Ozzie Albies, good and young professional baseball player, just got hosed.
Ignore anyone who tells you that $35 million is a lot of money and we should not waste our energy discussing the hosing of players who make such a figure. Ignore those people hard.
Ozzie Albies just got hosed.
The Atlanta Braves today agreed to terms with INF Ozzie Albies on a seven-year contract extension through 2025 worth $35 million, with club options for the 2026 and 2027 seasons. #ChopOn pic.twitter.com/lzIYsn7PaM— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 11, 2019
If you find the seven years/$35 million to be an insanely cheap extension for a 22-year old All-Star, wait until you get to the good part: The options. Year eight is a $7 million team option. Year nine is a $4 million team option.
If Albies is a skeleton of the player we reasonably expect him to be, Atlanta will still be getting a steal in the final years of what will then amount to a nine-year, $46 million deal. In all likelihood, the four years of free agency that Atlanta bought out from Albies would have at least doubled the $46 million that the entirety of the nine years brings on. Dan Szymborski estimates Albies to be worth around $280 million over the course of the deal.
There is, of course, no guarantee that Albies will be the player we fully expect. Hot prospects drop off every year, and injuries take the talents of top players with frightening regularity. But $5M/year is an astonishingly risk free venture. That’s the kind of money franchises can throw away just to say they did, and the Braves are putting that money on a Jack with a transparent deck of cards in front of them and an Ace on top.
ZiPS projects Albies to be worth 44.9 WAR during the duration of the deal, putting it at just a shade over $1 million per WAR, which is, for lack of more graceful vernacular, a [redacted] robbery. So there’s the upside of the deal for you.
So let’s assign blame for it.
I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the players, who presumably know what they value, and to the agents, whose job it is to act in accordance with what their client is wishing for.
If Albies wanted the security that comes from not having a care in the world for this season - and the seasons to follow - I don’t blame him. I can only imagine the pressure of playing the game you love, knowing that after an 0-10 streak you’re going to lose millions of dollars if you don’t figure things out. Every time a yet-to-be-paid player runs out a ground ball, dives for a line drive, slides into second, or gets hit by a pitch, they risk having the type of injury that could cut into their future earnings in a monstrous way.
Imagine if my carpal tunnel flaring up while writing this article meant that I was at risk for only getting half as much money next year as I made this year. That doesn’t make it easy to enjoy your job.
So I support the players taking a pay cut to ensure that everyone in their life can live comfortably, with security. This is life changing security for not only Albies, but his entire family.
But damn. That’s a lot more than just a paycut, and if Albies’ agent really got him the best deal, it’s a sign of one thing and one thing only: The Braves playing embarrassingly hard hardball, and taking advantage of a player they knew wanted security.
As Jeff Passan notes, it’s impossible to separate the Braves tactics from the situations that made Albies - and his teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. - interested in this micro deals.
Acuña and Albies were perfect candidates – young, enjoy their situation, employ smaller agencies, did not sign for big money – to take well-under-market extensions. There is an inherent fear in smaller-bonus players. They didn’t get it once. They don’t want to miss it again. 6/9— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 11, 2019
Ronald Acuña and Ozzie Albies are richer than you, me and 99.999% of people ever will be, and they can take solace in that. But it doesn’t lessen the fact that baseball teams are using the inherent advantages they have as cudgels and getting extreme value from them. 7/9— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 11, 2019
In the end, Acuña and Albies agreed to deals that were offered to them. That is fact. But the context behind it – particularly the institutional inertia that led them toward doing so – are not just part of the story. They are *the* story of these extensions. 8/9— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 11, 2019
It’s hard to paint this as anything other than predatory tactics from Atlanta. They’re toeing the line between good business and bad ethics - the two sides are often inherently linked - and they look pretty gross doing it.