No free agent position player came within $50 million of the deals that Albert Pujols ($246 million, according to the union's calculation) and Prince Fielder ($214 million) got this winter.
No, check that: No free agent position player came within $100 million. There was a top 1 percent in the baseball world this winter, as well, with the middle class left to take the leftovers. The third-highest free-agent position player this winter was Jose Reyes, at $106 million, and the fourth-highest was Jimmy Rollins, whose deal of $38 million is more than $200 million less than Pujols' contract.
This makes the Pujols and Fielder deals fascinating to talent evaluators who have pored over the remains of the agreements as if conducting an autopsy.
An informal poll of 10 evaluators in the last few days -- a mix of team presidents, general managers, assistant GMs and scouts -- generated a solid consensus about whose deal was better for the respective clubs.
Five believe the Tigers' signing of Fielder was the better deal.
Three believe Pujols was the better signing.
Two believe both teams are not going to get what they paid for.
What follows are most of the individual responses:
High-ranking AL official: "I think I have to go with the Angels' signing of Pujols, only because from the marketing perspective, you understand what [Angels owner] Arte Moreno is trying to do. I think Pujols is going to have a much-bigger impact from a revenue standpoint than Prince Fielder, because the Tigers have a ceiling with how much revenue they can generate. He's not going to change their TV (revenue), in the way that Pujols will. Albert's the older player, but I think he's the bigger star, and he'll generate more money."
High-ranking NL official: "Is Pujols going to be productive for two or three more years? Longer? That, to me, is the key question. If Pujols can be productive for the next six years, then the Angels got the better deal. If not, then Detroit. The Pujols deal could be an epic disaster if he's not productive in the last five or six years of the deal, at $30 million annually. The Fielder deal is one of the craziest deals in a while. That would have been a great deal at the beginning of the offseason. Not sure why the Tigers didn't just go huge for seven years. Given the market, $26 million a year over seven years or something would have been plenty. The nine years is just inexplicable in late January."
AL talent evaluator: "Fielder's the better deal. Fielder is the younger player, and he's left-handed; he turns 28 this spring. It's not inconceivable that at the end of this deal, he could still play a couple of more years, if he's pushing for the Hall of Fame. People I know say he absolutely loves this game. He loves playing baseball. I first saw Prince when he was in the ninth grade; he could rake then, and he can still rake now."
NL executive: "I think the Tigers got the better deal. Age matters. I might change my mind after the Cabrera 3B experiment unfolds."
NL executive: "Having lived those deals, I don't think either one of them will be happy."
AL Scout: "Either deal is appealing, but I would go with the younger guy with fewer years -- Fielder."
AL official: "It's tough to tell. You have got Miguel Cabrera moving to third base, and that will dictate a lot to the value of the Fielder deal. Pujols fits better with Angels, but Trumbo has to switch positions or get traded. I think both will be good players early in the contract, but the true value will be told when they are 4-5 years into the deals."
NL evaluator: "I like the Tigers' deal for Fielder more than the Angels' deal for Pujols. Fielder is younger and more consistent while Pujols is older -- and some people question his age being as young as he maintains -- and has seen his OPS decline for four straight seasons. Fielder got less money total, fewer years, and less average annual value. Pujols brings leadership and legacy, but going forward the better player is Fielder."
AL Scout: "It's hard to like either of those deals, especially with respect to the Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez deals. However, if you're going to like one of them, I'd prefer the shorter, cheaper deal given to the younger player, to put it pretty simply, so I'd go with Detroit. I'm not sure either guy will carry any defensive value even three or four years into their respective deals, though at least Detroit can say that as Prince's deal winds down, they at least won't be paying him $30M per year as the Angels will to Pujols. Not crazy about either one, but Prince's seems to be more sensible."
For the readers: Which deal do you think is better?
• I asked a longtime agent to give me an estimate of what it would require for the Kansas City Royals to sign Eric Hosmer to a 10-year-deal, to lock him down. "I'd say $80 million to $90 million," he said.
There are a small handful of players who signed enormous contracts very early in their careers, all with small-market and mid-market teams.
1. Evan Longoria: Early in the 2008 season, Longoria signed a six-year, $17.5 million deal -- it's now worth slightly more than that because of some contractual options -- and the guaranteed salaries run through the end of the 2013 season. Here's the Tampa Bay kicker: The Rays hold club options through 2016, for $7.5 million in '14, $11 million in 2015 and $11.5 million in 2016.
2. Troy Tulowitzki: Back in 2008, he agreed to a six-year deal worth $31 million, and last winter, that was renegotiated. The Rockies shortstop is now signed through 2020 for $157.5 million.
3. Ryan Braun: The slugger's original deal was for eight years and $45 million, but rather than take the same approach as Fielder, Braun renegotiated his contract; he's signed through 2020 and will make an additional $105 million in the last five years of the contract.
• Stephen Strasburg's first 92 innings in the majors, in light of his age, have been matched by exactly one pitcher in history. A current pitcher, actually.
From John Labombarda of Elias: Players with 100 or more strikeouts, an ERA less than 2.60 and a WHIP less than 1.00 through a season in which they turned 23:
Neftali Feliz: 2009-11, 164 strikeouts, 2.55 ERA, 0.95 WHIP
Strasburg: 2010-11, 116 strikeouts, 2.54 ERA, 0.98 WHIP
• Some day in 2012, Colorado Rockies third base prospect Nolan Arenado will be in the big leagues; it's just a question of when. The Rockies believe his approach at the plate is ready for the big leagues, but they will likely give him more time to evolve in the minors and want to see him have more success in the minors -- and more failure, as he learns to make day-to-day adjustments.
• Forget the question about whether Hanley Ramirez will be able to make the position change to third, says Andre Dawson -- the bigger question is whether he gets back to being the type of offensive player he was in the past, as he told Joe Capozzi.
Totally agree. And the lack of aggressive trade suitors tells you other teams have the same doubt.
• A whole bunch of rich guys continue to bid on the Los Angeles Dodgers, as Bill Shaikin writes.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Oakland Athletics remain open to signing Manny Ramirez.
2. Right on schedule, at the end of January, the Baltimore Orioles are poised to make some roster moves. It really is incredible that year after year after year, they are left to pick over the carcass of the offseason, after the other teams are done. Baltimore is talking to the St. Louis Cardinals about Kyle McClellan.
3. The Minnesota Twins are going to try Trevor Plouffe in the outfield to keep his bat in the lineup.
4. Shaun Marcum is going to tweak his delivery.
5. Despite all that happened in the last week, the Tigers are not looking to trade their top third base prospect, writes Lynn Henning.
6. Roy Oswalt will meet with the Texas Rangers today, and he must answer questions in the right way.
From The Mailbag
Note: I wrote the other day that, generally speaking, spending 15 percent of your payroll on one player is probably something teams would shy away from.
Q: The 15% rule is a good one, Buster, but it's not enough. The real rules are: no one player more than 15%; no two more than 25%, no three more than 33%, no four more than 40% and no six more than 50%. It's how you go about constructing a roster.
A: Greg: Generally speaking, I'd bet there are a whole lot of general managers who agree with you.