Every year there seems to be quite an extensive list of major league ballplayers who happen to be overpaid. Significant injuries, diminishing skills and even mediocre performances by their teams are all contributing factors to the lack of production with most of these players. In a game where consistency is a big key to success, it is surprising to see so many big name players on this list.
Justin Verlander is known throughout the league for his ability to dominate the opposition from his workplace on the mound, but his 2014 ERA of 4.76 is far from dominant. Ryan Howard is an intimidating presence at the plate, but his .220 batting average does little to substantiate his $25 million salary. The Phillies, who happen to have three players on this list, unsurprisingly sit in last place in their division.
In baseball it is often too easy to reward players for having one or two good years. In a game that demands consistency, it is rare to have any contracts with incentives or escalators that push players to perform year after year. Without a salary cap, the rich might spend more, but instead of leading to championships, reckless spending can more often end up with a team having multiple players making this type of list.
20 Justin Verlander (Tigers) - $20,000,000
Even one of the premier pitchers in baseball can have an off year and Verlander appears to be having one of those years. A 10-11 record and 4.76 ERA don’t seem to justify getting paid $20 million this year. Opponents are batting a respectable .270 against him while he is headed to a sub-200 strikeout season following five consecutive years of logging over 200 Ks. To sum up his season, Verlander is allowing nearly 1 hit per inning pitched, while falling short of his tendency to strike out 1 batter per inning pitched.
19 Cole Hamels (Phillies) - $23,500,000
Cole Hamels makes over $23 million in 2014 and has yet to win over 17 games in a single season. Hamels has a modest 105-80 career record with a 3.29 ERA, but he is getting paid like a superstar. In 9 seasons, Hamels has only logged 6 shutouts and 13 complete games. In his last two seasons, Hamels has only won 14 games despite having over 360 innings of work. The 2.37 ERA he has this season has only translated into 6 wins. A victim of poor run support, Hamels still has to do better than 14-20 in his last two seasons to substantiate making his superstar salary.
18 Matt Holliday (Cardinals) - $17,000,000
Matt Holliday has had some productive seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals but the 2014 season has not been one of them. Holliday is currently batting just .268, which would be the lowest average for a season in his entire career, with only 12 home runs and 59 runs batted in. He also has his lowest slugging percentage of his career (.420), well off his career average of .523. Holliday can still end the season on a strong note, but his current production certainly doesn’t measure up to his current salary.
17 Jayson Werth (Nationals) - $20,571,428
Jayson Werth might not be having his worst season in 2014 with 63 runs and 63 runs batted in, but then again his numbers never seem to warrant such a high salary. His current batting average of .279 is a little higher than his .274 career mark, but he is still not on pace to score or knock in over 100 runs for the first time in his career. Werth has an underwhelming 12 home runs this year and has only 42 round trippers in his last three seasons combined. It is hard to substantiate his salary with his production that is far what you would expect from baseball’s elite.
16 Mark Teixeira (Yankees) - $23,125,000
Mark Teixeira will earns over $23 million this year but has only appeared in 101 games over the last couple of years. His production this year has so far yielded 19 home runs and 52 runs batted in, but his current batting average of only .227 is what really lands him on this list. Coming off a 2013 season where he managed to hit at a .151 clip, Teixeira has not made the most of his opportunities at the plate. It is not easy to hit home runs or knock runs in when putting the ball in play seems so hard to do. Injuries have played a big part in Teixeira landing on this list, but 361 at bats in two years is not worth over $23 million.
15 C.J. Wilson (Angels) - $16,500,000
C.J. Wilson has been a model of consistency since becoming a starter with Texas in 2010. Prior to this season, he was 61-32 as a starter with an ERA under 3.50 with a string of four consecutive seasons of having over 200 innings pitched. This season has been a different story as Wilson has struggled with an average 9-8 record and lofty 4.71 ERA. With games still to be played, Wilson already has surrendered 15 home runs and opponents have a decent .260 batting average against him. He is not losing a ton of games, but at $16.5 million in salary, he is not doing enough.
14 Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) - $14,000,000
Ryan Zimmerman has had a few productive seasons for the Nationals, but 2014 can not be considered one of them. He has battled injuries all season and although he has a respectable batting average of .282, he has only 195 at bats and 5 home runs this season. Despite missing over half the season due to injuries, Zimmerman has a quite respectable 19 doubles and 36 runs batted in. Still a tough out, he simply looks like he hit the wall in 2014, landing him on this list.
13 Matt Kemp (Dodgers) - $21,250,000
Matt Kemp has been battling injuries and has only managed to play in 288 games over the last three seasons. Kemp is batting .282 with a slugging percentage of .466, but Kemp only has 20 home runs in the last couple of seasons combined and only has only 53 runs batted in for 2014, despite playing in 110 games. For a player getting paid over $21 million this season, the Dodgers are expecting a little bit more. Kemp has not come close to experiencing the success he had in 2011 when he batted .324 with 115 runs scored and 128 runs batted in.
12 Cliff Lee (Phillies) - $25,000,000
Cliff Lee seems to be making some pretty good money for a pitcher who is 4-5 with a 3.65 ERA in 2014. Lee got his start in the majors in 2002 and has only logged 143 wins in 15 seasons of MLB work. Not even his career ERA of 3.52 seems to support such a high salary. Flashes of brilliance, like a 22-3 record in 2008, seem to dot his resume, however, Lee has yet to string two consecutive 15 win seasons together and has only three seasons with more than 14 wins in his career. Opponents are batting a ridiculous .304 against Lee this season.
