There has been a common dilemma for team's front offices who are looking to add a star player to their organization through free agency. They hope to sign their next face of the franchise and it blows up in their faces. Front office executives need to realize that long-term deals are not good for their team, fanbase, or the sport.
This current offseason, there are multiple top-tier players available on the open market. All of these "top-tier" free agents want long-term deals, exceeding $20 million a year in annual value. Teams tend to get very competitive to fill a hole on their depth chart, but wind up over spending on a player. Teams have the same issue with their own players who demand a large contract extension or they will leave the organization when they hit free agency.
Front offices need to avoid signing players in their 30's to long-term deals, because of one frequent problem ...... REGRESSION. If and when a player hits their regression period, a team is unlikely able to trade that player because their contract can not be moved, which forces the organization to release or designate the player for assignment and eat the rest of their contract.
Let's take a look at several examples of players in their age 30 plus season being signed to a long-term deal, that was not beneficial for their team: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Alex Rodriguez, for example, signed a 10-year, $275 million deal with the New York Yankees during the 2007-2008 offseason, when he was entering his age 32 season. Rodriguez had just come off of another MVP season with the Yankees when he signed the deal.
Three years into the deal, Rodriguez would ultimately regress in his age 35 season due to injuries he had played with that season. Nearly three years after he hit .302 with 35 home runs and 103 RBIs, Rodriguez would struggle and hit .270 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs. Then in his age 36 and 37 seasons, he would only play in a total of 164 games and hit .259 with only 25 home runs.
Seven years into his deal, Rodriguez was suspended the whole entire 2014 season because of his third PED suspension. When he returned in 2015, Rodriguez was able to regain his power but he could not longer hit for average. At the plate, Rodriguez became heavily impatient, causing his plate discipline to be similar to a rookies' and his defense was a liability forcing him to become a designated hitter full-time. He was such a big liability during the 2016 season, that the Yankees were forced to release him and had to eat at least $4o million in dead money.
As you can see, signing an older veteran to a long-term deal worth millions of dollars is a huge risk that does not end well for both sides. This offseason, there are multiple top-tier free agents in their early 30s who could possibly not be very good two years from now. Front offices need to avoid signing long-term deals, when two to three year deals can be more beneficial for the player and their organization.