Unlike the NBA, NFL and NHL, Major League Baseball has the distinction of giving out the most outrageous contracts to their talent – while some are certainly warranted, others aren’t seen as necessarily deserving in the eyes of officials, players themselves or fans alike.
However, because there is no salary cap in baseball, the general managers, presidents and owners of each franchise can dish out as much money as they wish to ensure that their team has elite player on their roster.
Unfortunately, there have been many instances where the contracts are too lofty for players to live up to them. Before you make assumptions, there are many reasons as to why these pacts turn out negatively for the people who give them out.
First, there are the ones that are mostly at the fault of the players; whether it is due to injury, bad performance or a player that eventually doesn’t feel comfortable in his new city, there has been more than a few times where organizations end up regretting contracts that they have given out to certain players.
Yet, at other times, the team is more at fault, as it doesn’t only have to be production that makes a contract look bad. At times, players have either been paid for what they’ve already done and not what they’re going to do, while others have been given such large contracts that it hinders the organization’s growth in terms of giving money to future players. Also, overhyping a certain player’s talent or just handing out money because you need to spend it has been an occurrence in the past as well.
With that being said, here are 15 of the worst contracts in America’s pastime, Major League Baseball.
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15 Elvis Andrus - 8 Years, $118 Million
When shortstop Elvis Andrus rose through the ranks in the Texas Rangers organization, many saw a budding star at a position that, at times, lacks production. While he wasn’t the greatest shortstop over his first six seasons, Andrus was solid, as he combined to hit .271 while also earning selections to the All-Star game in both 2010 and 2012. On top of that, Andrus provides the Rangers with something that many players cannot: durability. Since his first season in 2009, he has played in no less than 145 games. And while Andrus is still young at only 26 years old, it was a curious decision when the team awarded him an eight-year, $118 million contract.
Sure, Andrus played admirably in his first season since being paid like an elite player (.258/.309/.357), but does it warrant a $15 million per season price tag? Not only that, but will it be worth it over the next near decade as well? While there is still time to prove it, one would think that it is not a good pact.
14 Shin-Soo Choo - 7 Years, $140 Million
Elvis Andrus isn’t the only player on the Rangers roster that appears to be overpaid, as outfielder Shin-Soo Choo falls into this category. Since his first full season in 2008 with the Cleveland Indians, Choo developed a reputation of being a quiet, hard working player in all facets of the game. However, after hitting a combined .290 with a .382 on base percentage from 2008-2012, Choo had a very successful season in 2013; not only did he hit 21 home runs, 54 RBIs, 34 doubles, while also stealing 20 bases, but at seasons' end, the Rangers awarded him with a seven-year, $140 million contract.
Although Choo was in line for a sizeable contract, this one seemed too high for him – and his numbers have backed that up. In two seasons, Choo has hit a combined .260 with 35 home runs and 122 RBI. With his contract jumping to $20 million over the next three seasons and $21 million the following two after that, he needs to play at a higher level to live up to it.
13 Matt Kemp - 8 Years, $160 Million
Although it was the Los Angeles Dodgers and not current employers San Diego Padres who gave Matt Kemp an eight-year, $160 million contract back in 2012, the fact is that he will continue to struggle to live up to his tab. Proving to be an exciting young talent over his first five seasons, Kemp exploded between 2011 and 2012, as he was made two All-Star appearances, hit .324 and .303, respectively, while also coming in second place for the NL MVP award as well.
Unfortunately, what has hindered Kemp’s growth the most was inconsistencies and injuries, which is why the Dodgers shipped him to the Padres this past offseason. For a team that was only paying $3.5 million of his $21.5 million salary in 2015, Kemp had a solid campaign (.265 average, 23 home runs, 100 RBI). However, from 2016 through 2019, Kemp will earn $21.75 million – the Padres will be paying $18.25 million of that.
12 Ryan Zimmerman - 11 Years, $135 Million
When the Montreal Expos were shipped to the capital of the United States to become the Washington Nationals, the organization struggled overall. However, when a sign of a star in Ryan Zimmerman burst onto the scene in 2006 for his first full season, the front office knew he had to be locked up for a long time – which is why he was signed to an 11-year, $135 million contract in 2009. Right off the bat, the pact seemed justified; in the 2009 season, the former third baseman turned in his only All-Star campaign that saw him hit .292 with an OPS of .888 to go along with 33 home runs and 106 RBI.
