Rivera, asking for $50 mil, overplays his hand

Go Away-Rod
Better you than me

Yesterday, when Joe outlined our thoughts on Mariano Rivera’s contract situation, I figured we had written everything that needed to be said on the issue. In an effort to exact some measure of juvenile revenge, Rivera was keeping the Yankees and their overly generous three-year, $45 million offer waiting for a few days. I thought Rivera would just sign the deal and let bygones be bygones.

So much for that.

According to a report by Pete Caldera, Rivera is serious on testing the market and wants a $50-million offer. According to the article, Rivera and his agent Fernando Cuza want a deal north of $16 million a season because they feel Mariano, who just wrapped up a three-year, $31.5 million deal, was underpaid as a closer.

On the Yankees’ side of the aisle, Hank Steinbrenner issued a fairly strong statement in which the Yankees basically said that the current offer is their final one to Mariano. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it’s a tremendous offer for a 38-year-old relief pitcher,” Steinbrenner said. “He’ll be, by $4 million, the highest-paid relief pitcher in baseball, by far. I don’t know what the holdup is. The ball’s in their court.”

It’s hard to argue with Hank’s logic right there. Rivera and Cuza want the future Hall of Famer to be rewarded for what he’s accomplished. At 38 and not getting any younger, Rivera will not put up $16-million seasons throwing 60-70 innings out of the bullpen. He showed some decline in 2007, and there’s every reason to believe that decline will continue throughout the three years of this deal.

Meanwhile, Rivera’s deal or lack thereof will impact the Yankees. As Caldera reports, the team wants Joba Chamberlain in the rotation this year. While they view him as a potential closer of the future, for now, they’d rather see him starting. They can more easily manage their young phenom’s work load as a starter.

But when all is said and done, Mariano Rivera is expendable. Steven Goldman lays out his case against the importance of Rivera in today’s New York Sun. Goldman’s point is that Rivera’s save percentage isn’t noticeably better than a pitcher the Yanks could theoretically find in the farm system or on the open market. Making Rivera at this stage in his career the third highest paid pitcher in baseball is antithetical to the Yanks’ current trend toward younger and more cost-efficient players.

As Joe said in this space yesterday, Rivera is really pushing his luck with the Yanks. In my opinion, Rivera and Cuza should be hard pressed to find another team willing to extend Rivera to three years for this amount of money. They are simply holding up the Yankees to a double standard because they feel the team couldn’t take the PR hit of losing Rivera. It’s a pretty shameless bargaining ploy considering how generous the current offer is.

Right now, the Yanks could offer a lower deal to Rivera, and if it’s three years at over $12 million a year, I’m sure it would still be the highest deal Rivera’s camp receives. So really, as this saga drags on, Rivera should sign his contract. He’s going to run out of good will in New York soon, and the Yankees and their fans will slowly wake up to the inevitable truth that Rivera’s presence on the team is not as necessary as the great closer would have us believe.

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Go Away-Rod
Better you than me
  • Brian

    This guy is banking on a myth, one that we all love really, but one we may soon outgrow. You’re right, Ben; Rivera’s presence is what Rivera thinks he should be paid for to some degree. Going out of the old and into the new park, he probably thinks the Yankees should pay him a whole lot more than $50 million. The fact is, we do have other options coming that aren’t named Joba. I have to believe we could figure it out, maybe a bit dicey in the early going, but not for $50 million. No way.

  • tony from the bronx

    the yanks should pull there offer like i posted yesterday the yanks should not have to contiue to overpay for players.Let Mo test the market and like A-ROD he will come begging back for the offer.As a yankee fan I am tired of having over paid players who take up roster spots and dont contribute like they are being paid.Mo is reponsible for 4 championships and the yanks should pay him but lets face it he was always the highest paid closer and 3yrs at 45 is about 1yr and 20mil more then he can get

  • nmc

    Looks like its time for the Yanks to “get in touch” with Francisco Cordero’s agent. Not that I think they should actually get Cordero (would he agree to set-up?), but just to say, “Hey, Mariano, whatever. You want more money? We’re moving on without you”.

    Its exactly what they did with Rodriguez, and if all this turns out not to be another ploy by Boras, he came crawling back.

    I think Mariano made a huge mistake. I have watched Mariano pitch for so long and be nothing but awesome (and a little scary the last few years). But these last few weeks have made him seem like a total douche.

  • rbizzler

    Ummm, I hate to say this but Mo is starting to get annoying. Can he really be all that bitter about Torre leaving? And he thinks that he was underpaid over the last three years?! He was making loot to pitch 70 innings a year tops and was the highest paid, or close to it, reliever in the game.

    Dude needs to get a grip.

