It’s quaint to remember that just 20 years ago, the idea of paying a guy $30 million over a five year period for baseball was considered a high price. Today, that’s practically chump change. While fans can grouse over it, the fact remains that an athlete can gain a huge salary in baseball thanks to the work of agents and some good clout. Many a team is willing to hand it out for a promising player as too many have felt the pain of not wanting to pay the price only to watch a future superstar slip away. It also works for veterans with teams willing to shell out big to keep them on, not just for their success but the name value they bring to fans.
However, some contracts in baseball just aren’t worth it. Too many times has a team paid out a huge price for a guy who never lives up to his potential or his past production. Others pay big cash for players who sadly are no longer the stars they once were. And in a few cases, a team find themselves paying millions for a guy who never even plays at all. It’s not helped by how some teams (like the Rays) do sudden deals to unload guys but take on a worse player instead. Right now, here are the worst contract investments for every team in MLB and shows how much of a risk it can be paying out the right prices for guys.
30 Arizona Diamondbacks: Yasmany Tomas
Zack Greinke is close to making this spot with his $34 million per year deal. However, in terms of payoff, Yasmany Tomas may be worse. He was signed on in 2014 for a huge $68.5 million deal and spent time in the minors.
He wasn’t bad in 2016 with a .272 batting average, 30 doubles, 31 home runs, and 83 RBIs. But he missed 2017 due to surgery and in April of 2018 was sent to Triple-A Reno.
Thus, even if the Diamondbacks put him on waivers, they still have to pay out $45 million of the contract for a minor league player, making this a horrific deal.
29 Atlanta Braves: Brandon McCarthy
Part of the players signed on thanks to the Matt Kemp trade, McCarthy is also the only one besides Nick Marakis who’s still with the Braves. His contract was a surprising one given he was a decade-old veteran of 35 when he was acquired. That meant Atlanta having to balance out the 4-year $45 million deal McCarthy made with the Dodgers, meaning he’s making about $11.5 million this year. That is utterly ridiculous considering he missed July and August due to leg issues.
Worse is that McCarthy has already announced he’s going to retire after 2018 but thanks to the contract, the Braves will still pay him $7 million next year. That’s right, Atlanta still has to shell out big bucks for a guy in retirement.
28 Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis
He’s had some good years such as leading MLB in home runs in 2013 and ’15. But overall, Chris Davis has been baffling Orioles fans for years on his plush contract. No one believed it when Baltimore signed him in 2015 to a huge contract of $161 million for seven years. Given that Davis was already showing signs of slowing down offensively, that huge price was ridiculous.
It’s been proven right as Davis has gotten even worse since. His average in 2018 has been around .150 and his strikeouts totals continue to climb. He’s already been benched and even if Baltimore cons someone into taking him, they still have to keep paying him out until 2023 to make this contract one of the worst in baseball.
27 Boston Red Sox: David Price
Had this been last year, Pablo Sandoval would have taken this spot. Even as he’s been released, the Red Sox are still paying him $45 million for him to play with the Giants. Thus, David Price has to pick up the slack.
Paying $30 million a year for a pitcher in his 30s is a huge risk although to be fair, Price has been good in 2018.
However, it’s nowhere near worth the huge price Boston is shelling out, money that could be better used for some newer guys. Price isn’t as worthless as some on this list but not as much as Boston is paying him.
26 Chicago Cubs: Jason Heyward
It’s hard to hate Jason Heyward. One of the first things he did when he signed his 8-year $164 million contract with the Cubs was to use that cash to get hotel suites for old friend David Ross and his family for all of the Cubs’ road trips in 2016. Indeed, he’s cited as one of the nicest guys in the majors. But that doesn’t make up for his rough play. He was injured in 2017 to cut down on his offense and while bouncing back in ’18, it’s not the same.
Taking up so much of the payroll of a top team makes this a bad contract no matter how good a guy Heyward is.
25 Chicago White Sox: James Shields
The White Sox are currently in a “rebuilding” mode so they’re being more careful with their money. That’s a smart move given how James Shields ranks as their biggest waste of cash. It may be only $21 million so far since he was traded from the Padres but Shields is a disaster as a pitcher.
His 2018 record (as of mid September) has been 6-16 with a 4.58 ERA and easily giving up RBIs and home runs. The 36-year-old claims he can go another three seasons but few believe he’s worth this cost.
24 Cincinnati Reds: Homer Bailey
The Reds have a tendency to do what it takes to keep guys no matter how long in the tooth they might be. Which is the only logical explanation why they signed Homer Bailey to a $105 million deal in 2015.
