Every time a non-superstar — or, more accurately, a player whose performance doesn’t seem that of a superstar — signs a huge contract, a casual observer might get the impression that it’s never happened before.
It has happened before. Quite often, and going way back. Look up Len Barker sometime. Or Wayne Garland.
So it’s hard to be shocked by the news that the Detroit Tigers are committing $110 million to Jordan Zimmermann.
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Between the Winner’s Curse, the (almost) always expanding salaries in Major League Baseball, and some owners’ desperation to win now, there will always be contracts that don’t make much mathematical sense if you look just at the dollars and the projected performance.
Jordan’s new deal has a $22 million average annual value. According to FanGraphs, Jordan’s been worth more than $22 million in each of the last five seasons. Except for 2012, when he fell about a half-million short.
So if Zimmernann’s been "worth" well more than $110 million over the last five years, on what grounds would anyone think there’s anything amiss with Zimmermann’s new deal?
Well, because he wasn’t nearly as good in 2015 as he’d been in 2014, and because the speed on his speedball was down a tick this year, and because he’s five years removed from Tommy John Surgery and some people figure that means he’s about to reach his expiration date.
Even leaving all that aside, how many pitchers are really good for 10 straight seasons? Hardly any. So will Zimmermann be "worth" $110 million over the next five years? Probably not. He’ll probably be on the Disabled List or just really ineffective in at least one of those years, and he’s unlikely to be a $27 million pitcher in each of the other years.
But guess what, friends: This is, and always been, the nature of free agency. You pay for what the player has done, and (almost) best case is that he keeps doing those things in at least some of the coming years. Even while knowing full well that you’ll wind up wanting a do-over at some point.
Yes, it might be accurate to say that the market has changed. But it would be more accurate to say that it’s ever-changing. And that the more things change, the more they stay the same.