I find there to be parallels between starting pitchers in baseball and quarterbacks in football. Not only because they have a similar throwing motion, or because they both gets tons of ass, but because their performance is the most highly correlated with winning in their respective sports. What is therefore really surprising then is that we have not seen a top flight quarterback free agent like ever, and it’s been years since a top pitcher hit the market (unless you thought Zito would be good in which case you are an idiot). The crazy thing is I believe these players keep re-signing with their teams for “market-value” but because no one has hit the market in years the market is deflated.
For example this year Carlos Zambrano resigned with the Cubs for 5 years and $91.5 million. This seems like a decent contract until you consider that Zito signed for 7 years and $126 million. So Zito who was two years older and by almost all comparisons was significantly worse, got two more years on his contract for roughly the same amount. So what would have happened if Zambrano had gone the route of free agency this offseason? I would guess he’d get about 8 years for $168 million as a result of a bidding war between the two New York teams and the Cubs. He’s young (27 for next year), has a limited history of injuries, and a good track record.
This pales in comparison to what may be coming however. Johan Santana may be tempted to test free agency next year and if he does he gets A-Rod money. I’d guess he gets 10-years $300 million if he pitches well this year and tests the market. He’s been really disillusioned by the Twins and will not resign with them so the Twins should trade him. Unfortunately they are getting a new stadium and having just let Tori Hunter go they likely cannot take the publicity hit. I hope he hits the open market though because I think he breaks A-Rod’s contract record if he does and I like things that make A-rod cry. His tears taste like the royal nectar of the Gods.
The reason for this is that there are almost no good pitchers in the Majors and the good ones tend to be young and resign with the team that drafted them. That’s why Dice-K gets ridiculous money and mid-level pitchers are getting $10+ Million. If a top pitcher hit the market with the Mets and Yankees desperate for pitching help it could be a cold war.
In the NFL no top QB has ever tested free agency. Sure Brees would be a top QB now, but at the time he was coming off of an injury and had been working with the best RB in the league, ask Troy Aikman if that helps. Accordingly he was well paid, but not like he would be if he hit the market now. There are two reasons for the lack of high end QB’s on the open market. First, is the fact that to do so you would need to play a year with no future contract, meaning if you got injured you wouldn’t get paid. Second, the threat of the franchise player tag. The first issue some players could overcome, sure there is a little bit of fear but you could pay for an insurance policy that could cover you for the chance you get a career ending injury. What scares the hell out of everybody is the ridiculous franchise tag.
While well-intentioned the design of the franchise tag makes the Ford Pinto’s design look like the fucking Bilbao (too Dennis Miller-esque?). How a players union would agree to this monstrosity is beyond me. The reason it is so awful is because it is a one-year contract with no guarantees if you get injured. It’s ironic that the player who is supposed to be most valuable to your team, the player you can’t let get away, is so important that we are going to build a system for him that rolls the dice on his ability to support himself for the rest of his life. Additionally, the franchise tag fails miserably if one player is much better than all of the other players at his position. A few years ago Tony Gonzales was far and away the best tight-end (2002 post-Coates, pre-Shockey and Gates) and KC tagged him with the franchise tag. This meant he got the average of the top-5 tight ends, all of whom he was head and shoulders above, for a salary of $2.288 million, probably about half his market value. Plus if he had gotten injured he was fucked. A much better system would be simply allowing the teams to match any offer for their player, which is how the NBA does it (and the NFL transition player kind of works this way as well). At least then the best players in the league aren’t one hit away from being cut and being broke.
It is for this reason that no top quarterback has ever tested free-agency, but I speculate that a Peyton or Brady could command $20 Million+ in free agency because in addition to creating a winning team, they bring fans into the stadium. Too bad for them that the players union doesn’t care about the top players in the league, which kind of makes sense, it being a union and all. Maybe one day it will happen and then everybody will complain about how much these players get paid and how out of whack it is. Of course these people are too ignorant to go look at the owners who are 10-1000 times as rich as the richest players and inquire how they got their money. People are stupid, the lesson- don’t be a people.