Posted: Friday December 15, 2006 12:21PM; Updated: Friday December 15, 2006 12:36PM
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry signed Alfonso Soriano to the biggest contract that was handed out this offseason.
Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Comments, questions or obviously unfounded criticism? To e-mail Donovan, use the form below.
SI.com: Do you ever find yourself defending, or do you feel the need to defend, a $136 million contract?
Hendry: I don't think anybody would sit in my seat and say, 'Well, gee, that's really something everybody likes to do.' I think everyone knew early on in the process that it would be somewhat north of [Carlos] Beltran's deal. That was the price of poker. [Beltran landed a seven-year, $119 million deal from the Mets before the '05 season.] I'm totally convinced that there were three or four other clubs -- maybe a couple more than that -- that would have done exactly the same thing, or more. I think everybody that was in that last group was at Beltran's type of deal, going into that last weekend. Obviously, when people don't sign the player, they act like, 'Gee, that was a lot of money. Boy, we all got out early.' But we all know better.
SI.com: Are you afraid that with all these big contracts, baseball is going down the same silly road it went down in the late '90s and earlier in this decade?
Hendry: I can't answer how it's going to go down the road. I think what happens is, the tough part of the business, as a GM, is when you're in the free-agent starting pitching world. This isn't the first year that market got escalated to a level that I don't think anybody feels comfortable with. It's been going down that slope for quite a while now. And there's always a framework of deals to spin off of, unfortunately.
Everybody seems to be astonished by the numbers that the free-agent pitchers are getting. But there is a history. Whether it was [A.J.] Burnett [five years, $55 million last winter] or Russ Ortiz [four for $33 million before '05] or Matt Clement [three, $25.5 million before '05], the deals that happened in the last two or three years turned some heads and had escalated that market. Jarrod Washburn. Jarrod's deal last year [four years, $37 million] probably gave an area where Lilly was going to end up around or above, and that's what happened. You just try to make the best decision you can.
As a GM, I've never been in the starting pitching free-agent hunt before. It's not a place anybody would tell you they're comfortable at. The best thing you can do is develop your own pitching. We did that quite well for awhile, and then it came tumbling down with injuries. And we have a very, very good group coming up in the system, pitching wise, behind this group. So, hopefully, we won't always be in that market.
SI.com: But are the escalating salaries for players -- two players have signed for more than $100 million this offseason, and the Red Sox will end up paying more than that for Daisuke Matsuzaka -- good for baseball?
Hendry: I'm not privy to what all the finances are. I think this was being predicted, that this would be a very lucrative offseason. The game has a history of kind of leveling itself off if things are getting too much in one direction. I'm no expert on this, but I think there's a pretty good balance now between Major League Baseball and the Players Association on the percentage of revenue spent on the players.