Setting aside the deal for Pujols, teams have gotten smarter about the arc of a typical player's career and when it's best to invest. John Dewan, the founder of Baseball Info Solutions, which provides data analysis to major-league clubs, said an offensive player's value peaks at 26 to 27 and remains fairly steady for the next five years. The decline begins at 32 and then accelerates after 35 (a pitcher's career is less age-dependent and harder to predict).
Given those numbers, logic dictates that investing in great young players during their early years of free agency makes economic sense. And the money is there: As baseball's overall revenues surpass $7 billion, each team stands to receive about $40 million from the league's central fund, a figure likely to rise in 2014 after baseball signs a series of new national-television deals. Revenue sharing also redistributes tens of millions more from the game's richest clubs to its poorest.