After the Chicago White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal for a franchise biggest (yet fairly paltry 4 year/$73 million dollar deal), I wanted to examine some of the bigger contracts in baseball history. I was in high school when A-Rod shocked the world with his 10 year 250 million deal with Texas, and that was nearly 20 years ago now. How could the White Sox (who do play in Chicago, a big market) not have a single 100 million dollar man?
I wanted to research. So here's a list of biggest contracts in terms of overall dollars, as well as runners up. Credit due to Spotrac, Wikipedia, and Cot's Baseball Contracts for helping me generate this list.
There's a lot to highlight and learn from this list.
I'm surprised to see how cheap the Pirates and Indians are. $60 million are their biggest contracts? Most teams have doubled that! I've never really considered the Indians to be a small market team either. After that big streak of 455 sellouts in the late '90s and sheer amount of star power that's gone through Cleveland, I never would have guessed their biggest contract was Edwin Encarnacion. For Pittsburgh, that kind of makes sense, but I'm still surprised that their biggest deal was nearly 20 years ago.
In terms of $100 million dollar deals, these five teams have never taken the plunge: White Sox, Pirates, Indians, Athletics, and Royals. Even the Rays and Marlins have jumped in. The CHICAGO White Sox play in a big market. Lots of surprises!
Looking at team's 2nd biggest deals, you'll find that these franchises have had only ONE $100 million dollar player: Twins, Rays, Orioles, Marlins, Brewers, Blue Jays, and Diamondbacks. Combining the list of no 100s, there are 12 teams with one- 100 million dollar player or less. Seven $100 million dollar contracts overall among these 12 teams.
Now to compare that to some of the bigger market teams: The Yankees have inked 7 deals worth $120MM or more. Dodgers: 3. Red Sox: 4. Tigers: 4 (2 for Miggy). Cubs: 3. Mets: 4. Total between all these top tier teams: 25. Almost quadruple my above list of seven contracts for the twelve lower market teams.
The "small market" St. Louis Cardinals top two deals tally up to $250. The number of teams below that $250? 9. Below such true market teams like The Marlins and Twins. Not that big deals are #1 when it comes to sorting out payroll, but just an interesting note.
Yes, Oakland is that cheap. Their second biggest deal is a paltry 2 years 33 million. Looking at year over year payroll, their biggest contract typically was between 6 and 8 million. Again, this list is free agents and extensions, doesn't count trades they've made. But if you look at the salaries they've brought on via trade, it's similar. Going through the last decade, they've signed a few players to 2 year / $20-$25 deals. It's shocking to see.
There's a lot to unpack here. Looking at the list, what trends or fun facts do you notice?