On Monday, word got out that the Astros signed first-base prospect Jon Singleton to a deal that guaranteed him $10 million before he even saw a Major League pitch. But at least one MLB player thinks it was a bad idea for the 22-year-old.
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Bud Norris had this to say on Twitter:
Sorry but this Singleton deal is terrible. Wish the Jon listened to the union and not his agent.
Norris, a veteran who pitched for the Astros from 2009-2013 before joining the Orioles, is earning $5.3 million this season and stands to make much more if he can stay healthy until he hits free agency after the 2015 campaign. But admirable though his devotion to the union may be, his 140-character analysis of Singleton s deal misses a huge and important aspect of it.
At Hardball Talk, Craig Calcaterra nails it:
For one thing, it s Singleton s life and $10 million over five years is likely to change it dramatically. If he got his arm lopped off by a dwarf with a battle-axe tomorrow, he d have a cushion of cash on which to live on. We talk about player and contract value in the quasi-abstract all the time and to some extent we become immune to how large these numbers we talk about are. This is Singleton s life and Singleton s choice, and union politics aside, that has to be respected.
But more to the point: the Bud Norrises of the world (i.e. veteran players) are what subjected Singleton to the Astros leverage in the first place. It s not written in stone that players don t reach arbitration for three years and free agency for six. That was negotiated by the union. A union which, in recent years anyway, has frequently seen fit to bargain away the rights of amateur and minor league players in negotiations at the expense of things that better-serve veteran players. Why are there slotting and bonus caps in the draft now? Why do minor leaguers make almost zero money and live in deplorable conditions? It s because no one with the power to help them out be it the teams who control their destiny in the first instance or the players who could use their power to help them out in the second instance gives much of a crap about them.
Without signing the new contract, Singleton stood to earn a pro-rated MLB minimum contract, which, at $500,000, is nothing to sneeze at. But he risked never earning a dollar more if he got hurt or despite his impressive minor league numbers proved incapable of hitting big-league breaking balls.
The difference between a couple hundred grand and $10 million is the difference between not having to worry about money for a year and not having to worry about money for the rest of your life. If the terms of Singleton s deal are as reported and he saves his salary and invests conservatively, his children will be rich. Maybe his grandkids, too.
Plus, if he shows he s good enough for the Astros to pick up the three team options that could bring the value of the deal up to $30 million, then he ll be good enough to earn a windfall when he hits free agency at age 30.
And yeah, if he is good, he might have made a lot more a lot sooner if he refused the early extension and played out his six seasons of team control and hit the open market earlier. But as Calcaterra notes, if Norris and the rest of the MLBPA want that to happen more often to keep salaries inflating, then they need to secure more money and better lifestyles for minor leaguers and rookies.
Singleton made his big-league debut on Tuesday against the Angels in Houston.