The Next Crop of $100 Million Players

Ben Nicholson-Smith is a staff member of This is the second in a series of guests posts he will be writing for FanGraphs, which will appear on Mondays.

It won’t surprise anyone if Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez join baseball’s $100 million club within the next two months. If and when the two first basemen sign extensions, it will become harder to predict which players will be the next to sign nine-figure contracts.

This much is certain: team owners will continue making baseball’s best players wealthy. As a group, owners have averaged two $100 million contracts per year since Kevin Brown signed baseball’s first $100 million deal in 1998. Six of the total 26 nine-figure contracts in baseball history were finalized in the last calendar year, so owners are still willing to spend.

Last month, Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg signed Adrian Beltre to a deal that could be worth $96 million. The next player to benefit from Texas’ aggressive new ownership could be the reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton, who is arbitration eligible for the second time, and could sign a deal that buys out his two remaining arbitration years and some of his free agent seasons.

Hamilton’s far from the only player with a world of talent and an up-and-down career path who could be in line for a nine-figure deal. Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and, possibly, Grady Sizemore could all ask for $100 million contracts as free agents after the season.

Reyes, who will be 28 when he hits free agency, could set himself up for a massive payday if he returns to form in 2011. He missed time with thyroid, knee and oblique issues in 2009-10, but averaged 62 extra base hits and 64 stolen bases per season from 2005-08. A complete turnaround would position Reyes for a substantial raise, since premium free agent shortstops don’t often hit free agency in their prime.

Bautista, who started the 2010 season as the Blue Jays’ leadoff hitter, erupted for 54 home runs last year. History says Bautista’s chances of going deep as frequently this year are slim. The only players to hit as many as 54 homers in more than one season are among the greatest sluggers in baseball history (Alex RodriguezKen Griffey Jr.Mark McGwireSammy Sosa and Babe Ruth all have at least 583 career homers).

As improbable as it would have seemed a year ago, another strong campaign from Bautista could push the 30-year-old’s asking price over $100 million. Teams would not necessarily meet those demands, but we’ve seen it happen before. Jayson Werth, another late blooming corner outfielder, turned three seasons as an elite player into a $126 million guarantee this winter.

Three things have to happen for Sizemore to sign a $100 million contract next offseason. Like Reyes, he’d have to recover from knee problems and become the power-speed threat he was a few seasons ago. Secondly, the Indians would have to trade Sizemore for his 2012 option to become a player option and, finally, Sizemore would have to opt out and hit the open market. A $100 million contract is not at all likely, but it’s thinkable.

Jered Weaver and Tim Lincecum, who are on track to hit free agency after 2012 and 2013, respectively, could sign nine-figure extensions in the relatively near future, but they aren’t the most interesting pitchers on the list of players who could sign $100 million deals soon.

Though CC Sabathia signed the most lucrative contract a pitcher has ever obtained, he could choose to opt out after the season. Sabathia has suggested he won’t opt out, but if he has another standout season in 2011, it might be hard not to. He could turn down the $92 million on his contract from 2012-15 and force the Yankees to add years and dollars or risk losing their ace to free agency (a possibility that probably makes Yankees fans queasy after this winter’s failed pursuit of Cliff Lee).

If Sabathia doesn’t opt out, there won’t be much elite starting pitching on the free agent market after the season. Yu Darvish, a 24-year-old Japanese right-hander, could tempt teams looking for a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Even Daisuke Matsuzaka, who arrived in the majors with incredible hype, signed for just $52 million, so it isn’t easy to picture Darvish signing for nine figures. It sounds as though he may make the leap to the majors, but there’s no guarantee that will happen.

Realistically it’s Prince Fielder who has the best shot at a $100 million deal next offseason. Fielder, who will presumably be looking for Mark Teixeira money and then some when he hits free agency next winter, will sign a nine figure deal as long as he turns in a typically productive season in 2011. He’ll open the season with the Brewers, but unless Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin and agent Scott Boras suddenly see eye-to-eye on Fielder’s value, it seems likely that the hefty vegetarian will be pocketing his paychecks elsewhere in 2012.

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66 Responses to “The Next Crop of $100 Million Players”

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  1. Telo says:

    Input: $100 million dollar contracts in baseball.

    Output: This article.

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  2. ab says:

    If Cole Hamels hits FA, I him getting 100+mm. Especially with the Yankees ostensibly interested

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    • JimNYC says:

      There’s absolutely no way the Yankees would sign a fourth starter to a $100 million contract, especially since they still have the debacle that is A.J. Burnett on the books. The only way the Yankees give a $100 million contract in the next year is if either a) Jose Reyes has a phenomenal season and they sign him to shove Jeter in the outfield; or b) they drop a massive trade for a young ace (Josh Johnson for Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, Dellan Betances, and midlevel prospects, maybe?) and sign him to an extension. They’re certainly not giving back-end-of-the-rotation fodder like Hamels that kind of money.

