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The Rise of Long-Term Contracts in Modern Sports: A New Era of Investment

The History of Long-Term Contracts

Free agency is the process of players signing with teams based on their market value, rather than being drafted or traded. This process was not always a part of professional sports, but it has become a significant aspect of modern sports culture.

While free agency has certainly transformed sports in many ways, it was not always a smooth ride. In the early days of free agency, players were not guaranteed to make much money – and some players even faced situations where teams could keep them indefinitely.

One significant example of this was Wayne Garland, who in 1977 became the first baseball player to go to arbitration with his team over his contract. Garland, who played for the Cleveland Indians, played well that year and went to arbitration hoping for a raise.

Instead, he ended up with a contract for less money. Another example from that time period was Richie Zisk, who in 1978 signed a 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers.

While this was a big deal at the time, it would be nothing compared to the contracts we see today.

As the years went by, contract length and size increased significantly.

By the 1990s, many players were signing contracts that lasted for decades. One notable example was baseball player Alex Rodriguez.

In 2000, he signed a 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers worth $252 million – the largest contract in sports history at that time. Many baseball players followed in Rodriguez’s footsteps, signing massive deals that were worth hundreds of millions of dollars and would last for over a decade.

Current Longest Contracts

Today, the trend of lengthy contracts has not slowed down at all. Two of the most talked-about examples of this are Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper.

Stanton, a baseball player, signed a 13-year contract worth $325 million with the Miami Marlins in 2014. However, in 2017, the Marlins traded him to the New York Yankees, so he is now spending his long-term contract with a different team.

Bryce Harper, another baseball player, signed a 13-year contract worth $330 million with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019.

Another recent example is Fernando Tatis Jr., who signed a 14-year contract worth $340 million with the San Diego Padres in 2021.

This is a new record for the longest and most lucrative contract in baseball. In fact, the contract is so long that it will not expire until the 2034 season.

Tatis Jr. is not even 23 years old yet, which means he will be with the Padres for nearly his entire career if he fulfills the terms of the deal. These contracts are certainly a far cry from the ones signed by Wayne Garland and Richie Zisk in the early days of free agency.


Long-term contracts are nothing new in modern sports, but they have certainly come a long way since the practice first began. From early players like Wayne Garland and Richie Zisk to current stars like Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, and Fernando Tatis Jr., the size and length of contracts have increased astronomically.

These contracts represent a major investment for teams and guarantee some of the largest salaries in sports. While not every player will sign a long-term deal, it is clear that this trend will continue to shape the future of sports.

The New Era of Contracts

Long-term contracts have been a fixture in sports for decades. However, recent years have seen an increase in the length and size of contracts that is unprecedented in modern times.

In Major League Baseball (MLB), for example, over 22 players have signed contracts that are 10 years or more since Alex Rodriguez signed his legendary contract with the Texas Rangers in 2000. This trend shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, as many players in the 2022-2023 offseason are signing double-digit length contracts.

Increasing Contract Length

One of the most recent examples of this trend is Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox, who recently signed a 10-year contract extension worth $132 million. This deal will keep him with the team through the 2031 season, making him one of the longest-tenured players in the league.

Similarly, Trea Turner signed a 10-year extension worth $320 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers, making him one of the highest-paid players in the league. These long-term contracts offer security for players but also show that teams are willing to make significant investments to keep those players around.

While there is always a risk in signing a player to a long-term deal, teams are betting that those players will continue to perform at a high level throughout the contract.

Age and Contract Length

As players age, there is often a belief that they will begin to decline in performance and therefore should not be signed to long-term deals. However, recent contracts have challenged that belief.

For example, Fernando Tatis Jr. was only 22 years old when he signed his 14-year deal with the San Diego Padres. Similarly, Bryce Harper was only 26 years old when he signed his 13-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

While these contracts might seem risky due to their length, they also provide security for the player and the team. When a player signs a long-term contract, it allows the team to build around that player for the duration of the deal, knowing that they will be a part of the team for years to come.

As the trend of longer contracts continues, it will be interesting to see how teams and players adapt to these new arrangements. Organizations will need to ensure that they make calculated decisions when signing players to long-term deals, while players will want to ensure that their contract is structured in a way that maximizes their earnings potential over the duration of the deal.

While nobody can predict the future, it’s clear that long-term contracts are here to stay. They offer players and teams security while also providing elite players with the compensation they deserve.

These massive contracts are a reflection of the evolving nature of sports and the increasing value placed on top-tier talent. In recent years, long-term contracts have become increasingly common in sports, particularly in Major League Baseball where players have secured contracts extending past a decade.

These contracts offer security for players while also demonstrating significant investments made by teams. This trend challenges the belief that long-term contracts for older players may not be advantageous.

Nevertheless, it is clear that long-term contracts are here to stay, providing top-tier talent with the compensation they deserve and allowing teams to build around their star players for years to come. FAQs:


What are long-term contracts? Long-term contracts refer to contractual agreements between sports teams and players that span over ten years or more.

2. Why do teams sign long-term contracts?

Teams sign long-term contracts to keep top-tier talent on their roster, ensuring they have players of the highest caliber for a lengthy period. 3.

What are the risks of long-term contracts? While offering security to players, long-term contracts also involve significant investments by teams, which could be risky in case of a player’s declining performance or severe injuries.

4. Are long-term contracts becoming more commonplace in sports?

Yes, long-term contracts are becoming more common in sports, particularly in Major League Baseball. 5.

What is the aim of long-term contracts? Long-term contracts aim to offer security, both for players and teams, while also providing top-tier talent with the compensation they deserve.

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