Getting rich is never easy. It takes a lot of hard work. From sports players, it takes a lot of hard work early in their life. While other kids are playing video games, and eating ice cream, kids that are serious about being athletes are practicing their form, increasing their stamina, and improving their conditioning.
However, there are people who stop working as hard once they do get rich. While sporting contracts are set up so that rookies and young players can’t cash in for exactly what they’re worth, young professional athletes usually have a great work ethic, and part of the incentive is to get a lot more money in their first un-inhibited contract.
There are cases where, once that first contract is cashed in on though, the work ethic falters and the players productivity doesn’t match the contract.
But what exactly are we talking about there. Surely not the literal sense of Players who Got Paid and Stopped Trying, but rather, players who got paid and their stats didn’t meet their contract.
What are the factors? Number of years played after big contract. Statistical achievements based against the MLB norm, and against the players past. Also, how many games missed since the contract was signed.
Take a look, and here we go.
15 Andruw Jones
Andruw Jones joined Chipper Jones as the Jones Brothers playing on the Atlanta Braves. Jones was a star in Atlanta. He won 10 Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, the NL Hank Aaron Award, was a five time All-Star, and was the runner-up in the MVP race in 2005. Jones became a free agent in the offseason in 2007 and the Los Angeles Dodgers made a huge push for him. They offered a $36.2 million contract over two years.
Immediately, Jones was awful. In 2008, he batted .158 over 75 games, hitting 3 home runs and 14 RBIs. He had more strike outs (76) than hits (33). His Wins Above Replacement? -1.6. He probably should have been handed the Non-MVP Award for 2008. So disgusted with his performance, the Dodgers didn’t even keep Jones for the entirety of the contract. He went on to play for the White Sox and Yankees—never batting more than .247
14 Ryan Howard
Ryan Howard was the David Ortiz of both the Philadelphia Phillies and of the whole National League. A big bodied first baseman home run basher, Howard became one of the league best offensive players. His 2006 MVP season saw Howard hit over .300 for the only time in his career. He led the league in home runs (58) and RBIs (149) and total bases (383). Two years later, Howard again would lead the league in both HR (48) and RBIs (146), becoming the runner-up in the MVP voting to Albert Pujols whose Wins Above Replacement (9.2) was way beyond Howard’s (1.8).
While Howard became a focal point for a Phillies team that went to two World Series—winning one—he became the figure of what not to do with free agents. Howard wasn’t up for a contract extension until 2012, but in the offseason of 2010 the Phillies decided to extend him five years, starting in the 2012 season. It’s hard to predict what a player will be the next season, much less seven years from now. Howard signed a five year, $125 million contract extension, paying him until the end of 2016.
His numbers declined after that extension. By the time the new contract started, Howard was hitting .219 with 14 HR and 56 RBIs—career lows for a season in which he played more than 70 games at that point.
13 Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols came up in the Major Leagues in 2001. That was in the middle of A-Rod hysteria, the tail end of the steroid era, and the Yankees dominance. But quickly Pujols became the story. He was quickly deemed the St. Louis Cardinals future, and hit .329 with 37 Homers and 130 RBIs. He won Rookie of the Year, became an All-Star, collected a Silver Slugger trophy, and was fourth in MVP voting. With St. Louis, Pujols would go on to win three MVPs (probably deserved three more) and played in three World Series—winning two.
But the fall of 2011 loomed and Pujols became a free agent, and angled to get one of the largest contracts ever. Pujols chose to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, after a war of respect with the Cardinals offering way below market value. Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels. That also includes a million a year after the contract ends, for another 10 years.
Pujols numbers in 2012? A respectable .285 with 30 HR and 105 RBIs. But his numbers only declines—especially with an injury-riddled second season with Anaheim. While Pujols hasn’t “stopped playing” per se, his production isn’t nearly what it was with the Cardinals.
