If you're fortunate to make a Major League Baseball team and play in the big leagues, you would know that every player gets paid well to either hit the ball between the lines, field ground balls or popups anywhere on the field or throw the ball off a mound to record outs. But most general managers in the past have offered large contract offers to free agents.
The current economical era of MLB began when former MLBPA director Marvin Miller negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players in 1968, which raised the players' yearly salary from $6,000 to $10,000 and paved the way for higher raises.
In 1970, Miller assisted players with their right to arbitration with the goal of resolving grievances. Five years later, he formalized free agency as part of the PA's next bargaining agreement to all players with six years of MLB experience. Marvin Miller may have brought collective bargaining agreements, arbitration, and free agency to pro baseball, but the league lacks a salary cap that can lead to an insanely high contract figure of eight or nine figures! In the 2014 MLB season, the average yearly salary for a player was $3.82 million, which represented the biggest increase since 2001. Let's take a look at a list of 15 MLB players that made too much money.
15 Cliff Lee
The Montreal Expos drafted pitcher Cliff Lee from the University of Arkansas in 2000. Lee began his MLB career with the Cleveland Indians in 2002, as Montreal traded him for pitcher Bartolo Colon. Lee won 83 games over eight seasons along with the 2008 American League Cy Young Award. Lee made 22 starts for the Tribe in 2009 until they traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies in July and had a decent first season in Philly.
Lee played for two AL West teams in 2010, the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. He led the Rangers to their first World Series appearance that year but lost to San Francisco in five games. Lee returned to the City of Brotherly Love to sign a five-year, $120 million contract with the Phillies. Lee struggled in his second stint with the Phils. Despite winning 17 games in 2011 season, he posted a record of 6-9 with a 3.16 ERA in 2012. Lee managed to win 41 games and lost 30 from the 2011-14 seasons with Philadelphia.
14 Vince Coleman
Vince Coleman began his career with the St. Louis Cardinals on April 18, 1985. He stole 110 bases as a rookie for the '85 Cardinals and helped them reach the World Series versus the Kansas City Royals. The Cardinals fell in seven games to Kansas City, but Coleman continued to steal bases year after year, swiping 107 bases in 1986 and 109 in '87. His stolen base totals then dropped to 81 and 65 from 1988 to '89.
Coleman signed a four-year contract with the New York Mets worth nearly $12 million before the 1991 season, but he did not fare well as a Met. Coleman played less than 75 games in '91 and '92, failed to record 30-plus RBIs and stole less than 100 bases in a single season. Coleman requested to leave the Mets, as he faced a felony charge of setting off an explosive that harmed three people in 1993.
13 Barry Zito
Barry Zito began his MLB career as a starting pitcher for the Oakland Athletics in 2000, posting a 7-4 record with a 2.72 earned run average that year. He won 23 games as a 24-year-old with a 2.75 ERA in 35 starts for the 2002 A's, which earned him the American League Cy Young Award. Zito spent seven seasons in Oakland until he inked a seven-year, $126 million deal with their National League rivals, the San Francisco Giants. Zito had a sub-par career in San Francisco, compiling a record of 63-80 over his seven seasons with the Giants, walking a career-high 102 batters in the 2008 season.
Luckily, he earned two World Series rings with the Giants in 2010 and 2012 despite not being on Bruce Bochy's active roster for their first World Series win. Zito finished his career with the Athletics in 2015.
12 Andruw Jones
Andruw Jones began his MLB career with the Atlanta Braves on August 15, 1996. Jones became a solid, all-around player for Atlanta, winning the 2005 NL Silver Slugger Award and ten Gold Gloves. Jones' accomplishments made him an attractive free agent in the 2007 offseason. The L.A. Dodgers signed the Curacao native to a two-year, $36.2 million contract and became the team's highest-paid player. Jones had a forgettable 2008 season with the Dodgers, batting .158 with three homers, 14 RBIs, 76 strikeouts and one trip to the DL. They released him in January 2009. Jones continued his career with the Texas Rangers (2009), Chicago White Sox (2010) and the New York Yankees (2011-12).
He played the 2013 and '14 seasons for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles ballclub in Japan, then called it a career in February 2016. Jones currently serves as a special assistant for the Braves.
