In modern baseball, it’s impossible not to consider a player’s salary when factoring in how much he contributes to his club’s success. While it’s easy to put numbers next to each other and try to decide which player is better or had a better season, considering what a player is getting paid ends up being part of the comparison.
If two players have similar numbers, but one is getting paid considerably less, he had a better season. It may not be fair to hold a player’s contract against him, but it’s human nature and also an important part of a player’s value. It’s difficult to win if a team has too many under-producing overpaid players on its roster.
This list is a compilation of the worst MLB contracts of 2016. What a player is projected to contribute in 2016 and what he’s guaranteed from his club are factored into this list.
There are former All Stars, and even MVPs, on this list, as well as other players who duped a club into giving them a huge deal without a long history of production. Hopefully, for your favorite club’s sake, you don’t have any players on this list. These players are albatrosses that bog down the financial flexibility of all the teams that are overpaying them.
*All figures are taken from Spotrac.com.
18. Rick Porcello – Red Sox – $20.125 Million
The Red Sox have severely overpaid for an average pitcher, giving the righty over $80 million on a four year contract. However, the 27 year old wasn’t even average in 2015, he was awful. His 9-15 record and bloated 4.92 ERA are numbers for a fifth starter trying to stay in the Majors, not an Ace deserving of massive riches. This is an abysmal deal for Boston who desperately needs quality pitching to contend in the AL East.
17. Michael Bourn – Braves – $14 Million
The swift outfielder shouldn’t only have his offensive numbers considered when deciding if he’s overpaid, because he’s an outstanding defensive player. However, his good coverage of centerfield doesn’t make up for his ineptitude at the plate. Bourn hit .238 for two teams in 2015 with an anemic .592 OPS. His play with the Braves solidified his spot on this list, as he had a negative WAR and did very little to contribute. It seems like the Braves had figured this out, as they released Bourn three days ago, although he could still be traded.
16. Mark Teixeira – Yankees – $23.125 Million
The switch hitting first baseman was worth the huge contract when the Yankees signed him and they won the World Series in 2009, but he’s nowhere near deserving of being the 15th highest paid MLB player in 2016. The oft-injured Teixeira isn’t in the lineup enough for the Yankees to rely on him, as he missed over 50 games again last season. He hasn’t played more than 150 games since 2011, the last time he had a 100 RBI season. Teixeira is an UFA after this season, so expect him to try and play more, in the hopes of getting another bloated contract for 2017 and beyond.
15. Matt Cain – Giants – $20.83 Million
The Giants have won three World Series championships since 2010 on the strength of their indomitable starting staff and Cain was a huge part of that success. The key word in the last sentence is ‘was.’ Cain is now the 5th starter for the Giants and is coming off three consecutive subpar seasons, including a disastrous 2015 when he suffered through injuries and went 2-4 with a 5.79 ERA in only 60 innings. Those aren’t the type of numbers expected out of the 11th highest paid pitcher in the game.
14. Jered Weaver – Angels – $20.2 Million
This is the first year on this list for the annual innings eater for the Angels, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t overpaid in 2016. His massive yearly workload caught up to him in 2015 as the righty went 7-12 with a 4.64 ERA for the underperforming Angels. He struggled with arm and shoulder issues all season and had to battle for the 5th starter spot in Angels camp this Spring. Weaver can rebound and get off of this list, but it’ll take a healthy season and somehow getting his nasty stuff back that he had when he signed this huge contract prior to the 2012 season.
13. Andre Ethier – Dodgers – $18 Million
Andre Ethier continues to put up slightly above average numbers while being paid as one of the best players in the game. He hasn’t driven in 100 runs since 2009 and he’s never scored 100. He had a bit of a bounce back year in 2015, but he still put up pedestrian numbers. Hitting 14 homers with only 53 RBIs while playing 142 games in the Dodgers’ potent lineup aren’t the numbers expected from a guy that’s tied for the 42nd highest paid player in the game.
