294/.286 in 180 plate appearances since May 7.
3. Jacoby Ellsbury - 7 years, $153 million
Like Choo, the Yankees are paying for the here and now. Also like Choo, Ellsbury is having a cromulent season that fits in with his career numbers, though certainly on the low side of expectations.
Unlike the Rangers, though, the zombie Yankees aren't doing that poorly. The Rangers signed Choo because they thought they were reloading. The Yankees signed Ellsbury because they had extra Robinson Cano money, sure, but also because they were desperate. They needed lineup improvements, so they would have signed just about any nine-figure player on the market, as long as he had thumbs and no beard. They're getting close to what they should have expected, both from Ellsbury and in the standings.
Button: Not pushed.
2. Masahiro Tanaka - 7 years, $155 million
The Yankees sure spent a lot of money this offseason. I know we talked about it all offseason, but a list like this -- one that doesn't even include Carlos Beltran -- puts it into perspective. That was fun, that year when the Yankees didn't spend insanely.
Go through the Yankees' 25-man roster and pick out the players you would put $10 on to be above average in 2017. A measly $10, that's all you're risking. I'm not that frugal. Actually, I'm kind of an idiot with my money -- I just spent $30 on a "Tampa Bay Giants" bootleg shirt that smells like incense, doesn't fit, and looks like 1992 getting in a fight with the color orange. Yet there's only one player I'd risk $10 on in a bet, and it's Tanaka. He's so good, so young.
Button: Not even close to being pushed.
1. Robinson Cano - 10 years, $240 million
Ha ha, that contract is so ridiculous to type out. Seriously, just type it into your address bar or something. It's absurd. Ten years. Two-hundred-forty million dollars.
And yet, the Mariners are contending. They have the second-best run differential in baseball, and they have exactly two hitters doing outstanding things -- Kyle Seager and Cano. Considering that the Mariners have hardly any long-term commitments to speak of, they're probably pleased. They're as rich as the Giants, but they were spending as much as the Padres, so Cano isn't holding them back. Not yet. They needed to spend money to get a hitter who wouldn't melt in the Safeco death fog.
Button: Encrusted with rubies and, remarkably, not pushed.
So of the 10-biggest deals handed out this offseason, only three teams have serious regrets three months into the season. Four, if you count Granderson. That's not as bad as I would have thought. Check back in four years, and you'll find a different story, but right now, teams are getting close to what they expected. We'll see how they feel after they don't win the 2014 World Series*.