This post is not timely whatsoever, so apologies for that; also, props to Tommy Rancel for suggesting it and helping with the research.
On July 27, 1996, Alex Rodriguez turned 21 years old. He also signed an extension valued at four-years and $10.6 million. Despite Rodriguez’s age, he was in the midst of his first major league season and third overall. Through the season’s first 86 games, Rodriguez had started 85 of them while hitting .351/.410/.632 with 21 home runs in just 353 at-bats. For comparison, Jason Heyward was 20 when he had a scorching hot May. He hit .337/.453/.628 over those 25 games. Rodriguez was not too far off and he did it over a full season while being only a little older.
Rodriguez was about as close to a sure thing as possible from a stats or scouting perspective; after all, that’s why he was the top pick in the draft and that’s why he ascended the ladder so quickly. That extension by today’s standards looks woeful for Camp Rodriguez and amazing for Woody Woodward and the Mariners but the economic environment in baseball was wholly different 14 years ago. The highest payroll in baseball still belonged to the Yankees, but at $52 million instead of $206 million. The highest paid player in baseball that season was Cecil Fielder, just over $9 million. Ken Griffey Jr. ranked third with a $7.5 million salary. In 2010, a $7.5 million salary doesn’t crack the top 25, in fact, a $15 million dollar salary doesn’t either, as Hiroki Kuroda’s $15.4 ranks 25th overall.
Still, for the production the Mariners received, the market rate for wins had to be extremely, extremely low for them not to rake on this deal. From 1997 until he left following the 2000 season, Rodriguez racked up 27.4 WAR. He was paid $10.6 million. That is roughly $390 thousand per victory. One would have to set the market rate for wins very, very low to say the Mariners made anything but a profit off Rodriguez’s extension.
His current and previous contracts are well publicized and overwatered from snark and critique alike. At one point, though, Alex Rodriguez was a hell of a bargain.
Most of the salary data courtesy of USA Today