  • http://www.overheardinnewyork.com NC Saint

    Hank Steinbrenner clearly is no PR wizard, but does anyone else find his comments as a good sign about his general baseball intelligence? One never got the sense that George even noticed when someone was 38. If a player’s name rang out, he must be great.

    Obviously, I’d love it if Cashman could just be left alone to do his thing, but if there have to be psychotic Steinbrenners interfering, it’s all to the good if the new crop understand that even superstars get old.

  • Ben

    Mo has been a little underpaid over his last two contracts, though not ridiculously so. I think the 3yrs/$45 million more than makes up for any perceived historic underpayment. It’s certainly high enough for the Yankees to walk if Mo doesn’t take it. I have a knee-jerk reaction to withdraw it if he doesn’t take it “in a week,” or lower it by $1 million per year for each week that goes by, but some of that stuff isn’t really helpful, and doesn’t leave the player/team relationship in a good spot when Mo actually needs to pitch and perform over the next three years. Cash obviously could have saved a ton of money and years by locking Mo and Po up during Spring Training last year.

  • Keith

    the question i posed to a friend of mine was who the hell is going to pay MO $16 million a year? he, of course, said the mets.

    if the mets want to pay him that kind of money, they can have him.

    let’s be reasonable… even $15 million was an absurd new contract, considering the next highest paid closer was under $11 million.

    it can be said that while the yankees have a lot of high priced players, they’ve never set the bar for the price of a position player on the market (and even Jorge couldve gotten $15 milllion a year from a team if he really tested the market this offseason).

  • Kevin23

    Wow. If there is one tangible result of the numerous bad signings over the last several years, this is it. Mo has probably sat by and watched the Yanks piss away their money (about $100M this year alone) on aged veterans who don’t produce. He probably has the locker next to Giambi. Now he wants his slice of the pie. Only problem is, the pie is a figment of the older Stein’s imagination, and never really existed. Now he’s got to come back down to reality. I hope the Yankees stop being the team who is expected to pay a premium for players just because they are the Yankees. And if Mo needs to be the poster child for a renewed sense of financial accountability, so be it. Playing for the Yankees should be a reward in and of itself. Why do we need to provide a monetary incentive to play here? It’s greed. Pure and simple. Maybe it’s to be expected, but I am getting mighty sick of it. And it sounds like others are too…including Hal and Hank. That’s nothing but good for the organization.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    I agree that Mo has probably been underpaid the past few years in the face of people like Jason Giambi getting boatloads of cash and not performing to Mo-like levels.

    BUT new contracts are not historically based on your underpayments of years past. They are based on your perceived production over the time of the contract.

    Yes, Mo was underpaid…but he could wind up overpaid at $45 mil. It could be a wash. Time will tell. They should add a $5 m option and be done with it.

    But I think Hank and Hal need to say to people that Big Stein made all these ludicrous deals and now there are new sheriffs in town.

    Oh and if Mo thinks that someone else is going to pay him 50m, go for it.

    • Kevin23

      Agreed. But I’d add that Mo signed that contract, so apparently he thought it to be a good deal at the time. So he can’t cry foul without kicking himself at the same time.

      Sports is literally full of stories of guys being underpaid then overpaid. At first, the team benefits. Then the team suffers. It is the job of management to plan for this, and minimize the suffering. It is the agent’s job to exploit future potential to make up for the past. In this case, it is very clear that Mo has almost zero bargaining power. All he’s got is his past performance to justify his demands. That SHOULD NOT cut it with the front office. I now consider it a test for Hal and Hank. How badly do they want good press and backslapping in the short-term v. sound business practices and honest dealings going forward.

  • Mike N (Stamford, CT)

    I will play devil’s advocate here… but it is only $5 million. Are we all willing to lose Mo because of $5 million? Also, here is a list of the free agent closers:

    Armando Benitez (35)
    Francisco Cordero (33)
    Octavio Dotel (32)
    Keith Foulke (35)
    Eric Gagne (32)
    Masahide Kobayashi (34)
    Al Reyes (37)
    Mariano Rivera (38)
    Bob Wickman (39)

    Does anyone on this list not scare the poo out of you – other than Mo?

    • Kevin23

      ummm…did you forget the elephant in the room? Joba!

  • steve (different one)

    how was Mo underpaid in 2007? highest closer salary in the league for less than the best closer in the league performance.

  • Relaunch

    See you Mo. Thanks for the memories. Good luck finding 3yrs 40 million on the market.

  • Count Zero

    Too much $…he’s gone loopy.

    This is turning into the offseason from hell…

  • Mike N (Stamford, CT)

    “Kevin23 says:

    November 14th, 2007 at 1:28 pm (Reply)
    ummm…did you forget the elephant in the room? Joba!”

