Thursday, July 7, 2011

Is Being Overpaid Overrated?

The sentiment has been tossed around a lot lately. John Lackey is overpaid for the fourth starter. JD Drew is paid way too much. Mike Cameron signed for too much money. Carl Crawford was too expensive. I could make arguments as to whether those statements are true, or not. But, that’s not really what I’m after here. My question is, does it even matter?

The whole point of building a baseball team is to have the best players at every position. Right? Now, since Theo can’t just go out and have any player he wants, he needs to build a team using the best players he can get. That means the best players he can draft, or trade for, or sign as free agents. Joe Mauer was drafted by another team before the Sox could, he’s not a free agent, and I’m guessing the Twins won’t trade him. So, the best catcher isn’t available. You get the idea. So, if you’re getting the best talent, you’re doing your job.

Now, the Red Sox aren’t the Royals. Money really isn’t an issue. So, it really shouldn’t enter the conversation, should it? I’ve said all along, I don’t care how much the Red Sox pay players. It’s not my money. The only problem I have is if a bad contract prohibits the Sox from getting a good contract. So, assume the Sox gave Lackey a bad contract. Did that stop them from signing Adrian Gonzalez? Nope. Carl Crawford? Nope. So, it looks like the Sox haven’t been limited by overpaying anyone.

So, if the problem isn’t the budget, why do I care what they pay players? The first argument is usually that it IS my money. It’s my ticket prices that pay for all these overpaid contracts. But, if my ticket prices also let me see the best players out there, isn’t that OK? After the Sox signed Manny Ramirez, they raised ticket prices. Fine by me. If I want the best, I need to pay the best. Off the top of my head, I can think of three players who have been talked about as free agents coming up. Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, and Andre Ethier. What if the Red Sox offered those three players 20% more than they were “worth”? (In Pujols’s case, $35 million a year.) What if they then said to ticket holders, we’re raising ticket prices 20%, but your line-up is now Ellsbury-Reyes-Pedroia-Gonzalez-Pujols-Youkilis-Ethier-Crawford-Saltalamacchia? And we’ll keep Ortiz as a great pinch hitter. Would anyone mind that? I know I wouldn’t.

So, is it just the notion that they’re overpaid? Just an icky feeling that you could have gotten them for less? Is that the only problem? That the Sox paid more than they’re worth? So, if the Sox gave Pedroia a $35 million contract, is he now a lousy second baseman?

It’s what happens with a free market. Lackey lucks out that he was the best pitcher out there that year. The Sox needed a pitcher, so they signed him. So what if he’s the fourth best pitcher on the team. As long as he’s better than the other options, he made the team better. Was there a free agent pitcher the last couple years that Lackey stopped the Sox from getting? Maybe Cliff Lee, (speaking of being overpaid) if they could drag him away from Philadelphia. Although, with all the activity last off-season, that might have been a tough signing anyway. Otherwise? Looks like the Sox did the best they could. The same with Drew. There haven’t been a ton of outfielders better than Drew to come along. (Don’t say Jayson Werth) (Or Jason Bay)

As long as the Red Sox are signing the best players they can, I don’t care even a little how much they’re paying them. Did they pay Crawford too much? Maybe. But, he’s on the team now. I’d prefer that over not having good players because they are asking for too much money.

Wouldn’t you?


  1. Money only becomes an issue when your overpaid players keep your team from keeping or getting other players that they need.

    For example:

    I don't care that Jason Bay is making ridiculous money this year - he frustrates me because he hasn't really hit like a major leaguer for most of his time in New York.

    I will care very much about Bay's contract if it means the Mets can't afford to make a competitive offer to Jose Reyes this off-season.

  2. For me, the issue isn't so much the money, it's big money and big years to players that everyone except the GM knows aren't worth it. The Lackey contract is a perfect one. I couldn't stand Lackey as an Angel, and to know that the ticket prices have to go up even the slightest percent so I have to watch someone whose talent NEVER warranted that kind of pay day is frustrating. I don't have John Henry's kind of money, so when I'm dishing out $50 for just one seat to watch John Lackey ruin a game, I get really mad that he's getting paid so much AND taking my money. Just because he was the best available in a specific offseason doesn't mean he was any good.

    Overpaying talented players is fine by me. Overpaying BAD players is the problem. If Theo wants to give Pedroia $35M, it doesn't make Pedroia any less of a player. Giving guys like Lackey nearly $90M doesn't make them good players.


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