12 Josh Hamilton
Back when the Rays were still the Devil Rays (still one of the craziest superstitions in baseball—Tampa dropped Devil from their name, and were immediately playoff contenders) management drafted a young buck by the name of Josh Hamilton number one overall in the 1999 Amateur Draft. With drug and alcohol problems, Hamilton was banned from MLB for an extended period. Eventually he came back—playing at first for the Cincinnati Reds (he batted .292, 19 HR and 47 RBI). But he became a huge star with the Texas Rangers, winning over the hearts of US Americans during the Yankees Stadium HR Derby.
But change came in the 2012 offseason and Hamilton signed an enormous contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (aka, Orange County’s—not Los Angeles'—baseball team). Hamilton signed a five-year $125 million deal with the Anaheim club. All the major offensive categories slipped for Hamilton--.30 points in his average, down from 43 to 21 HR, and 128 RBIs to 79—though he played three more games in 2013 than he did in 20120.
11 Prince Fielder
Prince Fielder was certainly a cautionary tale for spending big on players who only bring bashing to lineups and not much else. The only player to have consistently contributed only on the offensive end was David Ortiz. Fielder played first base for the Milwaukee Brewers from his first full season in 2006 to 2011. During that time, he led the league in HR (50 in 2007), RBIs (141 in 2009) and Walks (114 in 2010). Having crushed over 40 homers twice and 30+ HR 5 times in his career, the offseason of 2012 looked promising for Prince Fielder's pockets.
The Detroit Tigers came in with a phenomenal deal. Prince signed with Detroit for nine-years and $214 million. That should have meant Fielder was playing with Detroit until the end of 2020. But Fielder didn’t last more than two season with Detroit. While his first year with Detroit was great (.313 BA, 30 HR, 108 RBIs), his second season showed decline (.279/25/106) and that was enough to scare the Tigers. They traded him to the Texas Rangers.
Neither team got better with that deal. The Tigers, who had just been swept by the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 WS, lost in the ALCS to the eventual WS winners, the Boston Red Sox. The Rangers had lost in the take-all AL Wild Card game in 2012 and didn’t make the playoffs in 2013. Meanwhile Fielder’s numbers declined in 2013, ’14 (.247/3/16 in 42 games in 2014), before making a surprise surge in 2015 (.305/23/98). But injuries derailed Prince’s career, ending it during this past offseason.
10 Melvin Upton Jr.
Now choosing to go by Melvin Upton, the former artist known as B.J. Upton was a productive Tampa Bay Devil Ray, then just Ray, along with Carl Crawford in the outfield. Playing his first full season in 2007, Upton put up a pretty good slash line (.300/24/82 along with 22 stolen bases). The name change in 2008 to Tampa Bay Rays didn’t help Upton, as his average, HRs and RBIs all dropped (though he stole a career high 44 SB—leading the league in 16 caught steals). Upton made the World Series with the Rays in 2008, beating WS defending champs, the Boston Red Sox, in 7 games of the ALCS.
In the offseason of 2012, Upton was a free agent. His numbers had been steady for the last four seasons and his 2012 slash line with Tampa was on par with who he’d been (.246/28/78). Even so, Upton was offered a massive contract for his playing ability in the 2012 offseason. The Atlanta Braves gave Upton a 5 year, $72.5 million contract. Upton’s slash line with Atlanta? .184/9/26
9 Jose Reyes
Jose Reyes was the best prospect to come out of the New York Mets farm system in decades. Reyes had a superb rookie season. Not playing more than 53 games in his second season, Reyes’s third season cemented his status as an incredibly asset to the Mets. In 2006, Reyes hit .273 with 7 HRs and 58 RBIs as the leadoff hitter. He stole 60 bases that season, starting a string of three seasons of leading in the league in SBs.
In 10 years with the Mets, Reyes averaged .291 and had an On Base Percentage of .340. His last season with the Mets, he hit .337 and won his first batting title. In the offseason preceding the 2012 season Reyes became a free agent. Reyes signed a six-year $102 million deal with the Miami Marlins. This included a $22 million option for the seventh year.