He was a good pitcher at that point with a pair of no-hitters but he was already sinking in 2015 and has gotten worse.
His 2018 campaign has been an unmitigated disaster: 1-7 with a 6.68 ERA before he was put on the disabled list.
He then lost 9 straight before being put on the bench. But the Reds are still going to be paying him $21 million this year and $23 million next year, making Bailey probably the best paid bad pitcher in the majors.
23 Cleveland Indians: Jason Kipnis
The Indians don’t have too many truly horrible “what are they thinking” contracts. That’s paid off with their great success in the last few years. Thus, Kipnis is the closest but even then, it made sense to shell out big bucks for two-time All-Star. He signed a six-year $52 million deal in 2014 and did do his best to live up to it.
The last season, however, has seen Kipnis hampered by injuries that’s led to a low batting average and not much in the field. Last season saw Cleveland trying to shop him out and it’s likely they’ll try again to offset the contract cost.
22 Colorado Rockies: Ian Desmond
This doesn’t look quite as terrible as last year but still rough. Signing Desmond to a five-year $70 million contract in 2017 got eyebrows raised across Colorado. Sure, the guy was an All-Star but not exactly worth such a high cost. That he had to sit out much of the season due to injury made it worse. So far, Desmond is better in 2018 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI. However, that’s still not enough to justify this massive cost. The Rockies could use that money much better on a guy with more promise as Desmond just doesn’t do enough to earn his salary.
21 Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
Already a World Champion when he joined the Tigers in 2008, Miguel Caberra was a terrific hitter, winning the Triple Crown in 2012 and back-to-back AL MVP.
In 2014, the Tigers were so desperate to keep him on that they made a huge deal that basically adds up to just under $300 million for ten years.
To shell out that much for anyone is crazy, let alone a guy getting long in the tooth. That was proven as 2017 saw his offense limited due to back issues. It got worse this year as Caberra went out in June with a biceps injury that ended his season. Yet the Tigers are still committed to shelling out tens of millions for the next several years for the guy, a colossal waste of money that could be better used. It shows once more how paying too much for a veteran can backfire.
20 Houston Astros: Tony Sipp
The brilliance of the Astros in the last few years has been their careful use of money to get the right players. That paid off by winning the World Series in 2017 and thus avoiding some bad contracts. So the closest you can get currently is Tony Sipp. He was resigned in 2015 for a three-year $18 million contract, not too huge but still something. He had a 0-1 record with 5.79 ERA in 2017, not a great contributor.
He’s been 2-1 this year, again nothing too impressive. It seems likely he’ll try to get a bigger deal next year but up in the air. Again, it shows how savvy the Astros are with money that this ranks as their worst investment.
19 Kansas City Royals: Ian Kennedy
It baffled many in Kansas City when the Royals signed Ian Kennedy on in 2016 to a five-year $70 million contract. The man was just coming off a terrible year in San Diego, 9-15 and so giving up so much right after the Royals had won the World Series was confusing. While he started okay at 11-11, it’s been downhill since. His 2018 record is 1-8, clearly showing his age and nothing like the man who led the league in strikeouts in 2011. Yet KC is going to be on the hook to him for millions, a truly bad move by the team.
18 Los Angeles Angels: Albert Pujols
Let’s be clear on this: Albert Pujols is likely going to be in the Hall of Fame. The 2001 NL Rookie of the Year was a star for St. Louis, a 10-time All-Star, 3-time NL MVP and two World championships. No one can deny his past accolades. But the past is the past and frankly, Pujols is past his prime. The Angels signed him on in 2012 to a 10-year $254 million deal, a huge blockbuster.
Sadly, Pujols just hasn’t been worth it, lacking the spark and power he once possessed.
This is a team that has Mike Trout but rather than surround him with promising talent, they have to continue to shell out tens of millions to a guy who should be looking to retirement rather than riding his past glory.
17 Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp
He doesn’t have the highest contract for the Dodgers (that would be Clayton Kershaw) but Kemp isn’t exactly worth his huge price. What’s crazy is that this is a deal made in 2012, 8 years for $160 million. Since then, Kemp has been traded back and forth throughout the league before the Dodgers finally grabbed him again late last year. They hoped it would be a bonus for the relief tax but it hasn’t panned out that way.
Kemp’s on field contributions have been limited and he’s cutting into the salary that L.A. can use to land better players. It’s a bizarre situation in many ways and yet seems to sum up the Dodgers pretty well.
