Two years ago, the Detroit Tigers made the big splash, signing free-agent Prince Fielder to a nine-year contract, and creating as dynamic a 3-4 punch as any lineup in baseball with Fielder's left-handed bat backing up the right-handed power of Miguel Cabrera.
The Tigers won back-to-back division titles, but after being swept in the World Series by San Francisco in 2012 and eliminated in six games in the American League Championship Series by eventual World Series champion Boston this year, the Tigers decided it was time to break up the dynamic duo.
Wednesday, the Tigers sent Fielder and $30 million to offset the $168 million remaining on the seven years of Fielder's contract to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler, who has five years and $75 million coming over the next five years.
The long-term contract is primary an item of this century, but it has not ensured long-term relationships.
There have been 24 contracts of eight or more years given out in Major League Baseball (two of which have gone to Alex Rodriguez ), and 21 of them have been written since the 2000 season. The first was signed by Wayne Garland, during the initial wave of free agents in 1977. He signed a 10-year, $2.3 million deal. Yes $2.3 million. The decimal point is in the right place. Talk about inflation.
Thirteen of the 23 are currently in effect, including 10 of which went into effect for the 2011 season or later. The three exceptions are Alex Rodriguez (10 years, $275 million 2008-2017 with the Yankees), Cabrera (eight years, $152.3 million 2008-2015 with the Tigers), and Mark Teixeira (eight years, $180 million 2009-2016 with the Yankees).
While Fielder is the only one of the 13 to have been dealt, there have been trade rumors of varying degrees about Matt Kemp (eight years, $160 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers), Troy Tulowitzki (10 years, $157.5 million with the Colorado Rockies), Elvis Andrus (10 years, $131.275 million with the Texas Rangers), and Joey Votto (10 years, $225 million with Cincinnati).
Minnesota has decided to move Joe Mauer from catcher to first base, not the plan when he signed his eight-year, $184 million deal that runs through 2018.
Other recent signings were David Wright (eight years, $138 million with the Mets), Buster Posey (nine years, $167 with the Giants), Ryan Braun (10 years, $145.5 million with Milwaukee), and Albert Pujols (10 years, $240 million with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). The deals for Wright and Posey began in 2013, Braun in 2011 and Pujols in 2012.
Of the 10 that have been completed, only Derek Jeter (10 years, $189 million with the Yankees for 2001-2010) and Todd Helton (11 years, $151.5 million with the Rockies for 2001-11) spent the entire time with the team that signed him. And Helton did approve a trade to the Boston Red Sox prior to 2007 that fell through. And Helton did rework the final two years of his contract, deferring all but $9.9 million to create payroll flexibility for the Rockies.
Garland was released and retired after five injury-plagued years and a 28-48 record and 4.50 ERA for the Indians.
Rodriguez opted out of the 10-year deal he originally signed with Texas prior to the 2001 season after 2007, leveraging the Yankees into a new 10-year deal. Rodriguez spent only three years in Texas. Despite playing in 485 of 486 games and leading the AL in home runs all three seasons, the Rangers agreed to pick up $71 million of the $183 million he had coming over the final seven years of that initial deal to get the Yankees to take the contract. The Rangers did get out of $21.3 million of that obligation when Rodriguez voided the final three seasons.
Colorado only kept Mike Hampton for two years (21-28, 5.75 ERA) of his eight-year, $121 million deal, but covered $49 million of the contract, and had to give up outfielder Juan Pierre and take on the salaries of Preston Wilson and Charles Johnson to deal Hampton after the 2002 season.
Scott Rolen played for three teams over the eight years of the $90 million deal he initially singed in St. Louis. He spent the first three years of that contract with St. Louis, the next two with Toronto and final three in Cincinnati.
Adrian Gonzalez and his seven-year $154 million deal with Boston was unloaded on the Los Angeles Dodgers midway through its second year. Manny Ramirez (eight years, $160 million with Boston), and Ken Griffey, Jr., (9 years, $116.5 million with Cincinnati) were all traded in the midst of the final season of their deals. Griffey appeared in fewer than 120 games in five of the eight years in Cincinnati.
Dave Winfield (10 years, $23 million with the Yankees) was dealt by the Yankees to the Angels in the ninth year of his deal that was signed before the 1981 season. Texas signed Richie Zisk to a 10-year deal prior to the 1978 season, and dealt him to Seattle after the 1980 campaign. He played only three more seasons before injuries brought his career to an end.
The commitments are long-term, financially.
The return on the investments, however, are not.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.