In the context of life for 99.9 percent of us $21 million is a huge sum of money. It is a game-changer. It is the kind of windfall that would completely change the scope of day-to-day living for the rest of our lives.
In the context of baseball free agent contacts? Sorry Terry Ryan, but $21 million is not, in fact, huge.
The Twins GM is quoted in La Velle E. Neal's series on the Twins and how they might revamp their roster going forward. Here is the set-up and the quote:
Ryan contends that the signing of Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract before the 2012 season — a record deal for a Twins free agent — is evidence that he will take a plunge into the rich end of the free-agent pool.
“I think you are mistaken when you don’t think $21 million is huge,” Ryan said.
And we think Ryan is mistaken.
In the season Willingham was signed, his $21 million contract was only the 12th-biggest of the offseason. Two players (Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols) signed for more than 10 times as much.
In terms of annual salary, Willingham doesn't even approach the top. In fact, this list of the top 50 salaries in MLB in 2012, Willingham's first year after signing the deal, stops at $13.75 million for the 50th-highest paid player -- about half of Willingham's $7 million average salary.
Getting Willingham was bold by Twins standards -- as you saw, it was the most they have ever given to an outside free agent. And yes, the Twins have spent to retain their own guys (Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer being the prime examples).
But $21 million is not a huge free agent contract any way you slice it, particularly over three years. It was a nice, modest deal.
If the Twins have that mindset going into this offseason -- and it might be a bad one to have since, as Ryan correctly notes, spending in free agency is not a cure-all and can often cripple a franchise -- it would be wise not to expect any truly huge moves.