16 Miami Marlins: Wei-Yin Chen
The Marlins made a huge deal in late 2017 of dealing away a lot of players, cutting down on huge salaries and boasting of “declaring war” on guys who they owed money to. That included outraging fans by giving away Giancarlo Stanton on the grounds of not being able to afford him. That just makes it more galling that they’ve still got Chen. The supposed sensation has been a poor pitcher, his 2018 record 6-10 with 4.72 ERA. Because of that, no team is willing to trade for him, meaning the Marlins are stuck with the $80 million deal the previous regime signed Chen onto in 2016.
15 Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun
The 2007 Rookie of the Year and NL MVP in 2011, Ryan Braun was a capable hitter in his prime. However, that was a while ago and like many in his mid-30’s, he’s on the downslide of his career.
However, the Brewers feel a loyalty to their long-time star, which explains his five year $105 million contract.
While Braun is showing some good signs in 2018, it still doesn’t make it better for Milwaukee to keep paying him so much rather than younger players to invest in.
Loyalty is well and good but Braun just isn’t worth his current price.
14 Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer
Here’s another case of a team paying a guy thanks to his loyalty. Having joined the Twins in 2004, Mauer has been a consistently good player, a six-time All-Star, three-time AL batting champion, the 2009 MVP and three Golden Glove awards. So they felt good giving him an eight-year $184 million deal in 2010. Sadly, Mauer’s output has been limited by injuries that have cut majorly into his hitting.
He can still make some good plays but nowhere near the snap and drive he once had. He’s now talking of retiring after this year to make this investment a huge waste the Twins could have used for other players.
13 New York Mets: David Wright
Who else but the Mets could be paying out a huge contract to a guy without even knowing if he’d take the field? In 2012, after several All-Star seasons, the Mets signed Wright to a new deal of $138 million over seven years. No sooner was it signed than Wright’s career took a downturn. He’s been hit with numerous injuries, including sitting out all of 2017 thanks to back and neck issues.
It’s gotten to the point where he’ll make one appearance and then retire yet still collect almost $50 million over the last two years without taking the field. At least he’ll clear space once he’s gone but it still ranks as a terrible investment for the Mets.
12 New York Yankees: Jacoby Ellsbury
It’s well known the Yankees have a player salary bigger than the GNP of some counties. Thus, it’s very easy for them to get a bad contract investment going. Right now, Jacoby Ellsbury has to be it.
After winning two World Series with the Red Sox, Ellsbury signed with their hated rivals in 2013 to a seven-to-eight year deal worth up to $170 million.
However, pinstripes haven’t been as good to Ellsbury as his hitting and fielding have suffered. Worse is several injuries, including being out for all of 2018. Yet he’s still earned $27 million for the year and likely more to make this a truly bad move for the Yankees.
11 Oakland Athletics: Santiago Casilla
Say what you will about the whole “Moneyball” thing but it has allowed the A’s to avoid truly horrific contract investments. Their entire team salary is $70 million, less than some teams pay for just a couple of players. So to narrow it down, let’s pick Santiago Casilla. He signed a two-year deal with the A's in 2017 for $11 million. His output was extremely poor with a terrible record before being cut in June of 2018 to go to the Rockies. Sure, it’s not as much as others but paying out to a guy they cut just a year later is a truly poor investment at any price.
10 Philadelphia Phillies: Tommy Hunter
Philadelphia has made a few odd moves in the last few years but their contract for Tommy Hunter is confusing. Since 2008, he’s played for the Rangers, Orioles, Cubs, Indians and the Orioles again. None were anything special, a good pitcher but hardly a huge one. Which is why it’s baffling in 2018 that the Phillies shelled out nearly $20 million to add him to the bullpen.
They already have Jake Arrieta and other good pitchers; they don’t need Hunter. Yet the Phillies are handing out a big tag for a guy whose 4-2 record in 2018 hardly points to a future star.
9 Pittsburgh Pirates: Ivan Nova
The Pirates are another team in the rebuilding mode and so are careful with their contracts. However, Ivan Nova has to rank as a bit of a waste in his investment. After good time with the Yankees, he joined the Pirates in 2016.
In 2017, he landed a three-year $26 million contract. He hasn’t exactly been worth it, his 2018 record being under .500 at 8-9 with a 4.17 ERA.
The Pirates had a lot of potential in much promising players and could be using this money a bit better as Nova is hardly sparking considering his price.
