Money and its value in the sports world once again took center stage on Monday morning. After several days of speculation and discussion, it was finally announced that the Miami Marlins had agreed to a contract extension with their star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton, who at 25 years old has become the fastest player to reach the 150 home run plateau, agreed to a 13-year contract extension worth $325 million. He will be making $25 million per year until he is 37 years old.
This deal is now the largest contract in North American sports history, surpassing Alex Rodriguez’s $275 million extension with the Yankees in 2007. You have to believe Miami is not only paying for what Stanton has already done in the majors, but they are also showing confidence that he will be able to sustain this success throughout the duration of the contract. This, coming even after Stanton was hit in the face with a pitch in September and has not played since.
While they have locked up their best player, history shows us that the Marlins may have taken a potentially disastrous leap of faith. Since Rodriguez’s extension, he has steadily declined and struggled to stay healthy. With Stanton’s large deal, he also may be hurting the Marlins ability to put a title contending team around him. If he does not exercise his opt-out clause after six seasons, he may be an aging superstar with a lackluster supporting cast much like Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers this season.
From a business perspective, the Marlins also need to be sure that they can draw fans to the ballpark. Throughout their history, they have struggled to maintain a consistent attendance. Part of this is also due to the fact that the organization has become known for eventually trading away and letting go of its best players. This occurred after World Series Championships in 1997 and 2003, as well as two years ago when they traded shortstop Jose Reyes, pitcher Mark Buehrle and others to the Blue Jays. Probably due to this history, Stanton received the opt-out clause.
This deal could also destroy the team similar to the way Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million deal crippled the New Jersey Devils. The team went into debt by $230 million and have since been under league control to avoid bankruptcy. Kovalchuk retired with 12 years and $77 million left on his deal in the summer of 2013. Similar to the stipulations in Rodriguez’s contract, Stanton could also opt out if he continues to be productive and get an even bigger deal.
It is not uncommon for sports contracts to “set the market.” Dan Hurley, men’s basketball coach here at URI is the highest-paid state employee. As covered by our publication in September, he has $300,000 as a base salary, plus an additional $327,500 made up of a percentage of ticket sales and radio and television for a total of $627,500 this year, on par with other coaches.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved sports and will continue to in the future. But when is it enough? I believe all people should be paid well for what they do, but as the prices continue to skyrocket, it may appear to some as more and more out of touch with the real world. As Stanton’s deal gets completed, more deals will be set to compete with it. It is not a matter of if another “mega deal” is coming, it is a matter of when and what the next salary number will be.