The Rays Tank: A New Era for Baseball?

Mar 31, 2012; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) doubles during the fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

In case you didn't hear, the big news yesterday was that the Cincinnati Reds signed Joey Votto to a 10 year, $225 million extension, on top of his current 2 year, $26 million deal. All told, the Reds now have Votto locked up for a total of 12 years for $252 million. Votto just signed the last contract he'll likely ever have to negotiate, and he did it while in his prime and still two years away from free agency.

Over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron makes the argument that this contract heralds in a new era in baseball. Teams are flush with cash due to the influx of new television contracts, which provide teams with a yearly cash boost over 20-30 years, and we've already seen an example of how people believe this money will change the game with the Dodgers selling for over $2 billion recently. Baseball has always been a game where a ridiculous amount of money has been thrown at players, but it's arguably going to get even crazier in the coming years.

Joey Votto was two years away from being a free agent, but he still netted a contract bigger than Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder commanded this off season. The sea has shifted, and now pre-FA players will have a great case for demanding even more money from their teams.

If all this is true -- and it rings true to me, although I'm curious if this was an isolated event or a larger market correction -- then that kinda sucks for the Rays. Their bread and butter has been extended players to team friendly, pre-free agency deals, so anything that increases the price of those contracts is inherently bad for them. It's also going to make it extremely difficult for the Rays to resign Evan Longoria down the road (can you imagine what sort of contract he'll command in a few years?), and it suggests that the market is going to see some rampant inflation in coming years. We'll see if that ends up being true, but still, not good.

The only real good news here is that the Rays' main competition -- the Yankees and Red Sox -- won't necessarily be getting any richer. They already have their regional sports networks set up and running, and they've been drawing in money from those televisions deals for years now. If anything, this is the rest of baseball finally catching up with them (to some degree). Or at least, I believe that's the case...anyone care to clarify?

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