In the world of professional sports, big money signings always make the headlines. As fans, we love seeing our teams splash the cash to capture that star player. Trade windows and deadline-days are like Christmas – only much more expensive and without the stress of family gatherings. From Alex Rodriguez’s 2008 $275 million contract with the New York Yankees to Kimi Räikkönen’s $153 million contract with Ferrari in 2007 to Brett Favre’s 10-year, $100 million deal with the Green Bay Packers in 2001, multi-million dollar sporting deals are a fan favorite and often raise many eyebrows.
Of all the sporting leagues, North America’s Major League Baseball (MLB) dominates when it comes to offering massive contracts. Indeed, a quick look at the 100 biggest player contracts in sporting history shows us that half are from the MLB. To be more specific, 19 of the 20 largest-ever sports contracts are held by MLB players. These range from Rodriguez’s huge deal with the Yankees to Adrián González’s 7-year, $154 million deal with the Boston Red Sox in 2011.
This past off-season, the MLB did it again. On January 2nd, 2014, Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka signed a 7-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees. If we add in the $20 million transfer fee, the whole package comes out at a hefty $175 million. Sure, it’s not nearly as much as A-Rod’s deal, but Tanaka’s signing is still good enough to place him 18th on the list of biggest MLB deals. Is Tanaka worth it? Time will tell. During his career in Nippon Professional Baseball, the 25-year old pitcher made a name for himself by racking up a 24-0 record (30-0 if you count postseason) and an impressive 1.27 ERA. By snapping him up, the Yankees not only beat out the Cubs, Dodgers and the White Sox, but also signaled their intent in the coming season.
Of course, if Tanaka somehow fails to live up to his price-tag, fans and media will come looking for answers. They will ask why the Yankees didn’t do this-or-that? Or, why didn’t they sign so-and-so? It is certain nobody will ask why the team didn’t invest the money in real-estate or weaponry. But we will. Actually, the following items are just a few of the interesting examples of things the Yankees could have purchased, had they chosen to spend their money on something other than Masahiro Tanaka. Some are legally attainable items, others are restricted and a few are just pure fantasy purchases, all in the name of putting this contract in a little perspective. What can you buy with $175 million? It turns out, quite a lot.
10 Gulfstream G550 Jets
Whether looking to fly in prospective players and VIPs or just shuttling staff and management around, the Yankees need not look further than the Gulfstream G550. The G550 is a high-end business jet. It has a modern cockpit, can carry up to 19 passengers, has a range of 7,768 miles and cruises at 562 mph. Its interior can be customized with everything from seats and couches to tables and bars. Higher end models of this versatile aircraft can run $57 million. It is definitely a plane for the rich, with newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch owning his own G550. The Gulfstream may not be able to throw a curveball, but for $175 million, you could have 3 of these planes with some spare change for fuel.
9 A Fleet of Bugatti Veyrons
Staying on the topic of transportation, $175 million could buy you a lot of fancy and exotic cars. How about the Bugatti Veyron? Known for its exotic looks, big engine and high speed, the Veyron is a favorite of many, even being named Car of the Decade on the BBC show Top Gear. The Grand Sport Vitesse model is powered by the same 16-cylinder quad-turbocharged engine found in all Veyron models. What sets the Vitesse apart from the rest is that its engine produces 1200hp and can get the car going from 0 to 60 in 2.6 seconds. In 2013, this model set the record for fastest ever roadster with an average top speed of over 254 mph.
The Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse sells for around $2.6 million. This means that instead of Tanaka, the Yankees could have purchased 67 of these very special cars. Coincidentally, that is just enough to give one to every player, coach and staff member with the Yankees organization.
8 The Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are a hockey team that plays in the Eastern Conference of the NHL. Founded in 1997, the team has failed to make the playoffs over the past four seasons and has not claimed a major award since its creation. The team is not as star studded as the NHL powerhouses, yet hockey fans will know the likes of Jack Johnson and Nathan Horton. In late 2013, Forbes valued the Columbus team at $175 million, the lowest in the NHL. Nonetheless, for the price of one Japanese pitcher, the Yankees could have branched out their interests into another league by buying their own NHL club. If the price seems a bit steep, it must be noted that any deal would include the team mascot, Stinger, a 6 foot 9 inch fluorescent green bug that can skate and shoot a puck. Do I sense a new Godzilla movie plot?
7 The Seattle Sounders
If hockey isn’t your game, you could take your $175 million and head to Major League Soccer, North America’s top-tier soccer league. The MLS has been expanding significantly over the past decade. More teams, more fans and more players from UEFA leagues have increased the outlook of this once struggling league. Players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane all made the MLS home as their careers neared the end. Financially, with $175 million in hand, you can have your pick of any MLS club. In 2013, Forbes valued the Seattle Sounders FC the most valuable team at $175 million. The Sounders were founded in 2007 and are one of the newest MLS franchises. Their roster boasts some notable names, including former EPL players Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey.