12. Hanley Ramirez – Red Sox – $22.75 Million
Giving a contract to a slugging shortstop makes perfect sense, as doling out big money for a player that can produce runs from a defensive position can solidify an MLB lineup. However, Hanley Ramirez doesn’t play shortstop anymore and he’s no longer a slugger nor deserving of being the 18th on the MLB salary list. The 31 year old has battled injuries and has struggled at the plate over the past two seasons, but he was especially bad in 2015. He hit only .249 and drove in a meager 53 runs. He had a negative WAR last season at -1.3. Meaning, a triple-A call up would’ve been better for Boston than the overpaid Ramirez in 2015.
11. Carl Crawford – Dodgers – $21.61 Million
Carl Crawford is the poster boy for being cautious about giving huge longterm contracts to speed guys. The left handed hitting OFer was a dynamic force with the Tampa Bay Rays, stealing bases and hitting line drives all over the Tropicana Dome. However, after signing his $100 million plus deal with the Red Sox in 2011, he hasn’t been the same player. He has ballooned up to 230 pounds and was moved to the Dodgers in an attempt to move money and shake him up. It didn’t work. The former All Star is only a fringe player now and hit .265 last season. His speed game is gone too. He hasn’t stole more than 23 bases since he signed that huge deal in 2011 that still has him in the top 25 of MLB salaries.
10. John Danks – White Sox – $15.75 Million
The White Sox paying a king’s ransom for a lefty Ace wouldn’t be an issue if they were throwing money at dominant lefty Chris Sale. However, they gave John Danks a massive contract that he hasn’t lived up to since he signed it. The soft tosser is 21 games below .500 for his career and hasn’t had a winning record since 2010. He was brutal again in 2015, as he went 7-15 with a 4.71 ERA. But, at least he had a better record than the first year of his deal in 2013. when he went 4-14. Danks is another example why White Sox Chairman, Jerry Reinsdorf, doesn’t like to dole out big money to pitchers. Danks is the 67th highest paid player in the game.
9. Joe Mauer – Twins – $23 Million
If the left handed hitting slugger was still behind the plate at the premium position of catcher, he wouldn’t be on this list, regardless of contract or production. But, the #1 overall selection of the 2001 MLB Draft is now a first baseman and needs to produce like a corner slugger on the 14th biggest deal in baseball for 2016. However, Minnesota’s favorite son hasn’t produced since he signed the massive deal offered to him by the low budget Twins in 2011. He’s only averaged eight homers a season and his normally robust average plummeted to .265 in 2015. His WAR was a pitiful 1.5 last year and he only drove in 66 runs while striking out 112 times. However, the Twins hold some culpability as the dimensions for Target Field, erected in 2010, aren’t suited for a lefty hacking slugger.
8. Homer Bailey – Reds – $18 Million
Yes, it may be a little unfair to put a decent pitcher coming off an injury on this list. However, that doesn’t mean that Homer Bailey isn’t one of the most overpaid MLB players in 2016 as he ranks in the top 50 salaries. The righty got a massive contract extension from the Reds prior to the 2014 season. Bailey was given the seven year, $105 million deal based more on potential than production and now the Reds are stuck with him at an exorbitant cost. He had to be shutdown with forearm fatigue in 2014 and then missed almost the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery. Bailey will try to deliver on the promise he showed early in his career, but it’s unclear how much longer his rehab will take and when he’ll be back in the Reds’ rotation.
7. Alex Rodriguez – Yankees – $21 Million
It was assumed before the 2015 season that A Rod would be at the top of any overpaid list until his colossal $275 million contract ended after the 2017 season. However, Rodriguez had a solid season in 2015 by smashing 33 homers and driving in 86 runs. So, the 40 year old Miami native can still contribute at the MLB level. But, he can’t produce anywhere near the level appropriate for a DH making the 25th most money in the game this year. He’s projected to hit .242 and drive in 66 runs in 2016, but the prognosticators have no idea what kind of vitamins Rodriguez is taking to help his old body make it through the season. He’s only 27 homers behind Babe Ruth for third most all time.
