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Posted: Friday November 28, 2008 11:53AM; Updated: Friday November 28, 2008 11:53AM
John Donovan John Donovan >
INSIDE BASEBALL

Cot's is one-stop shopping for baseball contract info

Story Highlights

Cot's Baseball Contracts is the unofficial clearinghouse for MLB contracts

Jeff Euston, a Kansas-based fan, launched the website in 2005

Euston gathers salary info from newspapers and his own team sources

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Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez hasn't played for the Rangers since 2003, but they're still paying him.
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A little more than three years ago, Jeff Euston -- one of those growing number of baseball fans who not only gets into the game, but gets into just about every aspect of it -- was playing around with a few spreadsheets that he had created to track the salary of every player in major league baseball.

OK, so Euston really gets into it. He shared the information with some like-minded friends, and they all tried to figure out why the Royals signed this guy for that much, or how that light-hitting infielder with the million-dollar salary fit into what the Cardinals were trying to do. It was fun. It was informational. It was harmless.

The spreadsheets turned out to be pretty cool, and the salary information that Euston had gathered was more complete than he could find elsewhere. So Euston, a man before his time, decided to do what any good, semi-obsessed baseball fan would do. He launched a blog.

And so, back in 2005, Cot's Baseball Contracts was officially hatched. Cot's has become, in the ensuing three years, nothing less than the unofficial clearinghouse for MLB contracts, a finely detailed listing of every current big-league deal, from Alex Rodriguez's $275 million monster with the Yankees (Did you know that the Rangers are still shelling out millions in deferred payments?) to Barry Zito's $126 million heist from the Giants (which includes a clause that guarantees him hotel suites on road trips).

Want to see who's a free agent this winter and what kind of contracts they've signed recently? Cot's has it, from Rich Aurilia to Greg Zaun. The highest-paid player on the Twins? Cot's has that, too. (Justin Morneau has an $80 million deal, but Joe Nathan is going to get paid a team-high $11.25 million in 2009.) The blog has become a regular reference point for worked-up fans, needy members of the media and even big-league front-office types, at least one of whom has told Euston that he'd rather stop by Cot's than take the time to fire up Major League Baseball's internal site.

"I was worried, at the beginning, for a couple of reasons. I wasn't sure that Major League Baseball would be real happy about it," Euston says. "But once I began hearing from people in the game and working with the clubs, everyone has been very positive. More than a few have told me they have [the site] bookmarked, which I think is very funny."

Euston's site is not without its occasional mistake, but it's way more baseball-reference.com than joeblow'sbaseball.com, more professional research than off-the-cuff musings. Euston gathers salary details, mostly from Associated Press dispatches and often from stories in local papers, and he matches that against information he gleans from other places. "Helpful sources either in or around the game kind of leak me select documents," he says.

It's an amazing feat for the 40-year-old lawyer from Kansas City, Kan., who by day works with a small firm dealing mostly with real estate transactions. That's a long way from delving into the intricacies of A-Rod's mega-contracts, for instance. Or figuring out how a team makes it to the World Series with its highest-paid player making only $6 million for the year.

Euston says he spends only a few minutes a day actually updating the site, though he burns through many more hours a week trolling around the Internet for contract information and the latest baseball news. "But I'm usually doing that anyway, just as a fan," he says. "That's not like work at all."

As Euston has learned, though, building a roster with a payroll in mind is a process, and the progress -- or lack of it -- can be tracked from year to year. "You can't just flip the switch in one offseason," he says. "As a fan you think, 'They just have to cut this guy and bring in this guy.' It's not that simple."

For Euston, one of the best parts of the blog, which should be creeping up on its four millionth page view any day now, is that it has given him a peek into the inner workings of the baseball industry. At one time he toyed with the idea of becoming a player agent, though that particular cutthroat business no longer appeals to the soft-spoken fan.

Now, as he talks with people in front offices, with media members and with agents, as he fiddles with the pages on his site by taking away and adding contracts, he's starting to get a feel for the way different franchises build their teams. Euston sees, if he's lucky, maybe an opportunity with a major league club as a salary expert, as a contracts administrator, as someone who could help a team fit the pieces of a salary puzzle together while keeping an eye on everyone's else puzzle.

"It's really striking how Tampa, for example, you can just tell they understand, you can see what they're trying to do," Euston says. "A lot depends on where a particular team is in its evolution. Like the Giants with Barry Bonds. It's really interesting to see, with Bonds gone, how their whole philosophy has changed."

Euston didn't expect Cot's -- named for Cotton Tierney, a 1920s infielder who happened to be Euston's great grandfather's brother -- to become a self-marketing tool. But he's OK if it has. And he intends to keep it going. The site continues to grow each year, exploding in popularity in the winter during the hot stove league and in the summer before the trade deadline. The salary spreadsheets are no longer there, and it's sometimes hard to keep up with service-time and agent changes and things like that.

But, by and large, Cot's Baseball Contracts remains the most reliable public source on the subject available. For those of us who are really into that kind of thing.

--

Here are the richest contracts ever signed, and the highest annual salaries in baseball history.

Biggest Contracts (Total Value)
Rank, Payer Dollars (in millions) Years
1. Alex Rodriguez $275 2008-17
2. Alex Rodriguez $252 2001-10
3. Derek Jeter $189 2001-10
4. Manny Ramirez $160 2001-08
5. Miguel Cabrera $152.3 2008-15
6. Todd Helton $141.5 2003-11
7. Johan Santana $137.5 2008-13
8. Alfonso Soriano $136 2007-14
9. Vernon Wells $126 2008-14
10. Barry Zito $126 2007-13
Highest-Paid Players (Avg. annual value)
Player, Rank Dollars Year
1. Roger Clemens $28,000,022 2007
2. Alex Rodriguez $27,500,000 2008-17
3. Alex Rodriguez $25,200,000 2001-10
4. Johan Santana $22,916,667 2008-13
5. Roger Clemens $22,000,022 2006
6. Manny Ramirez $20,000,000 2001-08
7. Miguel Cabrera $19,037,500 2008-15
8. Derek Jeter $18,900,000 2001-10
9. Carlos Zambrano $18,300,000 2008-12
10. Andruw Jones $18,100,000 2008-09

Source: Cot's Baseball Contracts

 
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