I really like Paul Cohen; as Rays fans we all should like Paul Cohen. Thanks to his negotiations, the Rays have Evan Longoria's services secured over the next seven years for around ~ $43 million dollars, or about $12 million less than what Carlos Lee will make over the next three seasons (more fun comparisons to follow). Such contracts are a wonderful gifts to the fans and the teams receiving the discounted player. In the past few seasons, Cohen has become Santa Claus to a few organizations.
Before endearing himself to the Colorado and Tampa Bay fan-bases, Cohen made Oakland A's fans happy when he negotiated a four-year extension for Tim Hudson for a mere $9.1 million dollars. Before moving on to Atlanta, Hudson delivered about $47 million dollars of production from 2002-2005 while banking just $8.6 million dollars. Just this offseason, Hudson re-signed with Atlanta for what could be another bargain, 3 years, $28 million.
More recently, Cohen has negotiated the long-term extensions of Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. The two former teammates at Long Beach State will be forever connected from their times as dirtbags, but also their risk/reward extensions signed as young players. We all know the story of Longoria moving to third base because Long Beach already had their shortstop in Tulowitzki . Upon his arrival to the Majors, Longo also followed in Tulo's footsteps by signing an unprecedented contract extension.
After appearing in just 180 career games, the Cohen-advised, Tulowitzki signed a six-year extension worth over $31 million dollars with Rockies in January of 2008. At the time, it was the largest extension ever signed by a player with less than two years of MLB service. That distinction would last less than three months.
Despite having less than a week of MLB service time, the Rays, Cohen, and his other client, Evan Longoria would agree on a deal that could potentially last nine years and net Longoria somewhere in the neighborhood of $45 million dollars. Never before had such a deal been seen after so little professional time. Sure, there was a huge risk for the Rays, but I think it's safe to say the deal has worked out quite nicely. While the teams are reaping the benefits, it seems like Cohen and his players are giving up a pretty big chunk of change.
First, let me say I'm not blaming these players for signing these deals. If you are 22 or 23 years-old and someone offers you upwards of $30 or $40 million dollars, I'd imagine it would be extremely hard to say "nah, I'll pass and take the minimum salary for the next few years and hope I don't get injured." That would be an awfully large gamble. Just look at Tulowitzki who missed 61 games in 2008 because of injury. Who knows if the Rockies offer would remain had he not signed before that year. By signing those contracts, both players gave themselves financial stability that should last a lifetime even if they never set on the diamond again. Nonetheless, they definitely left some cash on the table.
Had Tulowitzki declined Colorado's offer he would be arbitration eligible right now. In 2009, he posted a 5.4 WAR season and his production would've cost $24.4 million dollars on the open market. If he went into arbitration and asked for $4.5 million dollars, I think most would agree that would be fair. Instead, he is locked in for 2010 at a slightly discounted rate of $3.5 million dollars. If he post similar numbers in 2010, the expected arbitration number in 2011 would've been in the neighborhood of $10 million; he'll make $5.5 in 2011. Since signing the deal, he has given the Rockies $28.5 million dollars of production or about 91% of the Rockies investment.
The Longoria deal is one that will go down in history. One of the young stars of the game, Longoria is on pace to be paid an average annual salary that rivals 30somethings, Placido Polanco and Mark DeRosa, over the next few years. Longoria is not yet arbitration eligible and would still be under team control this offseason. With that in mind, right now he is slightly reaping some benefits of signing early. He has already made over a million dollars in addition to his original $3 million dollar signing bonus. As mentioned, 2010 would be another team controlled salary season, but Longoria's 2010 salary of $950k pays him roughly double of what he might have made otherwise. From there, Longoria's deal really kicks in for the Rays.
In terms of production value on the open market, Longoria has already paid for his entire contract with his 2008 and 2009 seasons. Thanks to a career WAR of 12.5, Longoria has given the Rays over $56 million dollars of production. The scary part is he's likely to get better and should challege the 6-7 WAR threshold for the next "insert your own number here" seasons. It is not out of the realm of possibility that if he put up a 2010 season similar or better than his 2009 campaign, Longoria could've asked for $6.5 million dollars in his first year of arbitration eligibility. On the contrary, he'll make less than $7.5 million dollars for the next three seasons combined.
Of course, long-term extensions don't always work out this well. Longoria and Tulowitzki are rare talents and we shouldn't expect every young player to sign such large deals at young ages. Once upon a time, another Long Beach State shortstop and Cohen client, Bobby Crosby once signed a five-year deal with the Oakland A's for $12.5 million dollars. He was worth $11.6 million in 2005, the first year of his deal, but was worth just $4.5 over the final four years of the deal that paid him nearly $12 million dollars. Around these parts, Rocco Baldelli is a perfect example of how these sort of deals could go wrong for unexpected reasons.
The silver-lining for Cohen's clients is they will stil hit free agency at a time when they should have value left. For both Tulowitzki and Longoria, they will hit the open market at age 31 leaving plenty of room for another multi-year deal worth tens of millions, should they remain all-star caliber talents. But for now, let's sit back and continue to enjoy the next seven seasons of Longoria for almost half of what Jason Bay will make over the next five.