11 Pablo Sandoval
Pablo Sandoval made his big league debut for the San Francisco Giants as a catcher in 2008. Sandoval led the Giants as a third baseman to three World Series titles in 2010, '12 and '14, including one World Series MVP award. Sandoval signed a five-year, $95 million deal with the Boston Red Sox following his third career World Series victory in November 2015. Sandoval's 2015 season in Boston was a huge disappointment statistically, batting .245 with ten home runs, 47 RBIs, and 85 strikeouts in 126 games. He also committed 15 fielding errors which led to criticism of his weight and conditioning.
To make matters worse for Sandoval, the Red Sox announced that second-year player Travis Shaw replaced him as their new third baseman for 2016. It does not appear Sandoval can ever justify the large contract the Sox offered him for the next three seasons.
10 Prince Fielder
Prince Fielder spent 12 seasons as a first baseman and designated hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers, and Texas Rangers. The son of former first baseman Cecil Fielder, he broke into the big leagues with Milwaukee in June 2005. Fielder spent seven seasons with the Brewers, earning two NL Silver Slugger awards and three All-Star appearances. The Tigers signed Fielder to a nine-year contract worth an astonishing $214 million. He played all 162 games in two productive seasons as a Tiger, but his average fell to .279 in 2013, hitting just 25 home runs and 106 RBIs. Fielder had two disappointing postseasons in Detroit, recording one homer, three RBIs, and struck out 11 times in their run to the 2012 World Series vs. San Francisco. His '13 postseason was forgettable, hitting no homers and had seven strikeouts.
The Tigers traded Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler in November 2013. After a couple of years in Texas, Fielder suffered a neck injury and announced his retirement from baseball two months ago.
9 Carl Crawford
In 1999, the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Houston-born outfielder Carl Crawford in the second round of the amateur draft. Crawford began his MLB career with the Devil Rays on July 20, 2002. He became a threat on the basepaths and at the plate with a .296 batting average during his eight seasons in Tampa. But in December 2010, the Boston Red Sox signed Crawford to a seven-year contract worth a whopping $142 million.
He immediately struggled with his new team, batting a career-low .255 with 11 home runs, 56 RBIs and struck out 104 times in 2011. He played 31 games with the Red Sox in 2012, as Tommy John surgery prematurely ended his campaign. A month later, the Red Sox traded Crawford with Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the L.A. Dodgers in a high-profile deal. Crawford's offensive production in the regular season declined in L.A., failing to record over 50 RBIs in four seasons as a Dodger. They released him this past June with $34 million remaining on his deal.
8 Chan Ho Park
Chan Ho Park spent 17 seasons in the major leagues for seven different teams. The Korean-born pitcher began his MLB career with the L.A. Dodgers in 1994 but did not play a full season until 1996. Park appeared in 48 games that year, picking up a 5-5 record with 119 strikeouts and a 3.64 ERA. Park won 80 games and lost 54, including 18 wins in 2000, despite not recording an ERA of under 3.00 in eight seasons with the Dodgers.
Park then agreed to a five-year deal with the Texas Rangers worth $70 million. But he struggled to regain his form upon his Texas arrival, posting a 9-8 record with a 5.75 ERA through 25 starts in 2002. Park went a disappointing 22-23 in four seasons with the Rangers until the Padres traded for his services on July 29, 2005.
7 Johan Santana
Johan Santana began his career as a pitcher with the Minnesota Twins early in the 2000 season. He blossomed into a bonafide starter for Minnesota in '04, recording 20 wins and six defeats, which earned him the AL Cy Young Award that season. Santana claimed another Cy Young Award in '06. The New York Mets acquired Santana via trade in early 2008, then signed him to a $137.5 million contract for six years. Santana could not live up to the record deal New York offered him after a strong 2008 season.
He lost nine games in '09 and '10, then missed the entire 2011 season, and posted a record of 6-9 in 2012. The only bright spot of Santana's tenure with the Mets was when he threw his first career no-hitter on June 1st vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. Santana played his last game for New York on August 17, 2012, missing all of 2013 due to shoulder surgery.
6 Gary Matthews, Jr.
Gary Matthews Jr. played 12 seasons in the major leagues as an outfielder for seven teams. Baseball fans took notice of him in 2006, when he recorded career-highs in home runs (19), RBIs (79), and batting average (.313) for the Texas Rangers. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim offered Matthews Jr. a five-year contract worth $50 million in the 2006 offseason, which he accepted because he wanted to remain close to his young son.
