In the most popular American sports, salaries for each team are limited by a salary cap. In football, where you only get what you are guaranteed, contracts are usually done with a lot of back-loading. In basketball, there are set contracts for certain players and their last team is the one that each player can get the most money from. In baseball, this is 100 percent not the case.
Ever since Alex Rodriguez got his first massive contract with the Texas Rangers, contracts have been inflating to the point where a single season of play can result in a lifetime of living a quality life. In many cases, these contracts are so large and out of this world that the regular baseball fans are angered at the site of the player. These big money contracts are enough to lure players from smaller markets without a lot of extra spending money to the typical big spenders in New York, Boston, Detroit, St. Louis, and Los Angeles.
It’s not to say that nobody is worth a $100 million contract over the course of five years or that players don’t deserve to make $30 million a year, but when the common fan is struggling to make ends meet in a struggling American economy, there won’t be any sympathy given to a player that suffers an injury in Spring Training and still gets their massive paycheck each week. Some of the big money contracts have been well-deserved and have been worth every penny for the team, while other big contracts have left some teams on the hook for a lot of money.
What are the top 15 worst contracts in Major League Baseball today?
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15 John Danks, Chicago White Sox
One of the shortest contract terms covered in this list of the 15 worst in MLB come from the Chicago White Sox and John Danks. The 29-year-old starting pitcher is signed through the end of the 2016 season after signing a five-year, $65 million deal. In 2012, he made just nine starts before losing his season to injury. The following season, he made 22 starts and was just 4-14 with a 4.75 ERA. He has bounced back to an extent during the 2014 season, but his ERA is pushing 5.00 and the team has a lot of money left to pay him out if he can’t turn things around.
14 Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
When Joe Mauer was the hotshot catcher for the Minnesota Twins, he was one of the best young players in the league, but now, as a first baseman with little to no power, the eight-year, $184 million contract that the Twins are on the hook for through the end of the 2018 season is a mighty price tag to pay. The former American League MVP has had numerous memorable seasons, but whether it warrants a $23 million paycheck, which is tied for the eighth most this season, is something that many people outside the Minnesota organization will argue with.
13 Carl Crawford, Los Angeles Dodgers
The first of three members of the Los Angeles Dodgers to make the cut as having one of the worst contracts in Major League Baseball is Carl Crawford. During his time with the Tampa Bay Rays, he was considered one of the top players in the sport, but even after two lackluster seasons in Boston, he found a way to get a big money deal from the Dodgers. He is currently in the middle of a seven-year, $142 million contract that will run through the end of the 2017 season. Through parts of the first two seasons with the Dodgers, he has underachieved; hitting only six home runs in 2013 and has less than 10 this season. In the final year of his deal, he will make $21 million at the age of 35.
12 Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
One of the most controversial members of this list is the first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Adrian Gonzalez. The left-hander has had a solid career and currently has the 14th highest payroll in 2014 of any player. The 32-year-old is in the middle of a seven-year, $154 million deal that runs through the end of the 2018 season when he will be 36. In 2013, he was in the conversation for the National League MVP, but when you compare his numbers to other first basemen that aren’t making as much money, something doesn’t add up. He has never hit worse than .270 in any full season and Dodger fans are happy with his production this season, but we’ll re-visit this in a few seasons.
11 Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
The third straight Dodger to make the cut is another outfielder, Matt Kemp. In 2011, Kemp finished second in the National League MVP race and at that time, he was making just $7 million a season. The following season, he signed an eight year contract worth $160 million. Since signing the contract, his production has dropped dramatically and he played in just 179 total games in the first two seasons of it. He has been on the field much more this season than the previous two, but it still doesn’t warrant the big money deal he received. When he reaches the final year of his deal in 2019, he will be 34, which makes many fans wonder what his production will be like when he reaches that point.
10 Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers
For the past three seasons, Prince Fielder played in every game of the regular season. Then this season came along and Fielder was injured. He underwent season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck and now, only at the age of 30, questions about his durability will be brought up. With six more seasons at $24 million owed to Fielder, the Rangers may begin hoping for an insurance claim to help pay for Fielder’s salary in addition to the $6 million the Detroit Tigers will be paying after trading him in the offseason. If Fielder can return in 2015 and stay healthy, the contract will be worth every penny, but for the time being, it is one of the worst contracts in the league.
