My friend Murray and I had a little interchange regarding the Hernandez signing. Here goes:
Do you think it was smart for Hernandez to sign for a year in Denver so that he could use it as a springboard to a better contract next year? I think it's a dumb move. If all the offers were small, then I guess he probably should have chosen the jurisdiction that would offer him the greatest tax advantages. Maybe that's Colorado.
I don't get it at all. $800K is a pittance today, no matter what the taxes are. He was the best shortstop in the NL last year. Even if they switch him to third, he was still in the top handful there offensively in 2002. Dreck like Neifi Perez and Dustin Hermanson get salaries higher than that. Backup Ben Davis just signed for a million and he is still arbitration-eligible only.
I would say that his $800K salary is more shocking than Andre Dawson's collusion pay in 1987 (the amount if not the story surrounding it). Dawson had just had two subpar years in three and although he hadn't missed all that much time, everyone knew his knees were shot.
Allegedly, the Mets, Giants, and Reds were interested. I can't imagine what they were offering. RotoWorld said that he went to Colorado for less, but how much is not said. The Mets had been offering Rey Sanchez money ($1.5M). I guess Hernandez thought that if he was going to be underpaid, why not go to the place where his stats could be best padded for another go at free agency next offseason. I guess it makes sense in this crazy offseason.
But $800K? I can't imagine that there are many starting shortstops/third baseman who are experienced enough to be free agents who make that little (if I have the time I'll check). Colorado just freed up almost $10 M per year by trading Mike Hampton, $7 M by losing Todd Zeile to free agency, $3 M by trading Todd Hollandsworth, over $1 M for John Thomson, and about $1 M for Rick White and Sean Lowe. They can't afford to pay the man a decent living?
It's a tremendous signing for the Rockies. He could be the second coming of Vinny Castilla in Coors. I can't imagine the Mets after losing Rey Ordonez's and Edgardo Alfonzo's $6+ M salaries, couldn't afford to pay Hernandez something in the $3-5 M area to lock him up for a year or two, especially when they seem to have no other option (except to trade for Hillendbrand).
I think that the benefits that teams receive for cutting salary added in the last CBA are more damaging to the salary structure for the players than collusion ever was. The Mets seem willing to forego a major-league caliber third baseman to save a few million when it may cost them a playoff spot. The Rockies jerk Hernandez around after stripping at least $20 M from their payroll.
The players are getting screwed and there's not much they can do about it. If there is no collusion afoot but rather just a lopsided CBA as I suspect, then the players have no one to blame but themselves. Or maybe Donald Fehr?
At the time, the Dawson signing was for less money but constituted a higher percentage of what the top salaries in the game were in 1987. So this Hernandez deal is terrible from the players' perspective. Hernandez will be paid less than the major league average salary next year.
Here's the part I don't understand. If you're Hernandez's agent, why wouldn't you make a last call to the Mets and say, "Look, my client has an $800,000 offer on the table. You just gave that money to Sanchez, so why not bring it up to $950,000 for my guy, and then we have a deal?" I can't tell you what's in Hernandez's head, but I bet he doesn't even know who Andre Dawson is. So I blame the agent, who either got nervous that he hadn't gotten his client a deal yet, or who didn't really have the other deals at all. To forego the possibility of more present value dollars at the chance that his client would have a big year in Denver? What if Hernandez shreds his ACL? What if he strikes out 230 times? Then he played 2003 for less money than Todd Zeile got to back up Ventura and Giambi (let this be a lesson to you, Brian Cashman). The owners have to be laughing over this one. And I hope the union learned a valuable lesson about letting the other side appear to "win" one.
Dawson signed for $400K ($700K with incentives). The average 1987 salary according to the AP was $412,454.
Hernandez signed for $800K. The average salary in 2002 was $2,295,694 (AP again).
Dawson's 1986 salary was $1,047,000. Hernandez made $3,333,333.33 last year (last year of a three-year, $10 M contract). Depending on how you look at Dawson's contract (i.e., with or without incentives), he made wither 38% or 67% of his 1986 salary in 1987. Hernandez is only making 24%.
As far as the Sanchez contract, I have not seen official numbers--they might not be forthcoming. However, Murray Chass had the following to say on Jan 2:
He [Mets' GM Steve Phillips] signed Rey Sanchez - for a $1.3 million salary and the chance to earn $700,000 in bonuses based on playing time - to keep shortstop warm for Josť Reyes. He would like to get Hernandez for a similar total.
So I believe the Mets were offering more. Maybe the other teams were as well. The only thing that I can figure is that Hernandez is willing to gamble his future on a big season in Coors.
I also remember seeing a quote from Hernandez that he was expected an offer in the $5 M range. Perhaps the low bids ticked him off enough that a million or so did not really matter.
Or maybe he just saw a better opportunity in Colorado. I would love to hear what he has to say about it however. Maybe the agent couldn't deter him. You have to respect him for the gamble though.
I get the feeling that Donald Fehr may have turned into Al Gore in during the last CBA. If I were the players, I could not have a tremendous amount of faith in his leadership for the future. Maybe they see him in an untenable position. Either way, none of the players have been blaming the union or the CBA, at least openly, during this offseason.
By the way, here are the average salaries from the AP from 1967. I added 2003 and the % increase column. Note that the 1995 strike year and 1987 collusion year were the only ones when salaries went down. The numbers for this season should be interesting: