When Divinity Interferes with Team Management

Have you ever heard of the Colorado Rockies?  They’re this team that sometimes plays well on the field, but has an overwhelming tendency to sign players to contracts that make no sense.

Carlos Gonzalez

They also pride themselves on retaining “good character” players, which means players who are devout Christians and are willing to openly pray before each and every game/practice/meal/breath.  Apparently those of us who don’t believe in the Christian God, or any God for that matter, cannot possibly be good people.  But I digress.


Reports are indicating that the Rockies are close to signing young superstar outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to a 7yr/$80-million contract extension.  CarGo is not eligible for arbitration for another year so this extension would carry him through all three arbitration years and his first three years of free agency.

Combining this deal with the Troy Tulowitzki meta-extension (oh yeah, I got all meta-theory on your asses) inked earlier this offseason means the Rockies have committed $237.75-million to two players who were under control of the team for four more seasons before their extensions were signed.

Now, I’m no mathematician, nor am I an economist, but it doesn’t seem to make sense to sign players to exorbitant contracts when contracts with much less risk and cash could be signed just as easily and effectively.

With one more year before being arbitration eligible, Gonzalez would not have qualified for free agency until 2014 and Tulowitzki was already signed to a deal that carried him through the same year with a flexible club option.  So what’s the point of paying well-over-market-value for both players?

I’m not saying that Gonzalez and Tulowitzki aren’t great players.  They

Troy Tulowitzki

certainly are.  It’s widely held that Tulowitzki is the best shortstop in baseball and the year Gonzalez put up in 2010 would win him the MVP in most seasons.  But signing them so high above their value at a point when they didn’t have to seems pointless.

Yes, it’s possible that both of these players will be putting up consistent Hall-of-Fame-type numbers through 2014 which will mean the Rockies are getting them for several more years at potentially bargain rates, but is that likely?

What’s more likely is that one or both will experience significant injuries at some point in the next few years.  Tulowitzki’s injury history is worrisome at best.

In the case of CarGo, how often do long-term deals for players who’ve had one good year in the majors really work out?  Why wouldn’t the Rockies sign Gonzalez to a deal that takes him through his arbitration years, allowing them to make a more informed decision on his future between now and then and also allowing them to pay significantly less in the process?  Or does that make too much sense for the organization of Mike Hampton and Todd Helton extension infamy?

Gonzalez’s terrific 2010 will be very hard to replicate, especially when you consider how much better he was at Coors Field as opposed to on the road.  CarGo potsed a .380/.425/.737 line at home and a .289/.322/.453 everywhere else and his BABIP was very high (.384) which suggests that he took advantage of his hitter friendly ballpark and was also very lucky no matter where he played.  Those numbers will assuredly correct themselves at least a little in 2011 and beyond.

Colorado is not exactly a large-market team, so how does signing these two players along with a big contract for Jorge de la Rosa and deferred payments to Helton for eternity help the team long term?

I have a feeling the Rockies will be regretting one or both of these contracts in the future.  But will they learn their lesson this time?  Doubtful.

Statistical information from FanGraphs

3 responses to “When Divinity Interferes with Team Management

  1. Travis:

    Fine site. Baseball is good. I am disturbed by the juxtaposition of sport and theology. It’s like god takes sides? Ridiculous. The Rockies are creepy and the organization dwells among my list of teams that should not exist, not because of their god policy, but that doesn’t help their case. As for these dumb contracts, I wonder how many players just go along for the money and are therefore bearing false witness. Gasp! It’s stupid, but your site is not. Baseball and Canadiana are two of my favorite things. For secular humanist political essays and a photo page devoted to things Detroit Tigers, please visit http://accidentalalien.wordpress.com. I write about baseball sometimes, too. Vancouver’s CKNW blog ran my Ernie Harwell eulogy last year.

    I am always surprised, and pleased, to discover more baseball fans in Canada, a country with only one MLB team. (RIP ‘Spos.) Also, on the good character front, as I introduced a friend to baseball, she was surprised to discover that people who wear the old English “D” reflexively acknowledge each other with a friendliness directly proportional to our distance from Tiger Stadium. “It’s part of the beauty of the game, and of being a Tigers fan,” I told her. And none of us cares about the other’s religious beliefs or lack thereof. No mucky-muck, as Nigel Tufnel might say.


  2. I’m living in Windsor and have been here since 2003. Tigers’ fans have a lot of pride. I admire it. I can’t get behind the team though, I’ll always be a Jays’ fan.

  3. I wouldn’t expect you to be a Tigers’ fan; the Jays are an eminently respectable team. I look forward to your team previews.

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