6 A NASCAR Team and Driver
$175 million can buy you a lot, especially in the world of NASCAR. Every year fans pack the stands at tracks like Daytona, Indianapolis, Talladega and Bristol. There’s money and fame to be had in NASCAR and for the price of one Japanese pitcher, the Yankees could have a piece of the action. Roush Fenway Racing, based in Concord, North Carolina, is one of the biggest NASCAR teams. The owners of the team are Jack Roush along with John Henry, who is the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC. The 2003 and 2004 Sprint Cup Series Champions, Roush Fenway racing is valued at $157 million. This is good value considering the remaining $18 million can be used to secure the services of Jimmie Johnson, six-time NASCAR Cup Series champion. Johnson’s salary/winnings were estimated at $18 million last year. Of course, that only gets him for one year of driving. I wonder if A-Rod is doing anything after that?
5 An Animated Blockbuster
Instead of Masahiro Tanaka, the New York Yankees could have jumped into the world of film making. Of course, making a film can be a huge gamble. Just look at The Lone Ranger, John Carter and Gigli. These flops ended up losing tens of millions. Movies can, however, make millions. Animated movies are especially popular and films like the Toy Story series, Frozen and The Lion King all raked in around a billion dollars world-wide. UP was a 2009 computer-animated film by Pixar which followed the adventures of an elderly man, a young boy and his dog as they traveled to South America in a house suspended by thousands of balloons. The film had a budget of $175 million, yet brought in over $731 million at the box office. With financial success like that, you could buy 4 Tanakas and have enough change left over to buy everyone on the Yankees their own copy of UP.
4 Justin Bieber
Ok, so the Yankees aren’t a bunch of 12 year old girls (Fire away Boston fans). Yet, managers are always looking for a way to motivate their teams and fire them up before heading out on the field. What better way to clear grown men out of a dressing room - and keep it clear – than having Justin Bieber in it. In all seriousness, it is not unheard of for famous and popular singers to give private concerts for a small fortune. Kanye West, Jay-Z, Beyonce and Christina Aguilera, to name a few, have all been known to put on private shows for VIPs and the rich. These concerts can range from a few hundred thousand per song to millions for an hour or two of entertainment.
In the case of Bieber, the Canadian pop-star has done private engagements for around a million dollars. In Tanaka-money, that equates to 175 hours of the ‘Beebs.’ That’s over 7 straight days of Justin’s greatest hits. Still not sold? Imagine putting ‘Boyfriend’ on repeat and listening to it 3150 times, non-stop.
3 M1A2 Abrams Tanks
What better way to crush your opposition on the way to an American League pennant than with tank support. The M1A2 Abrams is the current frontline tank of the US military. It is considered to be one of the best all-around tanks, having demonstrated its capabilities in Iraq on more than one occasion. With advanced armor, high-tech sensors and electronics, a 1500hp turbine engine and armed with a 120mm cannon and multiple machine guns, the Abrams is an advanced and very capable military vehicle.
With $175 million, you could buy 20 of the $8.6 million M1A2 Abrams and have $3 million left over. Don’t make plans with that money yet. Considering the Abrams gets about 0.6 miles-per-gallon, you’re going to need that ‘spare change’ for fuel.
2 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM)
Tanks not good enough? Instead of taking on Tanaka’s contract, the Yankees could become (with US Government approval) a world nuclear power. Currently, the main ICBM of the US military is the Minuteman III. This missile was first deployed in 1970 and has undergone a number of modernizations over the years. With a range of over 8000 miles, this ICBM flies at 15,000mph and can put its warhead within 200 meters of its target. Initially costing $7 million a-piece, the Minuteman III was armed with multiple nuclear warheads. Today, the missile is armed with a single nuclear warhead.
Considering upgrade programs and inflation, a Minuteman will run you around $50 million each. Add in warheads and the cost rises to around $58 million per missile. At this price you could have 1 Tanaka or 3 fully armed and upgraded Minuteman III ICBMs. Of course, the next question becomes; where the heck do you store them?
1 A Castle
Designed for newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, Hearst Castle is one of the most impressive mansions in the world. With 56 bedrooms and 61 bathrooms, the buildings which make up this impressive estate cover over 90,000 sq. ft. The mansion itself is situated on 127 acres of land which includes swimming pools, tennis courts, a zoo, a theatre and even an airfield. After Hearst died in 1951, the property was donated to the state of California, where it is now a historic park. People will likely recognize Hearst Castle from the film The Godfather, where it was used as the setting for the famous scene involving the severed head of a horse.
Hearst Castle is valued at approximately $165 million. Of course, buying it may be impossible because of its status as a state historic park. If you’re a Yankee, real estate is a good investment, and Hearst Castle could accommodate most of the team and its support staff. At only $165 million, there would be money left over to fund a small army of chauffeurs, maids, butlers and cooks – or just use A-Rod. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to make the State of California an offer it couldn’t refuse?