At the end of the 2006 season, Andruw Jones had just completed his second consecutive 40+ homerun 125+ RBI season at only 29-years of age, and he looked like he might have finally become the powerful force in the middle of the Braves order... but would he remain there for the rest of his career? He was likely to demand a huge contract of many years with many zeros behind some pretty big numbers when he became a free agent a year later.
At the end of the 2006 season, Vernon Wells had just posted another 30 homer 100+ RBI season, and at 27-years of age he looked like the next coming of the great outfielders of our era. He was a year away from free agency, and like Jones, was also sure to demand a huge contract of many years with many zeros behind some pretty big numbers.
This is where two roads diverged in a wood, and each team took a different path. The Braves chose to ride out the rest of Andruw's contract, and seeing his performance decline, opted to let him walk away via free agency. The Blue Jays chose to sign their young star to a huge ball-busting contract of 7-years and $126 million. A contract that was so ridiculously back-loaded that the Jays are still on the hook for $105 million over the next 5 years.
Sometimes its the moves that a team doesn't make which determines their fate for years to come. Had the Braves signed Jones to a similar contract, we'd be talking about who has baseball's worse contract, Atlanta or Toronto. As it is, the winner is clearly Toronto and the money yet owed to the pedestrian Vernon Wells.
MLBTR has a great look back at the Wells contract and what the baseball pundits said about that contract at the time. That piece got me thinking about the choice we made versus the choice that Toronto made. This is why we very rarely see the Braves commit so many years and so much money to any one player.
That also got me thinking about this article by Ken Rosenthal, in which he thinks the Tigers should trade Miguel Cabrera. Miggy has an equally monstrous amount of money left on his deal, and if it weren't for that I would say let's make a play for him. But I just can't see the Braves ponying up $20 million a year for a guy (not after they got burned by the Mike Hampton trade). If the price were right though, say Vazquez, Freeman, and another prospect (not named Heyward), and the Tigers could pick up some of the tab, then I'd have to seriously think the Braves would make a run at Cabrera, assuming of course that he's available. Even with the monster contract. Okay, now I'm rosterbating, and drooling a bit.