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  3. Hamels is another candidate for sure. FA after 2012, but if the Phils come up with the money, they could extend him before then.

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    • ab says:

      As a Phillies fan I hope you are right, but I think it’s far from a lock to happen. Cole and his agent have a very strong bargaining position (even compared to more accomplished pitchers who reached big extension like King Felix and Verlander) because of his former Super 2 status and huge prospective 2012 arb award

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  4. steve says:

    Ryan Zimmerman could also be included. I think he’s going into the 3rd year of his 5 year deal. I don’t think its crazy to see him sign a Tulo type contract in the next year or two.

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    • joemktg says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Internal pressures: Werth contract, Strasburg signing, Harper signing. External pressures: Tulo contract, Gonzo contract. Self induced pressure: Zim is the face of the franchise. No brainer to lock him in now.

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  5. Yowlo says:

    C.C. Fatassia sucks.

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  6. SOX1FAN says:

    Bautista, Reyes and Sizemore. Really? IMO, they don’t belong in this discussion. Even if Bautista repeats last year’s amazing season, which is extremely unlikely, he is not in line for a 9-figure deal. If you look at his stats prior to last year he is almost certainly a one-year wonder, but even if he repeats, no one is going to give him 5+ years at $20 M+ per. Reyes and Sizemore have proven to be brittle, and while they could get a couple of years at decent bucks, there is no way anyone gives them a 9-figure deal.

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    • hotspur says:

      The first thing I thought when I saw Reyes’ name is “Reyes is going to sign a 15 year contract”?

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    • Crash22 says:

      Nobody thought Werth would get $126 million but he did. If Bautista puts up another 40 dingers it isn’t crazy to believe that he will get a 9 figure deal from somebody.

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    • Dave I says:

      I hate to say it, but if you look at Reyes’ career numbers, they are not all that different from Crawford’s. Reyes started one year later and has missed almost a full season more games than Crawford, but some of the other numbers are pretty close: Reyes has a career OBP of .335, Crawford is .337, Reyes has averaged 70.4 runs per season, Crawford 76.5, Reyes has just under 37 steals per, Crawford just under 41. If you say Reyes is 90% as good as Crawford, can he get 90% of the money? What if he goes out and has a huge year in 2011?

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  7. Ruffian says:

    Cecil Fielder is a clown.

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  8. JR says:

    Methinks if Sizemore turns back into a $100 mil outfielder, the Indians would be more likely to pick up his $9 mil club option than to deal him.

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    • They’d have to trade him midseason… in that case, his option goes from club option to player option.

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      • Bas says:

        Couldn’t they just pick up the option before they trade him?

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      • Matt says:

        Why would they have to trade him midseason if they have an option on him to play for them for another year?

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      • Adam says:

        In order for Sizemore to be marketable, and therefore have any chance at a 100 million dollar deal in free agency, he has to produce this season. If he produces this season at the level he did from 05-08, I think that makes its fairly unlikely that he’ll be dealt. The Tribe is shooting for 2012 to compete and a 9 million dollar option on a healthy and productive Sizemore is a complete no-brainer.

        I believe it would take a bigger package than any club would be willing to give up for a guy who hasn’t been healthy in two years, knowing that in acquiring him, they’re really only getting a few months of his services because he’ll opt out after the season.

        Long story short, Sizemore is more valuable to the Indians than he would be to any other team due to the option clause in his contract. If a team isn’t willing to give up a #1 pitching prospect and a few top 10 position players, the deal isn’t going to get done.

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  9. Jumb Jiim says:

    Let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but he’s funny how, I mean funny like he’s a clown, he amuses you?

    He makes you laugh, he’s here to fuckin’ amuse you?

    What do you mean funny, funny how? How is he funny?

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  10. JWTP says:

    Matt Cain continues to go underrated.

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    • scott says:

      Matt Cain is good, but 100 million dollar good? Not so sure about that one.

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    • Jason says:

      Don’t worry, somebody will sign him for 7 years $135M and then fangraphs will write several months worth of articles about how this is the worst free agent signing since Zito. Its become pretty predictable around here.

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      • Jason B says:

        Yeah, because that Zito deal has been…so obviously worth it?

        If FanGraphs is “predictable”, so too is some Giants’ fans incessant whining over any real (occasionally) or perceived (usually) slight.

        (Some, not all.)

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  11. Chitown Jim says:

    Ben, good article and insight. What about Johnny Danks from the White Sox? Rumor around town is that there is uncertainty as to whether he will sign an extension or not. If he has solid seasons this year and next he will be a FA at only 27 (Perfect age). I think he needs to have a record of 17-20 wins per year and really break out an dkeep his ERA in the low 3’s to even warrant discussion among the 100 million dollar a year candidates. What are your thoughts?

