What makes a professional baseball player a sellout? Is it when they sign a ridiculously large contract that basically sets them up for the rest of their career without worrying about the team that is offering? Or is it taking an easier route to the postseason by heading to the New York Yankees where you will not only make a lot of money, but you just might get lucky and be a part of an All-Star lineup en route to a World Series title?
Could it be signing with the New York Yankees after spending your entire career in Boston playing for the Red Sox, their hated rivals?
Most MLB players make more money than you can imagine, especially the superstars and the ones that play for the team with the bottomless salary bank, the New York Yankees. But when the moment arises and the offer is put on the table, it is very hard for a person to walk away from the largest offer even if it is coming from New York.
15 Ichiro Suzuki (2-years, $13 million)
Ichiro Suzuki is one of the greatest singles hitter in major league history. He lead the Majors in hitting, every year, between 2006 and 2010. He even helped Seattle win 116 games in 2001 and 93 games in each of the next two seasons. His ability to get on-base was key to the success of the team and their chances of competing in the American League.
But after having spent 12 seasons in Seattle, Ichiro was in need of a new home. He had offers from many teams but none of them could compete with the Yankees offer of $13 million. The 38-year old hitting guru just could not resist that much money at his age so he signed and ended up playing for the Bronx Bombers for three years before leaving for Miami.
It isn't the easiest thing to say about such a loyal guy such as Ichiro but the moment he signed with New York was the moment he became another sellout to the rest of the league.
14 Kevin Youkilis (1-year, $12 million)
Between 2004 and 2012, Kevin Youkilis was one of the best players in baseball at getting on-base. Although his batting average only surpassed the .300 point mark three times in his career, he managed to consistently remain around .400 when it came to getting on base and that is just as important as hitting doubles and triples.
But after spending nine years with the Boston Red Sox (they also drafted him), Kevin was traded to the Chicago White Sox before he was granted his free agency at the end of the 2012 season. By the end of 2012, Youkilis did something that Red Sox fans will never forgive him for, he signed with the Yankees, for $12 million. It was the moment fans remembered that anyone can be bought, if the price is right.
13 Wade Boggs (3-years, $11 million)
If the Yankees signing of Kevin Youkilis bothers you, then be prepared for some more disappointment as he wasn't the first former Red Sox player to become a Yankee. In fact, Wade Boggs is not even the first Hall of Famer to do so, Babe Ruth was technically the first one to sellout to play in New York.
However, Wade Boggs was different. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska and went to high school in Tampa, Florida. He was drafted right out of high school by the Red Sox and by the time he turned 24, he was their starting third baseman. He was an eight-time All-Star in Boston, as well as a six-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and five-time American League batting champion.
He had the choice between the Los Angeles Dodgers or the New York Yankees and all it took to convince him was that extra year on his contract, not to mention that $11 million price tag which would be almost double that amount in today's league.
12 Carl Pavano (4-years, $40 million)
Just because the New York Yankees offer a player millions of dollars does not necessarily guarantee that they will be able to sign him nor does that make a person a sellout. Carl Pavano signed with the Yankees in 2004 for four years and around $40 million dollars, which was not the biggest offer he had received that year. The Red Sox, Reds, and even the Detroit Tigers made offers to him worth much more than that one, yet he shunned them for the pinstripes and the Big Apple.
Take a look at their roster heading into the 2005 season and you will understand how selling out isn't always about the money. He went to the Yankees because they had Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams, Gary Sheffield, and Jason Giambi in their starting lineup. He took the road more traveled and paved in gold.
11 Brian McCann (5-years, $85 million)
Before signing with the Yankees, Brian McCann was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger with the Atlanta Braves, as a catcher. He was the hottest free agent catcher of the 2013 off-season and yet he still decided to sign with the path of least resistance, the New York Yankees.
If you look at all of the league's best players of the past 25 years, you will see a majority of them go to New York, if not just for the money, for the fame and power of saying you played for the Yankees. Do they even realize that there are another 29 teams in baseball?
