Astros owner Jim Crane was the latest team owner to give his opinion on why stars like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado aren’t receiving the blockbuster contracts many expected them to sign this offseason. At a team event on Friday, Crane, whose net worth is an estimated $2.5 billion, told reporters that teams aren’t as willing to hand out large bags of cash to players as they once were because of analytics.
“I think that teams are very focused on value, and some of the deals that have been thrown out with Harper and Machado I think are long-term deals. I don’t think that you’ll see too many more 10-year deals in this business anymore because the analytics are so good and a lot of those deals never work.”
This almost could have been a believable argument given who actually said it. When Crane purchased the Astros in 2011, he was willing to adopt Big Data and analytics to fuel his team’s success, and hired the right personnel to complete that goal. A numbers guy like Crane citing analytics for a problem like this just makes sense. He won a World Series with this mentality, surely he knows what he’s talking about.
But the context for his reasoning doesn’t make the argument itself any less bullshit. If the number of ten-year deals we see in the future starts to decline, it’s not because of any one advanced statistic, it’s because ownership has decided that that’s the way things should be. The idea that these deals “never work” is also ridiculous in this scenario because most of the cautionary tales Crane would likely reference include players who signed their contracts when they were much older than 26 (i.e. Albert Pujols).
The reality is that analytics show that Harper and Machado are two of the best young free agents ever and a ten-year deal to either of them would provide more than enough value in return to whichever franchise decides to bring them in. Unfortunately, the reality is also that Crane’s beliefs are shared among most, if not all, owners, and as long as they control the market for player value, two elite talents might end up playing for less than what they’re worth next season.