Some interesting thoughts from Tom Van Riper of Forbes -
Recent history shows that in each winter since 1998, the highest-salaried major league player to switch teams has never had a notable effect on the win total of the club that got him. In fact, six of 10 teams won fewer games than in the previous year, while none enjoyed a longer advance through the post season.
The $20 million that Santana will earn in 2008 makes him this year’s highest-paid acquisition, just ahead of Torii Hunter, his ex-teammate from the Twins who jumped to the Los Angeles Angels for a five-year, $90 million deal.
Last winter’s highest paid acquisition, pitcher Jason Schmidt, got $15.7 million to move down the West Coast from the San Francisco Giants to the Los Angeles Dodgers. But a shoulder injury, always a risk with pitchers, limited him to just 26 innings and a 1-4 record. The Dodgers won six fewer games than they did in their playoff season of 2006, finishing fourth.
The Giants tried to replace Schmidt by lavishing $126 million over seven years on lefty Barry Zito (he got $10 million in the first year), who struggled to an 11-13 record while his team finished last. And the man who was technically last year’s highest-paid newbie, the Yankees’ Roger Clemens (his signing came in mid-season, leaving Schmidt standing as the top winter acquisition), had no real effect on his club despite an $18 million contract. With Clemens going 6-6, the Yankees won three fewer games than they did in 2006, bowing out in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight time.
The trend is no better for offensive saviors over the past decade. Since 1998, the highest-salaried players to jump teams have included Sammy Sosa in 2005 (Chicago Cubs to Baltimore Orioles) and Mo Vaughn in 2002 (Angels to Mets), both of whom saw their new clubs fall back in the standings the year they got there.
Consider the Atlanta Braves’ 2003 acquisition of Mike Hampton, a $13 million-a-year pitcher, to beef up their already strong starting rotation. Hampton was a solid but unspectacular 14-8 that year, while the Braves duplicated their 2002 season of 101 wins and a first-round playoff exit.
Slugger Alex Rodriguez, who jumped from the Seattle Mariners to the Texas Rangers in 2001 for over $22 million a year and then took that contract to the Yankees three years later, failed to push either team to greater heights. The 2001 Rangers, with the league’s worst pitching staff, finished fourth for the second year in a row. And the 2004 Yankees went from 101 wins and a World Series loss the year before to 101 wins and a League Championship Series loss to the Red Sox. Even a human stat machine like A-Rod won’t improve a team if his salary makes it difficult for a club to invest in other needs.
I wonder if this has anything to do with the player being an import, or, if it’s just “The 15 Percent Rule” coming into play?