Earlier this season we touched on Dayton Moore's odd proclivity for the playing time bonus. Dating back to the Ross Gload extension, the Royals have included a number of playing time escalators in contracts. Like anything else in a contract, these bonuses can be used in a variety of ways, for the benefit or protection of either party.
Three curious things jump out about Dayton's recent use of the tool: 1) they have been given to players who are seemingly already being overpaid, 2) the Royals have used extremely modest dollar amounts for their bonuses, yet also made them incredibly easy to reach and 3) the Royals have given playing time bonuses to players who had in the past not been full-time players, but who were quickly then made full-timers on the Royals (great negotiating!).
In 2009, Miguel Olivo, St. Willie Bloomquist and a number of pitchers each had playing-time bonuses on the table. Let's see how they did.
Miguel Olivo: 114 games played, 416 plate appearances
Here are Olivo's bonuses (reached bonuses in bold), in all their nickel-and-dimer glory:
- performance bonuses based on games, plate appearances:
- $25,000 each for 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100 games
- $50,000 each for 105, 110, 115, 120 games
- $25,000 each for 275, 300, 325, 350, 375, 400 PAs
- $50,000 each for 425, 450, 475, 500 PAs
By sitting Olivo on the last day of the season, Trey Hillman saved his bosses $50,000, as Olivo was set to hit another bonus by playing his 115th game. All told, Olivo earned an extra $400,000 in playing time bonuses in 2009, in addition to his $2.7 million base salary, for a total of $3.1 million.
Willie Bloomquist: 125 games played, 468 plate appearances
Thanks to being employed by one of the dumbest management teams in the game, Willie Bloomquist set career playing time highs in 2009, by wide margins. Prior to 2009, his career high in games played was 102 games in 2006, and in 32 of those games he was a late-game sub. The 468 plate appearances in 2009 is more than he got in his final two seasons in Seattle combined (380), where he was also loved by everyone and valued for doing whatever it is that he does. Again, the Royals gave a guy with a .663 OPS 468 PAs this season. Blame Alex Gordon.
- performance bonuses:
- $50,000 each for 70 games or 280 PAs, 80 g or 320 PAs, 90 g or 360 PAs, 100 g or 400 PAs
- $0.1M each for 110 g or 440 PAs, 120 g or 480 PAs, 130 g or 520 PAs, 140 g or 560 PA
Willie's contract is a little more standard, in that the games played and plate appearance bonuses are tied to one another, given that they are reflective of the same thing most of the time. The Sainted One hit all four of his $50,000 bonuses and two of his $100,000 bonuses, for a total of $400,000 extra in bonuses. Bloomquist's base salary in 2009 was $1.4 million, giving him a total payday of $1.8 million. In addition to the biggest contract of his career, Dayton Moore signed him to a deal which would allow him to add 25-35% (roughly) to his payday simply by showing up.
John Bale: 43 total points
Bale's contract for 2009 is interesting in that it uses a points system based on how he is used. (Bonuses met in bold)
- performance bonuses based on points (2 points for a start, 1.5 points for 2-inning appearance, 1 point forappearance of less than 2 innings):
- $25,000 each for 34, 36, 38 points
- $50,000 each for 40, 42, 44 points
- $75,000 each for 46, 48, 50 points
- $0.1M each for 52, 54, 56 points
- $0.125M each for 58, 60 points
By my count, Bale appeared in 43 games, and they were all non-starts, and all under 2.0 innings, leaving him at 43 points. Actually an impressive total for a guy who seemingly was injured and ineffective all season. The Royals bullpen, we're all in this together! If we all suck, we can all still play. Bale snagged an extra $175,000 dollars to go along with his base salary of $1.2 million.
Kyle Farnsworth: 18 games finished
Farnsworth's contract uses "games finished" as a bonus trigger, which could either mean "I got the closer role" or "I was good enough to sub for Soria sometimes" or even "I was bad but got mopup duty". Farnsworth somehow finished 18 games for the Royals, which amazes me.
performance bonuses: $50,000 each for 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 games finished; $0.1M for 45 GF; $0.15M for 50 GF; $0.25M for 55 GF
Still, no bonuses for Farnsy.
Jamey Wright: 0 starts, 65 appearances
Wright was supposed to be one of Moore's bargain signings this season, brought in for a minor league contract. Thanks to his near-constant use however, Wright did alright for himself.
- performance bonuses:
- starts: $50,000 for 5 GS; $0.1M each for 10, 15 GS; $0.15M for 20 GS
- relief appearances: $50,000 each for 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 games; $0.1M each for 50, 55, 60 games
Wright was signed to a minor league contract, but he would have made the prorated minimum while in the Majors, and could have had extras thrown in as well. Cot's lists him as earning $800,000 in base salary in 2009. Thanks to his 65 appearances, he also earned an additional $600,000 in bonuses. Wright owes Trey Hillman a nice dinner.
Yabuta and Waechter had a number of bonuses, but reached none of them. Thankfully, in Yabuta's case. Yabuta appeared in only 43 games as a Royal in 2008-9. Did you know that if he had appeared in 155 games total over those years, he would have vested a player option for 2010?
When you look at these bonuses, the ones for the pitchers make much more sense, from the club's standpoint: if you make this team, Jamey Wright, and if you're healthy and good all season, Kyle Farnsworth, you'll make even more money for us. Maybe that gets them in the door for a little less money guaranteed, which would in theory be good, if we were talking about good players.
The Bloomquist and Olivo bonuses make less sense to me. Not surprisingly, Olivo was unhappy with a lack of playing time in 2008, and seemed to have an idea that he was "brought here to be a starter". Hmm... where'd that problem come from? Meanwhile, the extra Bloomquist money just adds less value to an already bad contract. When you include reasonable playing time bonuses, the Royals didn't sign him to a 2 year/$3.1 million dollar deal, they signed him to a 2 year/$4.1 million dollar deal.
Figures like these need to be kept in mind when discussing the Royals payroll. Are these contracts creative ways of staying under some set in stone budget number? There's no way of knowing. Reported figures for the Royals payroll tend to be all over the place. Sometimes the Royals want to stress how large it is, sometimes they want to point out how small.
Contracts like these are common in today's game, just not necessarily for position players with little injury history like Bloomquist and Olivo. Two is a coincidence and, with the Ross Gload contract, three is a trend. Maybe Moore just likes making these kind of deals. Maybe ownership wants a little injury insurance. Maybe it is a motivational tool for the player. Who knows? There are benefits to lots of small bonuses (like the Olivo contract) and there are benefits to ones which aren't reached until some large playing time number is hit, as in the Yabuta contract. Did Olivo know that Hillman's decision to play Pena and Buck on the final day of the season cost him $50,000? Did he care? Should he care? I don't know the answer to those questions. Yes, $50,000 is much less relevant to these guys than it is to most of us, but then again, Miguel Olivo also has many more expenses, taxes, etc. than most of us as well. He has had to move across the country like six or seven times during his career. He's got bills, he's got things he wants. If a guy I didn't really respect cost me $500 dollars (in my mind) I'd be really unhappy about it. I bet you'd feel the same way.
This is all just to say, there's quite a lot going on here. Since we aren't privy to these contract negotiations, and know nothing about anyone involved beyond their baseball stuff, we're left to guess. What do you guess?