Today we’re counting down the 10 biggest sports contracts of all time, and the reason is this monster Giancarlo Stanton contract.
Stanton, of course, is the Marlins’ 25-year-old right fielder who probably would have won the NL MVP award this year if he didn’t miss the last month of the season after getting plunked in the face with a fastball. On Monday night, he and the Marlins finalized a 13-year, $325,000,000 deal that could keep Stanton in Miami until he’s 37 years old.
That’s a hell of a long time, and that’s a hell of a lot of money. But where does it rank on the list of biggest sports contracts ever? Let’s find out.
I guess I should tell you right of the bat that this list of the 10 biggest sports contracts of all time all is a de facto list of biggest baseball contracts. I know that's boring, but there's nothing I can do about it. Baseball teams have medium sized rosters, they play in huge stadiums, they play twice as many games each season than teams in any other sport, cable channels are basically throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at them, and MLB has no salary cap.
Still, before we get started looking at the top 10, I thought you might like to see how all the other major pro sports stack up. So here's a quick rundown of the biggest contracts in other sports:
Boxing: Floyd Mayweather / $180,000,000 / Showtime
Auto Racing: Kimi Raikkoen / $153,000,000 / Ferrari
Soccer: Gareth Bale (pictured) / $146,280,000 / Real Madrid
Basketball: Kobe Bryant / $136,400,000 / Los Angeles Lakers
Football: Calvin Johnson / $132,000,000 / Detroit Lions
Hockey: Alex Ovechkin / $124,000,000 / Washington Capitals
It's understandable that football can't compete with baseball. Even thought the NFL is the most valuable (and profitable) league in the world, teams have twice as many players and a fraction of the games. Plus, players get injured way too often to give them binding long-term deals.
Basketball is the sport that really should have higher contracts. They play a lot of games, their rosters are the smallest of all the major pro sports, and their stars are the most marketable in America. If the NBA players association is smart, they'll hold out for a way bigger piece of the pie when the current collective bargaining agreement is up.
Honorable Mentions: Best of the Rest
On March 21, 2010, the Minnesota Twins pried their wallet open with the jaws of life and forked over $184 million to make sure hometown boy Joe Mauer would wear a Twins uniform for the rest of his career.
At the time this seemed like a pretty good move, seeing as how Mauer had just won the 2009 AL MVP award with 7.8 wins above replacement. However, Mauer has not reached those levels since. He had solid WARs of 5.9 and 5.3 in 2010 and 2013, but last year his WAR was just 2.1. So this deal, which runs through 2018, may come back to haunt the Twins.
10. Joe Mauer – $184,000,000
The Captain came very close to signing a seven-year, $118 million contract before the 2000 season that would have been the biggest contract in history at the time. (Isn't that cute? A measly $118 million the biggest ever?) However, that deal fell through, Jeter signed a one-year $10 million deal, and the following offseason—after A-Rod got crazy money from the Rangers—the Yankees had to give their most beloved player a hell of a lot more money.
Was Jeter's production really worth $18.9 million a year from 2001 through 2010? Probably not. But after the A-Rod deal, the Yankees had no choice.
9. Derek Jeter – $189,000,000
On January 12, 2012, the Tigers shocked baseball by signing former Brewers slugger Prince Fielder to a whopping nine-year, $214 million contract. With an average annual value of $23.7 million, that meant Fielder would make $4 million/year more than Miguel Cabrera—the guy who would go on the win the MVP and AL Triple Crown in 2012.
Don't feel bad for Miggy, though. The Tigers went and traded Fielder to the Rangers before the 2014 season, then reworked Cabrera's deal...which we'll get to in a moment.
8. Prince Fielder – $214,000,000
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet. The guy has won three of the last four NL Cy Young Awards and the 2014 NL MVP Award. And while I'm usually against pitchers winning the MVP award, when a guy racks up 7.5 wins above replacement, it's kind of hard to argue that he isn't the most valuable player in the league.
The Dodgers certainly know what they've got. That's why they tacked a seven-year, $215 million contract extension onto his existing two-year deal prior to the 2013 season. That's the biggest contract ever for a pitcher, and the average annual value of $30.15 million makes him the highest-paid player in baseball.
7. Clayton Kershaw – $215,000,000
The first ever pro sports contract negotiated by Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports was a doozie. In December of 2013, they got 31-year-old second baseman Robinson Cano a ridiculous 10-year, $240 million deal with the Seattle Mariners.
