Not a Fan of Doumit’s Contract

The Post-Gazette poll shows an overwhelming support of the signing of Ryan Doumit to a long term contract. I am certainly a fan of having signed Doumit to a long term deal. But I am by no means a fan of the contract.

With the way the salary is broken out (Doumit will make 2.5 times his 2009 salary in 2011 and the option years are packaged together for a total in the range of $15 million), this appears to be a typical contract with the back end loaded so that the club will be

1. forced to overpay for an aging and perhaps underperforming or injured player or

2. release a popular but aging and perhaps underperforming or injured player or

3. trade the face of the franchise for pennies on the dollar because the club can ill-afford to pay him.

I am not going to pretend to understand the give and take and compromise necessary in signing a good player to a long term deal. But this looks like Neal Huntington and Co. are

1. not thinking about the future

2. covering their collective rears

Does anyone think this club will contend in 2009 without some serious changes, which do not appear likely to happen? Of course not. This club as it stands now has no chance next year. So, clearly this team is building toward the future (again). Why not act that way by smoothing out large increase curve in the contract? Why not start him at a little over $3 million and gently increase his salary to roughly $4 million so that the first three years are still worth the same guaranteed ~$11 million? By doing that the team would have another $1 million freed up in 2011 when the club might actually be ready to win. Instead Doumit’s salary is back loaded so that the team has money now when there is no reason to spend money since contention is not a consideration. I was hoping that we’d see a littel creativity and forethought with the new administration. Perhaps my expectations were too high.

Second, this looks as if Neal Huntington is already throwing out ‘what if’ scenarios. As in, “what if I do a good job in Pittsburgh and the Yankees job opens up in 2010?” If/when he leaves, the next Pirates GM has the three pronged decision to make that I outlined earlier – potentially overpay Doumit, release a popular player or trade him for less than he is worth. Doumit will be 32 years old 2013 when the contract expires if the Pirates take the two year club option. This is one drawback to the massive pay increase from ~$2 million in 2009 to ~$5 million in 2011. Now it 2012 and 2013 he is guaranteed another ~$15 million if the Pirates pick up his option. By making his 2011 salary closer to $4 million and his 2009 salary closer to $3 million, the Pirates maybe could’ve shaved off a couple of million in guaranteed money in the option years. Like I said before, I have no idea what an acutal negotiation looks like. But these are the things I think about and I’m assuming the Pirates brass is also thinking about.

As I said earlier, I’m happy Doumit is locked up. But I’m not pleased with the nuts and bolts of the deal.

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2 Responses to “Not a Fan of Doumit’s Contract”

  1. roxtar Says:

    A couple of problems that aren’t really problems: “the next Pirates GM has the three pronged decision to make that I outlined earlier – potentially overpay Doumit, release a popular player or trade him for less than he is worth”
    If Doumit is playing up to his contract, then exercising the club option won’t be “overpaying” him. And if he’s not worth taking the option, he will have underperformed, and will be about as popular as any one of a dozen ex-Pirates who were overpaid (I will not speak their names.) This will give the next GM cover to release him or “trade for depth”. In short, I’m OK with the first 3 years, and am willing to wait until I decide whether to criticize whatever decision the club makes concerning picking up the option. Nice thoughtful article, though.

  2. Randy Linville Says:

    Thanks for the comment.
    Since most long term contracts benefit the player much more than the team, my underlying assumption, which I hope is incorrect, is that in three years Doumit won’t be worth a ~$15 million two year option. Like I said, hopefully I’m wrong.
    Pirate fans are hit-or-miss regarding their support of overpaid/underperforming players that have been with the team for a while. Kevin Young was hung in effigy and Jack Wilson is practically considered a martyr by the rank and file fans. For players that came from outside and did little (Derek Bell, Joe Randa and Jeromy Burnitz), they get the full, unmerciful wrath of all Pirate faithful.


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