6. Josh Hamilton – Rangers – $28.41 Million
The life and career of the 1999 #1 overall MLB Draft pick can be described as a roller coaster. Drug and alcohol problems plagued him before he could reach the majors and injuries have hampered him since he’s arrived. However, when the 34 year old is healthy, he can bash. He hasn’t been healthy lately and his numbers shave plummeted. He’s been limited to 139 games over the last two seasons that resulted in a feeble 69 combined RBIs. His return to Texas after signing his massive deal didn’t do much for his health last season, nor did it change the fact he’s the 4th highest paid player in MLB.
5. Ryan Howard – Phillies – $25 Million
Early in his career, Ryan Howard appeared to be headed for a Hall of Fame career as one of the greatest power hitters in MLB history. The native of Missouri smashed 198 homers in a four year span and lead the NL in RBIs three of those four seasons. However, those days are over for Howard, who’s tied for the 8th biggest MLB contract in 2016. He hasn’t hit more than 23 homers since 2011 while the rest of his game is in the toilet. He’s an atrocious fielder, he can’t run and he’s only hit above .229 once in the last four years. His OPS+ was below league average and his WAR was negative in 2015. Howard is a good guy, but he has very little left to contribute at the MLB level besides an occasional long ball.
4. Pablo Sandoval – Red Sox – $17.6 Million
Pablo Sandoval has always been a stout player and has surprised people with his athleticism and agility for a ballplayer with such a big belly. However, Kung Fu Panda didn’t come to 2016 Spring Training with a potbelly, he came looking like he had a beachball tucked under his Boston jersey. The 2012 World Series MVP plays better than his statistics and has leveraged his ability to shine in big moments with his obscene contract. However, Sandoval’s numbers have steadily declined as his waistline has ballooned. The Venezuelan had a paltry 76 OPS+ in 2015 and a negative WAR. Expect more of the same for the 47th highest paid player in the league this year.
3. C.C. Sabathia – Yankees – $24.285 Million
C.C. Sabathia is another player the Yankees enticed with a massive contract to join them before the 2009 season to help them win the World Series and is now grossly overpaid. The career victory stacker and innings eater has been eating too much food lately. He also admitted himself into alcohol rehab before the 2015 MLB Playoffs. But, this list isn’t meant to rip men with substance abuse problems, this is to rank the worst contracts of 2016 and Sabathia, tied for 8th in salary with Ryan Howard, is one of those. Sabathia hasn’t had a winning record since 2013, when he went 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA. He’s been 9-14 with an ERA approaching 5 over the last two seasons.
2. Melvin Upton – Padres – $16.05 Million
If you’re not sure who this, it’s because Upton changed his name from B.J. to Melvin and you probably didn’t notice because Justin’s little brother has all but disappeared recently. His career fell flat after he left the Rays for the big money of the Braves. His story is similar to Carl Crawford, but even worse. Upton hit a head scratching .198 in his two seasons in Atlanta with a .593 OPS. He was better after being traded to the Padres before last season, but he’s still pathetic offensively and not deserving of a Top 75 contract. One of the highest paid players in the game has now been relegated to being a fourth outfielder defensive replacement and pinch runner.
1. Nick Swisher – Braves – $15 Million
This contract is so bad that the Braves recently gave Swisher his outright release and ate the entirety of the contract. So, the Braves will pay Swisher to get zero production from Swisher in 2016. But, that means he will have a better season for the Braves this season than he did last season. The 35 year old combined to hit .196 for two teams in 2015 with a paltry six homers. His negative WAR is another indication that the Braves are better off without Swisher than having his slow bat in the lineup. His downfall started after he signed with the Indians to return to his native Ohio in 2013. Since the deal, he’s hit .224 with only 36 homers and 130 RBIs in 318 games. Swisher’s deal, the 75th largest in baseball, is the worst of any MLB player in 2016.
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