Reyes wasn’t the same player. His average slipped, as did his stolen bases. He just wasn’t worth the same amount of money he was getting paid. Miami Management traded him to get out from under his contract, and Reyes was moved to the Toronto Blue Jays. They in turn traded him to the Colorado Rockies who traded him back to the Mets.
8 Pablo Sandoval
Kung Fu Panda has never been the third basemen the Red Sox needed, or paid for. Pablo Sandoval was a name to behold in the Bay Area. First appearing in the Majors in 2008 with the San Francisco Giants, Sandoval hit .345. In his first full season, Sandoval was 7th in MVP voting with a slash line of .330/25/90. Sandoval was along for the ride when the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, winning the World Series MVP in 2012. He helped the Giants complete their dominance of the 2010 decade by winning it all in 2014.
Sandoval was constantly criticized for weight issues throughout his entire career with the Giants. Citing their weight management plan as a reason he didn’t sign with the Giants, Sandoval signed with the Boston Red Sox before the 2015 MLB season for $95 million over five years. His stats in 2015: .245/10/47. Even worse he popped a belt off on a missed swing, and had to be taken out of a game due to his conditioning. In 2016, Sandoval only played three games, with zero hits and four strikes out in seven plate appearances. He was injured and missed the rest of the season.
7 Rusney Castillo
Rusney Castillo was a Cuban defector. The Red Sox swooped in, deciding they’d rather have Castillo than Yoenis Cespedes. They gave the young Cuban a seven-year $72.5 million contract. That’s an average salary of $10,357,143. Pretty high pay for a someone who hasn’t even played AA baseball.
Castillo still hasn’t panned out. He looked pretty good in 2014 in his limited (40 PA) showing—he hit .333 over 10 games. But in 2015, he didn’t show signs of being the player the Red Sox paid for. In 80 games, Castillo hit .253/5/29 with 13 walks and 54 strike outs. Castillo had to be taught how to signal to base runners coming home as an on-deck batter. One season later, Castillo only played nine games with a .250/0/0 slash line. Not good. Now Castillo has been Designated For Assignment, but was a non-roster invitee.
6 Mo Vaughn
Before Big Papi there was Mo Vaughn. A big basher, Vaughn hit over 30 home runs five times with the Red Sox. In his eight years in Boston, Vaughn hit .304, 230 HR, and 753 RBIs. He was a four times All-Star and won MVP in the 1995 season when he hit .300/39/126.
The Red Sox still couldn’t break past the Blue Jays or Yankees to get to the World Series and when Vaughn became a free agent in the fall of 1998 the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim snatched him up. Vaughn was given the richest contract in MLB, topping New York Mets’ Mike Piazza. The Angels signed him to a six year $80 million with a seventh-year option.
Vaughn was an immediate success with the Angels, hitting over 30 HRs and 100 RBIs his first two seasons. But in 2001 Vaughn had a major injury and did not play the entire season. In 2002, Vaughn was traded to the Mets. His two season with the Mets, incidentally his last two season, Vaughn hit (in order) .259/26/72 in 139 games, and .190/3/15 in 27 games.
5 Carl Crawford
Crawford was a bright jewel in the Tampa Bay Organization. Coming up with the Devil Rays, Crawford was the biggest farm system prospect before Evan Longoria. With the Rays, Crawford led the league in stolen bases and triples four times. In the 2010 offseason, Crawford was one of the premier free agent options. After getting to the World Series with the Rays, Crawford signed with the seeming perennial postseason contenders, Boston Red Sox.
His first year in Boston, Crawford hit .255/11/56 with only 18 stolen bases. He did better in 2012 hitting .282/3/19 in 31 games before injury ended his season. With Bostonian’s enraged at him and his giant contract, Crawford became part of the trade to the Dodgers including Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzales. For two seasons, it seemed Crawford was back at his Tampa Bay days. But Crawford’s productivity fell hitting .265 and .185 in the last two seasons.
