Do you know who Miguel Montero is? Unless you’re a fantasy baseball player, probably not. He’s the starting catcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, a .271 career hitter. He’s played in more than 85 games just twice since his major league debut in 2006. Earlier this season, Montero signed a five-year, $60-million contract extension with Arizona.
You know who Drew Brees is. He’s the NFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. This past weekend, Brees signed a new contract with the Saints, a five-year deal worth up to $100 million. It is the largest per-year contract in NFL history. But unlike in baseball—where every dollar is guaranteed no matter what—NFL contracts can be ripped up at any moment, and they often are when players underperform or get injured. The most important figure in Brees’ deal is the $60 million guaranteed, also an NFL record. In baseball terms, Brees is the equivalent of an oft-injured catcher with a decent bat.
Remember, kids, when it comes to dollar bills, there’s nothing like being a Major League Baseball player.
Keep in mind that Brees’ contract was historic. Ray Rice, one of the best running backs in the league, recently re-signed with Baltimore for a more modest $24 million guaranteed. When you’re talking about that kind of money in baseball, the standards really fall.
Here are some of baseball’s qualifications for receiving a contract that pays at least $24 million:
- Pitch 70 innings a year (see: Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol, Mariano Rivera, Huston Street; nice work if you can get it)
- Hit .270 as a shortstop (see: Alexei Ramirez)
- Lose just as often as you win (see: Madison Bumgarner, whose 21-20 record earned him 5 years/$35M and Jon Niese, 5 years/$25.5M with a 22-23 record)
- Be a mediocre starting pitcher (see: Joe Blanton, Randy Wolf, Jorge De La Rosa, to name three)
- Have all the “tools” despite being unproductive (see: Cameron Maybin)
In baseball, you don’t have to be a star to get what Brees got. You just have to be slightly above average; think John Danks and Derek Lowe for pitchers and Dan Uggla and Nick Markakis for position players. You can argue that at least the hitters, unlike Brees, have to play offense and defense. But David Ortiz, a designated hitter, has made $64.75 million over the last five seasons. A baseball player seeking Ray Rice money simply has to be adequate.
Of course, none of this is breaking news. Any sport where someone like Oliver Perez (who signed a three- year, $36-million deal with the Mets in 2009) can make the same amount of money, per year, as Drew Brees is one with a strong players’ union. It’s one of the many reasons why, when the time comes, the first ball I’ll put in my kid’s crib will have red stitches, not white laces.