It appears that the Reds are locking up Joey Votto until age 40 with a huge contract worth $225 million. My question is: Are they insane? Same goes for the Tigers and Cecil Fielder, and for the Angels and Albert Pujols (not to mention other long-term contracts like A-Rod and Mark Texeira).
Why do I wonder that? Because history tells us that it's highly likely that these players are going to be paid like superstars well past the point when they're producing like superstars.
The fact is that hitters rarely put together productive seasons after the age of 33. If we use 5+ WAR as a guide (that's about All-Star quality), we can do a quick research project to find out how many 1B/DH types have had 5+ WAR seasons after the age of 33. The results are disheartening if you're a Reds/Angels/Tigers fan.
Five 5+ WAR Seasons
1: Edgar Martinez
Four 5+ WAR Seasons
Three 5+ WAR Seasons
7: Paul Molitor, Stan Musial, Johnny Mize, Dolph Camilli, Jack Fournier
Two 5+ WAR Seasons
3: Mark McGwire, Lou Gehrig, Bill Terry
So realistically the best they can hope for is to match Edgar Martinez, with five such seasons. The problem is, ages 33 through 40 is actually eight seasons, so even the best case scenario is that they'll have three lost seasons in the mix.
That's what history tells us, anyway.
Now let me answer the question I posed earlier: No, I don't think the people who run baseball are insane. They're just rich — and about to get richer. With the way baseball revenues are exploding (thanks to inflation and soaring local TV revenues), it's probably going to turn out that those huge contracts won't seem out of place in 10 years. Maybe paying $25 million for 3+ WAR will seem perfectly in line with the salary structure because Jason Heyward or somebody we've never heard of is making $35 or $40 million and the average payroll is $175 million.
All I know is that I wish I were younger and a power hitter and about to hit free agency.