The increasing cost of contracts: Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana and the Brewers

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

The big market/small market thing has been around for a while, but this is getting ridiculous.

Mug is off today. Enjoy this, instead.

We can talk up and down for days about new TV contracts in baseball, but they're just a new facet in an already existing problem. Or challenge, if you don't think it's a problem. Salaries keep going up and up, which is natural. But they are far outpacing the rate that payrolls for most team are increasing.

Case in point, Ervin Santana wants $100 million this offseason. Ricky Nolasco wants $80 million. Ervin Santana has a career ERA of 4.14. His 3.24 ERA in 2013 was the best mark of his career and comes on the heels of a season where he posted a 5.16 ERA. Ricky Nolasco has had an ERA under 4.48 in just two of his eight career seasons.

They may not get their ideal contracts (Kyle Lohse wanted much more than he got last season, after all), but they have reason to think they could come close. The new TV deals are injecting more and more cash into a system, particularly for those teams who can afford to start up their own networks, or who command such a television presence that they can demand billion dollar deals with cable providers.

That's not good news for the Brewers, who have Yovani Gallardo set to become a free agent after 2015, and possibly even 2014 if the Brewers don't pick up his $13 million option.

How much is Gallardo going to anticipate making? He could continue to underperform and he could get a whole lot of money per year (see Tim Lincecum). Gallardo has not been as bad as the former Cy Young winner (nor was he nearly as good at his prime).

But the Brewers can't afford to take the same risks for a pitcher that was never really an ace to begin with. Their payroll has increased, but not that much and it's only pushed to its limit when the team really thinks it can compete. If Yovani Gallardo has another two mediocre seasons, or a really bad season in 2014, the Brewers have a much tougher choice on whether to pick up his option, or whether they want to spend an exorbitant sum of money to keep him.

I mean, look at what the good players are getting. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game, but pitchers are notoriously bad investments due to injuries. The Dodgers offered him $300 million and Kershaw turned it down. Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in baseball, and he wanted a contract approaching $300 million. Players have always overestimated their worth, but never to this level. Alex Rodriguez's deal was once ludicrous, but it might soon become the norm for the best in the game.

So while the Brewers see more money from national television deals, they get the same amount as the teams that also get hundreds of millions each year from local TV deals. And the Brewers can't break free of that and negotiate a bigger contract, either. They just signed a new long-term deal with FSN in 2009 that went into effect in 2013. Previous extensions lasted four years. If that is true with the most recent one, the Brewers are locked in with FSN through 2016. At $21 million per year. Or roughly $167 less than the Los Angeles Dodgers will receive per year.

I've never been one to complain about the disparity between big market and small market teams. I don't want a salary cap. I like rooting for the underdog, and that's what the Brewers will pretty much always be. The NL Central isn't the most lavishly spending division, anyway, which helps give Milwaukee a fair shake at the playoffs (until the Cubs get a new TV deal in a few years after exercising the option to terminate the remainder of their contract with WGN). But it seems like something should be done to shorten the disparity a bit.

The MLB could give a larger chunk of change from the national deals to the smaller markets, but that doesn't seem fair. It's the big markets who earn those dollars for baseball, in the end. The same amount going to each team is perhaps as good of a deal as the Brewers and Rays and Pirates can hope to receive.

Maybe the most recent developments won't end up being as big of a deal. The first $100 million contract was doled out 15 years ago, and the Brewers haven't been so poorly off since Mark Attanasio bought the team. Contracts are going up, that's to be expected. But, boy does it seem like they've made a big jump the last couple of years. $100 million for Ervin Santana? Zoinks.

The Brewers have fielded a good team, but until they are able to negotiate a new TV deal of their own (which, of course, absolutely won't match other teams', but will close the gap to hopefully a similar disparity as it had been recently) it's bye-bye Yovani Gallardo and any other even decent free agents Milwaukee has on the market.

Ervin Santana wants $100 million. Yeesh.

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