    Good point. I guess I was operating under the principle that the Yankees wanted him to be a starter – as they have stated. He is a good option but still, wouldn’t it be better to spend an extra $5 million over 3 years, to ensure you have Mo and then Joba can either be a starter or work from the pen – whichever is best for his development?

    • Kevin23

      Mike N-

      It would be ideal to not have to use Joba as a reliever, but I think they’ve got more options with him in the bullpen. He could pitch 3 inning saves, or pitch well into extra inning games. He could make a start here or there. He could set up Mo or another closer. Hell, he can even lighten the mood out there. All good things. Not to mention they don’t need to “make it rain” on Mo just to feed his bruised ego.

      A starter can be had for cheap. Lohse for example can eat innings for you. Late innings is where the yankee pitching needs to be especially strong next year I think. The offense will get you past most mediocre starts. Joba is lights out after that. I like it. A lot. Most teams would kill for a “plan B” like that.

  • Alan

    I hate to say it, but its time for the Sandman to exit.

  • Tripp

    If you feel you are underpaid then fire your agent. He signed the contract. It’s like the Gary Sheffield deal when he was bitching about not being paid enough. He signed and negotiated the deal so get used to it.

    If Rivera thought he was under paid or being offered a below market contract 3 years ago then why the hell did he sign it?

  • Keith

    you dont need to just count on the FA market for a replacement, either. Dont you think, for the right price, Huston Street or Joe Nathan, who has only one year left on his deal, couldnt be had?

    • http://www.sportsmusings.wordpress.com JCP

      Exactly. You also have the possibility of J.B. Cox and Humberto Sanchez stepping up and contributing next year. The real question is: where can the Yankees spend the money they’d save in losing Mo so that they get equal run prevention/run creation value for it?

      Some ideas:

      – overpay Lowell
      – save it up to sign Santana in the next offseason
      – use it in player development, particularly the draft with the 4 picks coming in from the loss of A-Rod and Mo
      – overpay Andruw Jones (whose defense is still amazing according to the The Fielding Bible)
      – save it up to sign Tex next offseason
      – save it up to sign Sabathia, Sheets, or Burnett
      – sign one or more of the following relievers in after next season: Nathan, K-Rod, Lidge, Rafael Soriano

      It’s overly simplistic to say that the money not spent in Mo will fit neatly into one of these categories, but it’s possible that some of the above moves become impossible if Mo takes this deal. Therefore, these represent the positives in Mo not taking the deal – there is some opportunity cost that won’t be sacrificed if Mo takes the deal.

  • Ivan

    This is getting ridiculous.

    It’s funny how people killed Hank for talking too much but when he does talk which can be often, he always seem to make valid and good statements.

    Hank is not stupid, he knows that Rivera is not getting a deal like this with no other team period. Hank said those statements basically saying okay Rivera, go see ofr your self whats out there and if there isn’t anything that’s higher then gets what we can lower that price if we wanted too.

    Hank to me is smart of what he’s doing here. Albeit he talks too much which I don’t mind as long the things you say makes sense.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    My understanding is that they negotiated that contract and it wasn’t a take it or leave it from the Yankees. From what I know, they sat down, they hammered it out and stopped negotiating when they hit AN AGREED UPON NUMBER.

    If it wasn’t good enough, then KEEP NEGOTIATING. Don’t sign, play 3 years and then go, “Wait a minute, that was NOT enough money. Now make up for it.”

    That’s NOT how it goes. You play well and your FUTURE value goes up combined with age and expectations.

    The Yankees took Jorge’s age and expectations into account when they gave him mega salary…they also took into consideration that they didn’t have another CATCHER. They took his phenomenol season (this past one) into account, the condition of the man, the future expectations and the lack of any other option and came up with a price.

    What they did not consider was HOW MUCH HE WAS PAID BEFORE NOW and if that was too much or too little. Why? BECAUSE NO ONE CONSIDERS THAT. And give me a big freaking break if that is about to start.

    MLB is insane. Let’s just add to it with this craziness.

  • tony from the bronx

    Mariano has been the highset paid closer since 2001 by far.His last contract paid him over 10mil per year.When B J signed his deal and Billy Wagnor signed his deal they equaled Mo.if he doent sign 3yrs 45 pull the offer.I want Mo more then the next guy but enough is enough

  • Barry

    Mariano is shocking me with his actions, must of spent alot of time with arod. Who are those closer prospects you guys were talking about a couple of weeks ago and how far out are they.

    • http://www.sportsmusings.wordpress.com JCP

      I think J.B. Cox and Humberto Sanchez are the two most exciting that we haven’t seen at the ML level yet. Both could contribute as soon as next year, but both will likely start the season at AAA (Cox may repeat AA). Both missed all of last season with tendon injuries, so it’ll be interesting to see how things progress.

      • Greg

        melancon is interesting too

  • Travis

    Mariano, I am disappointed in you.

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