4 Nick Swisher
Nick Swisher came in with the Oakland Athletics at the height of Moneyball era. Never a high average player, Swisher had a high on base percentage, along with big (for the non steroid era) home run numbers and key hits. Swisher quickly earned the reputation of being a smart player. In 2009, the New York Yankees signed Swisher who helped them win their (and Alex Rodriguez’s only) World Series title. Providing clutch hits, Swisher had an excellent four years with the Yankees.
The Cleveland Indians jumped at the chance to signing Swisher, who was finally able to grow a beard after four season with the Yankees. Cleveland was up and coming, but it turns out Swisher wasn’t the player Cleveland thought they were getting. His first season with the Indians, Swisher hit .246/22/63 followed by slash lines of .208/8/42 and .198/2/8 in his next seasons with Cleveland. Not exactly worth the four-year, $56 million contract Cleveland signed him to.
3 Jason Bay
Jason Bay was known as the Pittsburgh Pirates' best prospect in the early 2000s. But in actuality he was San Diego’s best prospect, and the Padres royally screwed themselves when they traded Bay to Pittsburgh. Bay won Rookie of the Year when he qualified for a rookie season in 2004. That season he hit .282, 26 home runs, and 82 RBIs. He was an All-Star his next two seasons and became an immensely popular figure in Pittsburgh.
Bay was traded in the infamous Manny Ramirez trade, provoking questions from Pittsburgh fans about what year the Pirates organization was planning on being good. Pirates fans didn’t have to wait too much longer, about just as long as Bay lasted with the Red Sox. In his half season with the Red Sox, Bay hit .293/9/37, and in his full season with Boston in 2009, he hit .267/36/119. Citing medical reasons the Red Sox battled with Bay about his contract, but left for the New York Mets.
The Mets offered Bay a four-year $66 million contract. His first season in New York, Bay only played 95 games with a slash line of .259/6/47. His next season wasn’t much better, hitting .245/12/57 in 123 games. That was the last time Bay played more than 100 games. His injuries got the better of him and he played only 70 and 68 games in 2012 and 2013, with his average hovering around the Mendoza line.
2 Jason Schmidt
Jason Schmidt is almost literally the definition of a player who got paid and actually stopped playing. Schmidt had figured out a how to pitch at a great MLB level. After six years with Pittsburgh Pirates (with which he had a 4.39 ERA over 799.2 Innings Pitched), Schmidt had a successful six years with the San Francisco Giants. Over 1069.2 IP, Schmidt had a 3.36 ERA, leading the league with a 2.34 ERA in 2003. He was runner up that year for the Cy Young Award.
In the 2006 offseason, Schmidt completed the West Coast equivalent of a Red Sox signing with the Yankees. The Dodgers offered Schmidt a three year, $47 million contract and Schmidt signed it. Schmidt only pitched six games and 25.1 IP with a 6.31 ERA before injury. He missed the entire 2008 season, only to come back in 2009 for 4 games with a 5.60 ERA.
1 Alex Rodriguez
Most famous for his steroid use with the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez was exactly the type of player the Yankees needed from 2004 to 2007. He was an All-Star from 2004 to 2008 and then again for the Yankees for the 10 and 11 seasons. In addition to his MVP with the Rangers in 2003, Rodriguez won the coveted award in 2005 and 2007. Having hit over .300 for the majority of his career, Rodriguez had hit over 50 home runs three times in his career, leading the league each time (and five times total.
By the time Rodriguez opted out of his 10-year contract with the Yankees (A-Rod had signed it in 2000 with Texas) in 2007, he had already solidified himself as one of the best baseball players ever. Though steroid rumors had swirled, they hadn’t actually been proven in the 2007 offseason. The Yankees offered Rodriguez a 10-year, $275 million contract, which he inked immediately.
While A-Rod played out 8 of the 10 seasons of the contract (he missed the 2014 season due to PED violations) he was never the same player as he was before the 2008 season. He hit over .300 only once after the mammoth contract. His RBI numbers fell as did his home run numbers. Safe to say it felt like A-Rod stopped playing after that contract.