People tend to focus on the big, superstar contracts when decrying fiscal insanity in baseball and their crippling effect on the long-term success of franchises. But just as damaging are the big deals handed out to middle-class players, the middle-of-the-road guys who are nice, necessary parts, but who are ultimately replaceable.
The contract the Orioles have just awarded Jay Gibbons is the perfect example of committing too long, for too much, to a guy who just isn't that good.
The Orioles are paying Gibbons $4.2 million this year, $5 million in 2007, $5.7 million in 2008 and $6.2 million in 2009, which locks him up in his age 29-32 seasons.
This is a bad contract for the Orioles...not because Gibbons is a bad player -- he was very solid last year, when he posted a career .290 EQA, and his career .273 EQA makes him a decent corner outfield option -- but because Gibbons isn't a real good player. He's a defensive liability with poor on base skills who has some pop.
The Orioles got Gibbons in the first place from the Blue Jays in the Rule 5 draft, and he's an example of the type of player who can be found cheaply any offseason. He's the type of player you pluck from the remainder bin, get a couple of good years out of for cheap, and then let walk. He's not someone you commit over $20 million to for four years.
This is a deal that is almost guaranteed to end badly. The reasonable best case for the Orioles is that Gibbons posts a .280 EQA for the next four seasons, and is a decent, if overpaid, corner outfielder or DH, who ideally would sit against a lot of lefties. Worst case, Gibbons goes into decline, and by the middle of 2007, the Orioles are on the hook for two more years and a bunch of millions to a guy who is basically a lefty bench bat.
This is a deal with a limited upside for the Orioles, and I don't see what the point of this move is, any more than I see the point of them going and getting the equally overpaid and mediocre Kris Benson.
I don't see that the Orioles are that much better off with Jay Gibbons than they would be with, say, Pete Zoccolillo. Or Walter Young, whom they just lost on waivers to the Padres.