Brian's stay in New York ended when they traded him to the Houston Astros just a few weeks ago.
10 A.J. Burnett (5-years, $82.5 million)
From 1999 to 2008, A.J. Burnett played for the Florida Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays while putting up an 87-76 record, 3.81 ERA, 1,278 strikeouts, 9 shutouts, and 19 complete games. He finished in the top ten in strikeouts, three different seasons before signing his mega-deal with the Yankees.
But A.J. is one of those guys that was always talented, he just never reached his true potential and that was what the Yankees were banking on when they opened up the bank to sign him, along with a few other big name stars, to create a powerful, rotation heading into the following season, 2009.
Once again, the Yankees dangled the fruit in front of the horse and they got exactly who they wanted, beating out everyone else.
9 Gary Sheffield (3-years $38 million)
Brian Cashman, up until the last two seasons, has become one of the most hated men in New York because he figured out a way to turn a championship team into one that has missed the playoffs in three of the last four years and, since 2004, has allowed the Boston Red Sox to win three World Series titles. He did it by focusing on the big names instead of the best. Brian Cashman was signing almost every big name free agent he could land, giving them just about whatever they wanted, just so he could build a superficial dream team without considering that it does not work that way.
Gary Sheffield became another sellout when Cashman dangled a nearly $40 million contract his way in December of 2004, just days after he turned 35 years old. It was one of those head scratching contracts that did nothing more than remind folks just how rich the Yankees were and just how much these longtime veterans All-Stars wanted to cash in on their previous success. Even with Gary hitting 36 home runs with 121 RBI and 34 home runs with 123 RBI in his first two years in New York, it does not change the fact that he took the money over all else.
8 Mike Mussina (6-years, $88.5 million)
After he signed with the New York Yankees, he was asked about his decision making process and Mike Mussina replied by saying, "It just came down to who really seemed to want me on their team the most."
Although he has almost always had a relatively high ERA, compared to the rest of his numbers, Mike Mussina was one of the best pitchers in baseball for many years putting up 15 or more wins 11 different times throughout his career. He also pitched deep into games, and finished with 57 complete games and 23 shutouts.
But all of his stats mean very little when he comes out and says that he went with the team he felt wanted him the most. If he honestly believed that, good for him. However, being given $88.5 million dollars to play for the Yankees, when no one else could afford that much, means he went to the highest bidder, a trend among sellouts in MLB history.
7 Jason Giambi (7-years, $120 million)
It's tough for a Major League Baseball star to leave the team he began his career with, in order to earn that huge payout or win a World Series. Jason Giambi knew that if he stayed in Oakland, he was selling himself short and lowering his overall value to the league because they could not afford to pay him the money that the rest of the league was going to throw his way after the 2001 season.
After all, he was the American League MVP when he was still in Oakland, in 2000. So, even though the fans knew it, they were still upset the moment he announced he was going to sign with the Yankees for the largest contract that season. He could have lead the Athletics to a World Series but the moment the Yankees offered him nine figures over seven years, it was a done deal for the former MLB sellout.
6 CC Sabathia (7-years, $161 million)
CC Sabathia signed his first MLB contract after being drafted 20th overall in the 1998 draft by the Cleveland Indians. The left-handed phenom spent eight years with the Indians where he quickly became one of the toughest pitchers in baseball. He won 106 games with the Indians while holding a 3.83 ERA and throwing 1,265 strikeouts. So by the time he was a free agent, in 2009, he was one of the hottest free agents of the season.
For some reason, baseball fans are split over whether or not CC Sabathia sold out to sign with the Yankees in 2009 for seven-years and $161 million, which was the biggest contract ever for a pitcher at the time. The ones who don't think so, of course, are Yankee fans. They will argue about is future potential, pitching talents, blah, blah, blah...
The Yankees weren't the only team to chase after him in 2009 but they were the only one to give him seven years and $161 million.