However, from 2010 to 2013, his average dropped from .307 to .275 – and that was just the beginning. In both 2014 and 2015, Zimmerman dealt with serious injuries that limited his games to 61 and 95, respectively, but also his diminishing skills at third base made him move to the opposite side of the infield. Now, at 31 years old, an injury prone and aging Zimmerman will be owed $14 million until 2018, and $18 million in 2019.
11 David Wright - 14 Years, $192 Million
Ever since his first full big league season back in 2005, there haven’t been many players as consistent as David Wright has been for the New York Mets. Because of his positive image both on and off the baseball diamond, the organization handed him a 14-year, $192 million contract back in 2007. Ever since that pact was signed, Wright has largely lived up to it. Excluding his below average 2011 season, Wright combined to hit .305 with six All-Star appearances, two gold gloves, two silver slugger awards, while also being voted in the top-10 on the NL MVP race four separate times.
After another subpar season in 2014, Wright ran into serious injury trouble this past season, as he dealt with a back injury similar to what Don Mattingly dealt with during the latter years of his career. With a combination of injury concerns, heading towards his mid-30s and needing tons of money to give to their young pitchers, the Mets could be regretting the decision for such a long contract in the coming years.
10 Alex Rodriguez - 10 Years, $252 Million
When you think of Alex Rodriguez, many things may come to mind: pop culture figure, steroid abuse, hated player and arguably one of the greatest baseball players ever. Although steroids did play a factor in his career, they didn’t teach him how to hit a baseball – and off of that narrative alone, his career statistics are downright amazing. Over his 21-year career with the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and now New York Yankees, Rodriguez dominated the game, on his way to 14 All-Star appearances, 10 silver slugger awards and three AL MVP awards to boot.
That being said, his 10-year, $252 million contract is too much. While his 2008-2012 years were strong – especially since his age over those years was 32-36, he has had a very far fall from grace. After hitting a combined .247 while also missing the entire 2014 season due to a league-imposed ban, Rodriguez, at age 40 and 41, will be paid $42 million over the next two seasons.
9 Matt Harrison - 6 Years, $57.95 Million
Unlike most of the other players on this list, Matt Harrison never was or is a standout player in baseball. However, that didn’t matter to the Texas Rangers, as they forked over a six-year, $57.95 million deal to the left-hander back in 2012. Before the contract, Harrison combined to go 30-19 with a 4.93 ERA. The season Harrison signed the deal, it looked as though he would certainly live up to the deal, as he went 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA, an All-Star nod and finishing eighth in the AL Cy Young voting.
Unfortunately, ever since that strong year, Harrison has yet to resemble a player that deserves over $13 million over the next three seasons. Due to various injuries, Harrison has only started nine games since 2013, and is now a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
8 Josh Hamilton - 5 Years, $114.33 Million
Over the last decade, there may not be any bigger reclamation project in the world of sports than what Josh Hamilton overcame in his life. After struggling with both substance and alcohol abuse, Hamilton burst on to the scene in 2008, which not only saw him become a household name after putting on an amazing performance during the Home Run Derby, but also saw Hamilton hit a league high 130 RBI, along with 32 home runs. Over his six years with the Texas Rangers, Hamilton emerged as one of the best hitters in baseball, as he slashed .302/.359/.542 along with 150 home runs, 531 RBI and 164 doubles.
That landed him a five-year, $114.33 million contract in 2013 with the Angels. Unfortunately for Hamilton, he struggled both on and off the field during his time in California. While he hit no higher than .263, he also fell back into his old ways, as his vices caught up with him. Because of this, the Angels did the right thing and sent him back to the Rangers, where he is most comfortable. However, it will be hard to live up to the remaining $56.82 million on his deal.
7 Justin Verlander - 10 Years, $219.5 Million
When Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander became a full-time starter back in 2006, he appeared to be one of the brightest young pitchers throughout baseball; over the first four years of his career, Verlander combined to go 65-41 with a 3.90 ERA, 739 strikeouts and two All-Star selections as well. Because of this, the Tigers organization gave the righty a 10-year, $219.5 million contract in 2010. And while he at first lived up to the deal – he won 24 games and a Cy Young in 2011 while also earning four All-Star appearances as well – Verlander considerably fell off in 2014.