However, Matthews Jr. had a forgettable career in Anaheim, batting under .300 in each of his three seasons with the Angels. He struck out 102 times in 2007 and hit a total of 30 home runs from the '07 to '09 campaigns. The Angels traded the struggling Matthews Jr. to the New York Mets in January 2010 but played 36 games for New York in his last MLB season.
5 C.J. Wilson
C.J. Wilson began his career over a decade ago with the Texas Rangers as a left-handed relief pitcher. It was not until 2010 when the Rangers named Wilson to the starting rotation, winning 15 games and earned 16 more wins the following season. He led Texas to a pair of trips to the World Series but lost both times to the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. Following a second consecutive loss in the 2011 World Series, the L.A. Angels of Anaheim signed Wilson to a five-year deal worth $77.5 million on the day they acquired former Cardinal Albert Pujols, who helped beat Wilson's Rangers, via free agency.
Wilson had an underwhelming start in Anaheim, posting a 13-10 record with a 3.83 ERA through 34 starts in 2012. He bounced back the next year with 17 wins but posted another 13-10 record with a 4.51 ERA in 2014. Wilson made 21 starts and went 8-8 in 2015, then did not appear in a single game for 2016.
4 Mark Teixeira
Mark Teixeira made it to the big leagues with the Texas Rangers in the 2003 season. Teixeira joined the Atlanta Braves for two seasons and played 54 games with the L.A. Angels until he signed an eight-year deal worth $180 million with the New York Yankees in 2008. The signing of Teixeira made an impact on the Yankees, hitting 39 homers and 122 RBIs in the 2009 regular season. He helped the Bronx Bombers win the '09 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, despite batting a shocking .180 that postseason.
Teixeira's offensive production began to decline during the 2012 season, recording 24 home runs and 84 RBIs with 83 strikeouts. He played only 15 games due to injury in 2013, then had a forgettable 2014 season with 22 homers and 62 runs driven in. The 36-year-old Teixeira opted to retire from baseball following the conclusion of 2016.
3 Ryan Howard
Ryan Howard spent his entire 13-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies, making his major league debut with the team on September 1, 2004. A few years later, Howard helped the Phillies win a World Series championship against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. Howard recorded four 130-plus RBI seasons from 2006 to '09, which led to the Phillies re-signing him to a five-year contract extension worth $125 million during the 2010 season. Howard would earn $20 million each in salary for 2012 and '13, then make a combined $75 million from 2014 to 2016.
Howard's offensive numbers took a stunning drop throughout the entirety of the five-year contract. Howard failed to record a 100-RBI season, and his batting average fell below .250 in 2012, '14, '15 and '16. In hindsight, the Phillies overpaid Howard to struggle and at times not live up to the massive deal they offered him despite his past success.
2 Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols had a memorable 11-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, hitting 448 home runs, 1,329 RBIs and batted .338. Pujols helped the Cardinals win a pair of World Series championships in 2006 and 2011, despite a sub-par performance (3 HR, 6 RBI) in the '06 postseason. Following the Cards' seven-game World Series victory over the Texas Rangers, Pujols signed a 10-year, $252 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the 2011 offseason. He struggled in the first month of 2012 with no home runs but recovered from the slump with 30 homers and 105 RBIs. Pujols had a forgettable 2013 season with the Halos, as an injury to his left plantar fascia forced him to appear in 99 games. During his five seasons in Anaheim, Pujols has failed to record over 120 RBIs, although he came close, with 119 runs driven in this past season. Still, for the amount of money the Angels paid him, you have to think they expected a World Series by now.
1 Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez may go down one of Major League Baseball's most polarizing and overpaid players in history. Rodriguez began his career with the Seattle Mariners in 1994 and became teammates with Ken Griffey Jr. for six seasons. A-Rod remained with the M's until 2000, then signed a $252 million deal for 10 years with the Texas Rangers. Despite hitting 50-plus homers for two seasons and three 100-RBI seasons, Rodriguez lasted just three seasons in Texas. The New York Yankees famously traded for A-Rod in early 2004, sending infielder Alfonso Soriano to the Rangers. He made an impact on the Yankees from 2004 to '07, hitting 183 homers and won two American League MVPs in that stretch.
The Yanks signed Rodriguez to a $275 million deal after his 2007 MVP season. A-Rod's numbers began to decline after 2010. He served a suspension for the entire 2014 season because of his role in the Biogenesis scandal. Rodriguez finished his career with 696 home runs, just four shy of the 700-home run club.