5 Roger Clemens (1-year, $28 million)
Roger Clemens threw a baseball like he was angry at it and he wanted it to die in the catcher's mitt. He had one of the best pitching mechanics in all of baseball and he used his techniques to deliver one of the best fastballs in baseball history. It didn't hurt that he had probably the nastiest split-finger fastball the sport has ever seen. It is like throwing a 98mph fastball that sinks just as it gets to home plate. That's not even fair.
He did not become a sellout until he signed with the Yankees in 2007, when he was 44 years old, because he not only received almost a $30 million contract for one season, he was granted permission to not travel with the team for road games unless he was scheduled to pitch. Even then, he would only show up to pitch and then leave. His preferential treatment, on top of the one year contract, put him in a negative light before he retired the following season.
4 Carlos Beltran (3-years, $45 million)
Carlos Beltran could have played for another team for about $3 million more than the three-year, $45 million contract that the Yankees were offering him but he declined and signed with New York, at the age of 37. He was coming off consecutive seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals that were considered his best since 2006 when he was playing for the New York Mets before making the choice to sign with the Yankees in 2013.
Unfortunately, much like most baseball players that spend most of their careers playing for multiple teams, owners begin to lose respect for them, regardless of talent, each time they sign with someone else. Loyalty is a big deal to MLB team management and Beltran obviously has none. He started off in Kansas City before taking big money to play for the Mets. He then ended up signing with the Cardinals before finally landing in New York again, simply looking for the most money each time.
3 Jacoby Ellsbury (7-years, $153 million)
The Boston Red Sox used their 23rd pick in the first round of the 2005 MLB Draft to select Jacoby Ellsbury, the outfielder from Oregon State. By 2007, he was making his debut in a Red Sox uniform. Before long, he was finishing second in AL MVP voting after an amazing 2011 season where he hit 32 home runs, 105 RBI, 46 doubles, 119 runs, 212 hits, and had 39 stolen bases while hitting .321 at the plate.
Just like our next entry, Ellsbury decided to become the second Red Sox centerfielder to bolt the town for the spotlights of Broadway. Many other teams tried to sign Jacoby but none of them had the lure of New York, or the money. For whatever the reasons, Jacoby left the team he had won two World Series titles and signed with the only team that would have made him a sellout, the Yankees.
2 Johnny Damon (4-years, $52 million)
If not for our next entry, Johnny Damon would be in the top spot on the list of sellouts that have signed with the New York Yankees. He started off in Kansas City and played there for six seasons before being traded to Oakland in 2001. After he spent one year in California, he headed to Boston where he played four seasons with them while becoming one of the most beloved players in the city. He was becoming a legend in Boston, adored by millions.
In May of 2005, Johnny Damon went out of his way to discuss his upcoming free agency following the 2005 season and said, "There's no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they're going to come after me hard. It's definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It's not what I need."
He signed with the New York Yankees on January 3, 2006 for $52 million. Damon would even cut his hair and shave his bear to abide by team policy.
1 Alex Rodriguez (10-years, $275 million)
Alex Rodriguez was such an amazingly talented baseball player growing up that he was selected first overall in the 1993 Major League Baseball Draft by the Seattle Mariners and was given a three-year deal worth $1.3 million with a signing bonus of $1 million. He made his debut the following year and by 1996, at 20 years old, he became their everyday starting shortstop. But then he was a free agent in 2001 and he decided to leave for Texas where he signed for a 10-year deal valued at $252 million, the largest in sports history at the time. Texas traded him to New York in 2004 and by 2007, he was a free agent.
It was during the off-season in 2007 that he would decide to return to the Yankees, only this time, for 10-years and $275 million more dollars. He could have gone anywhere but he has never turned down the highest bidder. He could have taken less money to play anywhere else and win a few World Series titles by now but he decided to suck up the majority of the Yankees payroll and force them to build a team around him of older, veteran players.