Although he had a winning record (15-12), his 4.54 ERA was high for someone who is seen as an ace. The trend continued into 2015, as he went 5-8 while missing a good chunk of the season due to injury. It will be tough for Verlander to earn his deal, as he is due $28 million each of the next four years.
6 Robinson Cano - 10 Years, $240 Million
During his nine-year career with the New York Yankees, Robinson Cano looked every bit of a player that could bridge the gap to the next generation of pinstripes. However, instead of sticking with the storied franchise, Cano signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners. At first glance, the contract seemed warranted. Sure, the second baseman was turning 31 years old, but a combination of elite offense and defensive production made this signing seem right for Seattle.
His first season in the Pacific Northwest was a success, as he hit .318 with a .382 on base percentage, 187 hits and 82 RBIs. And while his second campaign with the Mariners wasn’t terrible (.287/.334/.446), rumblings of unhappiness with the organization brought about many trade rumors, and those rumors will still be in play come 2016.
5 Melvin Upton - 5 Years, $72.25 Million
There is no denying that during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Atlanta Braves and now the Padres, Melvin Upton possesses all of the physical tools to be a very successful player. However, for whatever reason, the speedy outfielder never was able to put it all together. Outside of his 2007 campaign where, at 27 years old, Upton hit an even .300, he had a combined average of .248 through 2012.
Despite his overall struggles, the Braves looked past it and rewarded Upton with a surprising five-year, $72.25 million contract heading into 2013. Unfortunately, their investment didn’t come to fruition, as Upton hit a combined .198 with a .279 on base percentage over the first two years of the contract, before being shipped to the West Coast.
4 Troy Tulowitzki - Six Years, $118 Million
Playing a position that doesn’t have an abundance of quality players, there is no doubt that Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is arguably the best player at said position. Because he turned in eight strong years with the Colorado Rockies that included four All-Star selections and two gold gloves, the organization handed over a six-year, $118 million contract to their budding star before the 2015 season began.
While, for the most part, the contract has been justified, injury concerns have many people thinking that in due time, this deal will prove to be a bust. However, the Rockies have washed their hands on the deal, as the Blue Jays have taken on the entirety of the contract. Unfortunately, Tulowitzki didn’t produce in the batters box, as he slashed .239/.317/.380 in 41 games while playing north of the border.
3 Jon Lester - 6 Years, $155 Million
When Theo Epstien took over the Chicago Cubs operations, he knew that, to make a winner, he needed winning talent. The first step was to get manager Joe Maddon, as he was seen as someone who could build a young team. However, what brought this team into the limelight was the signing of pitcher Jon Lester, as he joined the team on a six-year, $155 million contract before the 2015 season. When the signing was done, it was an immediate upgrade for the team. Lester has been one of the better left-handers in the league, making it to three All-Star games and winning two World Series.
However, for the first time since 2012, Lester had an underwhelming season, as he went 11-12 with a 3.34 ERA. With the emergence of Jake Arrieta, Lester is looking like a very good number two starter – just not someone who justifies $125 million over the next five seasons.
2 CC Sabathia - 7 Years, $161 Million
When starting pitcher CC Sabathia entered the free agent market after the 2008 season, he was one of the most sought after players in recent memory. And because of his massive success with the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers, naturally, the New York Yankees signed him to a seven-year, $161 million pact to become the team’s ace. Over the first four years of the deal, Sabathia was worth every penny, as he went to three All-Star games while also leading the team to a World Series victory as well. However, since 2013, it has been a downward trend for the former star. Although the Yankees added an additional year worth $25 million to his current deal, Sabathia has gone a combined 22-27 with a 4.91 ERA while also dealing with various injuries. On top of that, heading into the final year on his deal, Sabathia – unfortunately – succumbed to alcohol addiction and had to enter rehab. It is still unclear if and when he will pitch in 2016.
1 Rick Porcello - 4 Years, $82.5 Million
In my opinion, there isn’t any other big league player that could top the worst contract list than Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox. Playing with the Detroit Tigers over the first six years of his career, Porcello was rather pedestrian, as evidence from his combined 76-63 record, 4.30 ERA and a total of 1,196 hits in 1073.1 innings. So what did the Red Sox brass do? They shipped power-hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Tigers for Porcello, then rewarded him with a four-year, $82.5 million contract extension.
Although the team was starving for a top of the rotation arm, if the first year is any indication, they made the mistake investing all of that money into Porcello. This past season, Porcello went 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA. Is that performance worth this kind of money? I don't think so.
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