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  12. I don’t see Danks as a guy who would have that kind of pull, but he’s not far from free agency and would have tons of interest. I see him as more of a Lackey/Burnett guy at this point, which would be $80 million territory.

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  13. Andross says:

    Wasn’t Albert Pujols already a member of the 100 million dollar club?

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  14. Jeff says:

    I see Fielder in Toronto, and not with Tex money. Tex had incredible leverage, and Fielder wont have the Yankees and Bosox and Mets upping his price. More like $18mm and 6 years.

    Depends on Adrian Gonzalez of course.

    $100mm for sure both of these guys.

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    • slim197 says:

      i dont know about toronto… the teams i see him with are maybe the angels, cubs, dodgers, twins, an who knows but philly… i hate to say it but philly is building something special over there…

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  15. AndrewYF says:

    Cano is a guy who will certainly demand a $100M contract once he becomes a free agent. And the Yankees will probably give it to him.

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  16. mike says:

    this goes to the red sox hater—your team is old and we will see who blows after the season ends with you playing golf with jeter in florida at the retirement center while red sox nation wins another championship.

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  17. twac00 says:

    Dice-BB basically got a $100M contract when you figure in what the Red Sox paid to negotiate with him.

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    • Paul SF says:

      So you’re saying the man basically got a $100 million contract if we count money that’s not in his contract? Awesome. Spoken like someone who thinks “Dice-BB” is a clever nickname.

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  18. Ethan says:

    Joey Votto. If he keeps it up he’ll be a FA for his age 30 season.

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  19. Ari Collins says:

    If we’re going two seasons from now, I’d add Cain, Greinke, Hamels, Liriano, to your list of could-bes. Gonna be quite an offseason after 2012, assuming that even half the pitcher’s make it to FA. And assuming the Mayans don’t kill us all.

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  20. fredsbank says:

    Sizemore would pretty much have to have 2006 again to get that kind of a contract though, wouldn’t he?

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  21. Jason says:

    I just don’t get Reyes. Is he that different from Furcal in ’06 to be worth $70M more?

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  22. TK says:

    If Joey Bats hits 40 homers, he’ll get 100 million. It might be a mistake, but he’ll get it. Sizemore has no chance, because as people have said, the Indians will pick up his option. Reyes might get 100 million from one team: the one he plays for. I hear they like to throw money.

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    • fredsbank says:

      i hear there’s another team in that city with an aging shortstop they’re planning on moving to the outfield, one with even more gobs of cash

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  23. Shawn says:

    I see Fielder ending up in Seattle. 8 yrs $165mil.

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  24. NJ Andy says:

    No mention of The Justin Upton?

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  25. kevin bg says:

    carlos beltran? If he has a good season i could see a team giving him the money. and what about felix hernandez, the mariners are gunna have to lock him up eventually or risk losing him

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    • Ari Collins says:

      Felix is already locked up through 2014. And Beltran is too old to get $100 million, even if he returns to the Beltran of old in his contract year. To get $100 million he’d need to get a five or six year deal at least, for a 34-year-old with very few games played the last two years, and no one’s that stupid. (I hope.)

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  26. jbardo says:

    What, no mention of Jeff Mathis?

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  27. slim197 says:

    i see the cards givin pujols 25 million a year… if not, he will get it somewhere else…

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  28. Heinrich says:

    “turned three seasons as an elite player ”
    Was Werth “elite?”

    Sizemore and Reyes have health histories that should make mega-deals prohibitive.

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  29. MHead81 says:

    This article is absolutely terrible and does not belong on this website. There is no insightful information whatsoever. There are no references to WAR, to what GMs are paying for a “win” or to what justification there might be in paying these players these amounts of money using any statistics other than HR totals.

    This is just a compiliation of the game’s most known names who are soon to be free agents. Anyone with access to Cot’s Baseball Contracts (oh, and that’s anyone with internet access– and a basic knowledge of the most popular names could’ve put this list together.

    The icing on the cake is the conclusion that Prince Fielder is the most realistic player to sign a $100M+ contract. Oh, really? You mean other than Pujols and Gonzalez, the guy who will be a free agent after the season at only 28 years old, who has Scott Boras for an agent and who has the 5th highest OPS in all of MLB since 2007 is the most likely to make that much? Shocking.

    This article reads like an introduction to MLB free agency. This might be news to people reading over at MLBTR who think the Red Sox could trade Tim Wakefield and Marco Scutaro to the Giants for Tim Lincecum, but this is all common knowledge to most people who have found there way over here.

    Ben, you may know how to copy & paste links about rumors, trades and signings over at MLBTR, but you have as much business writing articles for this site as I have starting for the Celtics against the Lakers tomorrow night. This “article” belongs over at MLBTR. Hopefully it will be the last of the “series” but unfortunately I doubt it.

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