8 San Diego Padres: Eric Hosmer
It’s well known how frugal the Padres can be. This is a team whose stadium boasts seats for just ten bucks. However, their decision to sign on Eric Hosmer is proving to be a waste of cash so far. The man was a star for the Royals, part of their 2015 World Series team and four Golden Glove awards. In 2018, Hosmer signed an eight-year, $144 million deal that so far hasn’t exactly paid off. His average has been around .250 and while he’s had 17 home runs, it seems the California air has affected his game.
To be fair, he’s shown some improvement but still not paying off as much as the Padres hoped. For a team so careful with cash, splurging this much on a star for little return looks to be a bad deal.
7 San Francisco Giants: Mark Melancon
In Pittsburgh, Mark Melancon was a great star, leading the NL in saves and the Reliever of the year. So little wonder the Giants, hoping to beef their bullpen back up, signed him on in 2017 to a four-year, $62 million contract. He went 1-2 with 4.50 ERA before having to go on the disabled list.
Melancon has pitched in limited innings, as he’s been recovering from elbow surgery. It looks like the man’s best years are behind him, another case of a pitcher paying the price for years of hard throwing. Which means San Francisco is going to have to keep paying a huge contract for a guy whose future is truly uncertain.
6 Seattle Mariners: Robinson Cano
Before the season began, Felix King might have been the Mariner’s biggest investment letdown. But Robinson Cano managed to top him in spectacular fashion.
After an All-Star career with the Yankees that included a World Series win and five Silver Slugger Awards, Cano signed with Seattle in 2013 for a ten-year, $240 million contract.
He has been okay with a 2017 All-Star season despite some injuries. However, in 2018, Cano was suspended for 80 games while injured. So Seattle is shelling out huge money for a guy with a tainted reputation and injuries which has to top the bad investment list.
5 St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright
The Cardinals have always had a thing for loyalty to their stars. They’ve shown it over the years, paying out big bucks to make sure anyone from Stan Musial to Ozzie Smith didn’t jump ship. Adam Wainwright is a good example, the man a two-time World Champion and twice leading the NL in wins. So it made sense in 2014 for St. Louis to extend his contract five years for $97.5 million.
He’s been okay but not quite the ace he was. It’s worse as he’s had to sit out much of 2018 due to injuries and talk of retirement coming. So for St. Louis to pay out that much shows how their love of a player can cloud their judgement.
4 Tampa Bay Rays: Kevin Kiermaier
It’s been a pretty chaotic year for the Rays. First, they dumped the waste that was Evan Longoria’s contract. But then they decided to take on Denard Span instead. They managed to unload him to the Mariners but it still cost them and followed that up by dumping Chris Archer to the Pirates. Thus, it’s become a lot harder to tell the worst investment for the Rays.
Right now, it would have to be Kevin Kiermaier, signed to a six-year deal for $53 million. He’s just been so-so right now and not exactly looking a star in the making. Injuries aren’t helping and it shows how Tampa is taking the “rebuilding” motif to new heights this season.
3 Texas Rangers: Elvis Andrus
Shin-Soo Choo has actually been showing good promise this year as an All-Star and thus no longer the worst investment on the team. That would instead have to go to Elvis Andrus. After a couple of good seasons, Andrus signed an eight-year, $120 million extension in 2013. However, his tenure since hasn’t exactly warranted such a high price. He had career lows in hitting in 2015 and a terrible performance in the playoffs.
He bounced back but has spent much of 2018 on the bench with an arm injury.
The Rangers are trying to get back in contention but Andrus is taking up cash that could be used to grab some more productive players.
2 Toronto Blue Jays: Russell Martin
Toronto is of course no strange to some truly bad deals. Fans have long become used to them making horrible decisions in personnel. Yet the Russel Martin contract still has to rank high. In 2014, they signed the catcher on for a five-year, $82 million contract. He’s been mostly okay but it’s sunk lower and lower each year, not helped by injuries. His 2018 output has been a terrible an average under .200.
Good thing he’s got about $21 million this year, thanks to the Blue Jays’ bad deal.
1 Washington Nationals: Matt Wieters
It’s always a bad idea to make a hasty decision when signing a contract. The Nationals are learning that the hard way with Matt Wieters. After an All-Star run with the Orioles, Wieters entered free agency in 2017. Thinking he could be an impact player, the Nationals signed him on for a one-year $10.5 million deal with an additional $10 million in 2018.
He hasn’t exactly been setting them on fire, his play only so-so and 2018 hampered by injuries so he only appeared in 66 games. Yet the Nationals are on the hook for $21 million for a backup catcher, a deal poor by even their standards.