Of course, Jay-Z, King of New York, was seen as a bit of a traitor by Yankees fans who were made he didn't get Cano to stay in the Bronx. But an agent/mogul/rapper/husband of Beyoncé has to do what an agent/mogul/rapper/husband of Beyoncé has to do.
6. Robinson Cano – $240,000,000
Albert Pujols wanted to remain with the Cardinals when he hit free agency after their 2011 World Series victory. However, he wanted the "respect" that comes with being one of the highest paid players in baseball even more, and he didn't like how the Cardinals started negotiations by low-balling him. So in December of 2011 he swapped one red cap for another and signed a 10-year deal paying him $24 million a season.
Of course, it's an absolutely horrible deal for the Angels. They are paying him for the player he used to be (9.7 WAR in 2009), not the player he is (3.9 WAR in 2014).
5. Albert Pujols – $240,000,000
On April 2, 2012, the Cincinnati Reds announced a huge 10-year, $225 million contract extension with superstar first basemen Joey Votto. And it didn't even start until 2014, so when combined with the final two years of the previous contract, it all added up to 12 years and $251.5 million.
The Reds, of course, are a mid-market team that isn't exactly rolling in dough. However, after watching their division rivals in Milwaukee and St. Louis lose their superstar first basemen (Fielder and Pujols) to ginormous free agent contracts, the Reds apparently decided they would not let the same thing happen to them.
They probably should have, though. The Cardinals have already demonstrated that they didn't need Pujols, reaching the NLCS every year since he left. The Brewers rebounded from a rough 2013 to nearly win the NL Central in 2014. Meanwhile, the Reds finished in fourth place this year, and Votto is currently 31 years old, played only 62 games.
4. Joey Votto – $251,000,000
Technically, A-Rod should appear twice on this list at #4 and #3. But I can't stand looking at his face, and the thought of finding two photos of him made me cringe. So I decided to combine his two historic contracts into one.
The first of these historic contracts is the 10-year, $252 million deal he signed with the Texas Rangers before the 2001 season. That's the one that forced the Yankees to pay Derek Jeter $60 million more in 2001 than they were prepared to pay him in 2000. And, ironically, the Rangers ended up trading what was then the biggest contract in sports history to the Yankees in 2004. .
The second of A-Rod's historic contracts came after he opted out of the first one during the 2008 World Series. The Yankees gave their 33-year-old third baseman an even more ridiculous 10-year, $275 million contract that runs for another three seasons—and all for one lousy World Series title.
3. Alex Rodriguez – $275,000,000
In March 2014, after Miguel Cabrera won his second straight AL MVP award, the Detroit Tigers broke the record for biggest sports contract of all time by giving Miggy an eight-year, $248 million extension. When combined with the two years remaining on his previous deal, that brought the total to 10 years, $292 million.
Good investment? Um, no. Cabrera would have been 33 years old when his initial deal expired. The new one pays him until he's 43. There is no way he'll be worth $30 million a year at the age of 38, let alone 43.
2. Miguel Cabrera – $292,000,000
And last, but obviously not least, we have the new biggest sports contract of all time, the 10-year, $325,000,000 contract signed this week by Giancarlo Stanton.
Compared to the other big baseball contracts we've seen in recent years, this one is actually a good value. Stanton is only 25 now and he'll "only" be 37 when the contract expires. Compared to the Tigers, Angels, Mariners, Reds, and Yankees, the Marlins look brilliant.
Actually, scratch that. The Marlins don't look brilliant. They look like diabolical geniuses. Sure, they gave Stanton his no-trade clause, and they gave him an opt-out clause after six years. But the 13-year deal is seriously backloaded. It pays Stanton only $6.5 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016, $14.5 million in 2017, and then $77 million in the three seasons after that. That's only $107 million for what will be the six best seasons of Giancarlo Stanton's career.
Ostensibly, the reason for such meager salaries over the first six years is so that the Marlins can put a good team around Stanton and win a championship. And that might actually happen. But there's no way (let me repeat: NO WAY) the Marlins want to actually pay the $218 million for the final seven years, which don't start until Stanton is 31. So you know they will gut the team (again) in 2021 at the latest, whether it's to make Stanton opt out or be able to afford his salary.