9 B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves
The first contract from the Atlanta Braves to make this list is from the older Upton brother, B.J. He joined the Braves before the 2013 season after an eight season run with Tampa Bay. The Braves, hopeful for great production, gave Upton a five-year, $72.5 million deal. United with his brother, B.J. was looking to become the man in center field for the Braves for the rest of his season, but that has not been the case. In his first full season, he hit .184 with 9 home runs and 26 RBIs in 126 games. In 2014, he has again struggled and repeated the same performance. The Braves will be responsible for his contract through the 2017 season when they will pay him $16.45 million.
8 Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
From 2009 to 2012, Verlander was the best pitcher in baseball. In 2011, he won the American League Cy Young and MVP awards after going 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA. He is currently in the middle of a seven-year, $180 million contract that runs through the end of the 2020 season. The Tigers now have another five seasons to pay Verlander $28 million each year and if he continues to give them the type of production he has since 2013, it will be a long five years. The 2014 Verlander is not the same pitcher that the Tigers gave the big contract to. He isn’t the same strikeout threat he was and has the worst WHIP of his career.
7 Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees
The 34-year-old Mark Teixeira has the third largest contract of any Yankee, trailing only Alex Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia. Originally at eight-years, $180 million, Teixeira’s deal seemed to be one that would never be considered a waste, but things haven’t been great for the switch-hitting first baseman. In the first three years of his deal, he excelled, including his first season in New York where he finished second in the American League MVP race. In 2012, he played 123 games, but reached the field just 15 times the following season and has missed time again in 2014. The Yankees are on the hook for his contract through the end of the 2016 season.
6 Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
It is hard to imagine any player leaving The Bronx for more money, but that is exactly what second baseman Robinson Cano did. Cano was on his way to being one of the best and most influential Yankees of all time, but instead, decided to sign a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners. The 31-year-old will still be getting paid out in this deal until he turns 40, but the serious question in the next few seasons will be how good he can be at the position when he reaches his mid-30s. Players like Chase Utley have faltered with age and Cano could suffer the same fate. His power numbers are down in 2014, but he is still hitting for average and scoring a lot of runs.
5 Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
In his prime, Ryan Howard was one of the best all-around players in the sport. The prime of his career seemed like it was yesterday, but things have steadily gone downhill for Howard and the Phillies since 2010. In 2012 and 2013, Howard failed to even reach 20 home runs after hitting at least 31 in each of the previous six seasons. Despite his career obviously being on the downturn, the Phillies gave him a five-year, $125 million deal that they are wishing they never agreed to. A lot has changed for Howard since winning the National League MVP in his second full season, but the one thing that has improved for the left-hander is a much deeper bank account.
4 Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels
The first Los Angeles Angel to make the list and fourth overall player from Los Angeles is Josh Hamilton. The former No. 1 pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays fought his demons and turned into an incredible story on the field. His excellent play with the rival Texas Rangers, which included an American League MVP award, was enough to get the Angels to give him a big money deal. They did that by signing Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal that runs through the end of the 2018 season. In parts of two seasons with the Angels, Hamilton is hitting below .260 with just 29 home runs. In five seasons with the Rangers, he hit .305 with 142 home runs.
3 Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels
With a 10-year, $240 million contract, Albert Pujols got the money he felt he deserved from the Angels. After leaving the St. Louis Cardinals following the 2011 season, Pujols had a solid 2012 campaign, but in 2013, everything fell apart. He couldn’t stay healthy and played just 99 games. Even when he did make it to the field, he wasn’t overly successful and while he hasn’t played terribly this season, the overall scheme of things for the Angels is not great. When he is in the final season of his contract, he will be 41 and making $30 million.
2 Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
The 39-year-old from Miami, Fla. was on his way to being in the Hall of Fame, being known as one of the greatest players of all time, and being one of the most loved faces in baseball. Then it all ended and Rodriguez became known as a user of performance enhancing drugs. Rodriguez is currently serving out a full year suspension from MLB for his ties to a biogenesis lab and the Yankees are still looking for ways to get out of the 10-year, $275 million deal that runs through the end of the 2017 season. Rodriguez is one of the all-time leaders in home runs with 654 and is just 61 hits shy of 3,000. Both of those numbers would usually be enough to warrant a spot in Cooperstown, but like the alleged drug users before him like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa, things don’t look good.
1 Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves
The Braves spent a lot of money to bring Dan Uggla into town to be their second baseman. Coming off the best season of his career where he hit .287 with 33 home runs with 105 RBIs with the Florida Marlins, the Braves traded for Uggla. What they did after trading for him is give him a lot of money when the production just wasn’t there. They gave Uggla a five-year, $62 million deal, including more than $18 million which is still owed to him following his release. All he did in return is give the team one of the worst performances in the history of baseball over 4 years, hitting .209 with 535 strikeouts in 1,701 at-bats.
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