Agents will recommend, and players accept, pillow contracts based on the condition of the market or of the player himself.
Leave it to Scott Boras, who sets the bar for agents in so many ways, to come up with a working definition of "pillow contract."
"Basically," Boras says, "you lay down, it's comfortable, it's soft, it's there. But it's not with you all the time. That's a one-year contract. Your pillow ... you leave it, you come back, it's there. Short-term, you use it for a little bit, then you move on."
A couple of last season's top-notch closers, Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero, both accepted pillow deals as the free-agent market started to dry up. So did Grady Sizemore, who had played out his six-year, $24 million pact in Cleveland mostly beset by injuries.
With a solid, healthy 2012, those three, as well as other veterans on one-year contracts, could bank on this mission to re-establish their market values.
Nobody did it better than Beltre. He was in a weak negotiating position in 2009 following an eight-homer, 44-RBI wrap of a five-year, $64 million deal with the Mariners -- signed off a 48-homer season for the Dodgers.
Beltre was the perfect pillow candidate. He spent one season in Boston, for $9 million. And he became the perfect pillow profiteer: He had a .321-28-102 Silver Slugger season for the Red Sox, then signed a five-year, $80 million deal with Texas.
Carl Pavano did a nice bit of re-invention, too. Remember his sordid, tarnishing tenure under his four-year deal with the Yankees, for whom he delivered a total of nine wins for $40 million? He humbly took a $1.5 million deal with Cleveland in 2009, won 14 for the Indians and Twins and stepped up to another one-year deal for $7 million, and from there to a two-year, $16.5 pact.
The gambit misfires just as often.
It did for Derrek Lee, who upon expiration of a five-year, $65 million package signed a 2011 contract for $7.25 million -- and is still without a deal for 2012.
And for Hawpe, who a year ago signed a $3 million contract in the aftermath of his three-year, $17.5 million pact. Hawpe recently accepted a Minor League deal from the Rangers.
By this time of the offseason, with Spring Training less than four weeks away, virtually everyone remaining on the market becomes a pillow-contract nominee. The next prominent free agent to lay his head down may be Edwin Jackson, or Roy Oswalt.
A look at some other recent pillow-contracts that worked:
Ivan Rodriguez, 2003: $10 million, after a five-year, $43 million deal, leading to a four-year, $40 million deal.
Coco Crisp, 2011: $5.25 million, after a three-year, $16 million deal, leading to a two-year, $14 million deal.
Bobby Abreu, 2009: $5 million, after a five-year, $64 million deal, leading to a two-year, $19 million deal.
Kyle Lohse, 2008: $4.25 million as a first-time free agent, leading to 15 wins and a four-year, $41 million deal.
Aubrey Huff, 2010: $3 million, after consecutive three-year deals for a total of $35 million, leading to a two-year, $22 million deal.
Brett Myers, 2010: $5.1 million, after a three-year, $26 million deal, leading to a two-year, $23 million deal.
And some others that did not turn out as well:
Mark Kotsay, 2009: $1.5 million, after a three-year, $16 million deal, followed by other one-year deals for $800,000 and $1.25 million.
Austin Kearns, 2010: $750,000, after a three-year, $18 millon deal, followed by a $1.3 million deal.
Jason Giambi, 2009: $4 million, after his seven-year, $120 million payday with the Yankees, followed by one-year contracts of $1.75 million and back-to-back $1 million deals.
Doug Davis, 2010: $5.25 million, after a three-year, $22 million deal, followed by a $900,000 deal and current unemployment.
Troy Glaus, 2010: $1.75 million, after a four-year, $45 million deal, leading to no offers and forced retirement at age 34.