11 Joe Mauer (Twins) - $23,000,000
Joe Mauer is a lifetime .320 hitter who does not get cheated often at the plate, nor with his contract. On one hand, Mauer has never struck out more than 89 times in a season and has batted over .300 in seven of his eleven MLB seasons. On the other hand, Mauer has hit over 13 home runs only once in his career (2009) and has never scored or batted in over 100 runs in a single season. In 2014, Mauer is batting .273 and has only 2 home runs and 29 runs batted in. For a guy who is making $23 million, he needs to contribute more to the number of runs his team scores.
10 Josh Hamilton (Angels) - $17,400,000
Josh Hamilton currently has only 8 home runs and 35 runs batted in just under 70 games played in so far this year. Hamilton, a career .293 hitter, currently has a .266 batting average which is a slight improvement over the .250 batting average of a year ago. After topping 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in three times in his five seasons with the Rangers, Hamilton’s numbers have fallen off considerably with the Angels. A bad year can happen, but two in a row lands Hamilton squarely on this list.
9 David Wright (Mets) - $20,000,000
David Wright’s production has decreased dramatically in 2014. In about the same number of games and with more appearances at the plate, Wright has scored only 45 runs, has hit only 8 home runs and only 56 runs batted in. On top of all that, Wright has gone from batting .307 in 2013 to batting .272 so far in 2014. The problem with Wright is that his production in the last four seasons with the Mets pales in comparison to what he produced his first seven seasons with the Mets. At $20 million a year, his production should be much better than this.
8 Adam Dunn (White Sox) - $15,000,000
Adam Dunn can crush baseballs, but that task is far from easy to accomplish with a batting average of just .221 (2014). Certainly Dunn is not expected to lead the team with getting on base, but his .159 batting average in 2011 and rather paltry 46 runs batted in so far this year, don’t exactly make a case for his healthy salary. Dunn does have 18 long balls, but also has 118 strikeouts so far this year, both numbers that land him on this list. These are not the type of numbers one might expect for a guy who hit at least 40 or more home runs five seasons in a row as a Red.
7 Carl Crawford (Dodgers) - $21,107,142
Carl Crawford only has 31 runs and 25 runs batted in to show for the 234 at bats he currently has in 2014. A .290 lifetime batter, Crawford is batting just .256 in 2014. Since becoming a Dodger in 2013, Crawford has scored only 93 runs and batted in another 56. Only accounting for 151 runs in two seasons is not exactly great results for a player making over $21 million this season. Crawford currently has a .336 slugging percentage which might jeopardize his streak of 10 straight seasons above .400.
6 Brian McCann (Yankees) - $17,000,000
Brian McCann had a couple of stellar seasons with the Atlanta Braves, but his numbers have done little to support his healthy contract the last few years. This season, McCann is batting just .238 with 13 home runs and 49 runs batted in. His slugging percentage of .384 is also rather dismal. He hasn’t hit over 30 home runs or driven in over 100 runs in a season and joins a good number of Yankees on this list.
5 Nick Swisher (Indians) - $15,000,000
Nick Swisher is getting paid handsomely for his current production of 8 home runs, 33 runs scored and 42 runs batted in. On top of that, his .208 batting average and .331 slugging percentage are anemic numbers for a guy with pop in the bat. Swisher has played in just about 100 games, but his numbers tell a different story. His on-base percentage is a career low .278 so far this season. Swisher’s stats have gone down the last couple of seasons and his 2014 numbers and healthy salary combine to land him a spot on this list.
4 Matt Cain (Giants) - $20,833,333
Matt Cain seems to make an awful lot of money for a pitcher with a 2-7 record in 2014 and a career won-loss record of 95-95. This season, Cain currently has only 90 innings of work and sports a lofty 4.18 ERA. Over the last two seasons, Cain is 10-17 with an ERA above 4 without any complete games or shutouts. He has yet to win over 16 games or strike out over 200 batters, but still gets paid over $20 million for 2014. Cain has been consistent before, but that doesn’t save him from his pathetic production so far in 2014.
3 CC Sabathia (Yankees) - $23,000,000
A workhorse for the Yankees with 208 career wins, Sabathia has been unable to overcome a nagging knee injury. His ERA has gone from a career high 4.78 in 2013 to an even more abysmal 5.28 in only eight appearances this year. He had a string of five consecutive seasons with at least 200 innings pitched snapped due to his injury shortened 2014 season. The past being the past, Sabathia only played in 8 games this season and has limited production making him grossly overpaid this year.
2 Ryan Howard (Phillies) - $25,000,000
Ryan Howard has failed to live up to expectations the last three years. In 2012, he hit .219 with only 14 homers and followed that up with an 11 home run season that included 43 runs batted in last year. This season, in 114 games, Howard has a hit a modest 18 home runs to go along with a dismal .220 batting average. For his $25 million of perceived worth for a season, Howard’s production has been on the decline for three straight seasons. Howard has only played in 263 games the past three years and has 330 strikeouts versus only 227 hits during this period.
1 Prince Fielder (Rangers) - $24,000,000
Prince Fielder was traded to the Texas Rangers and has only been able to play in 42 games since the trade. His .247 batting average, 3 home runs and 16 runs batted in are not exactly the numbers the Rangers were looking for when they acquired the two-time home run derby champ with a career batting average of .285. Fielder has had his 2014 season cut short by season-ending neck surgery putting an end to an iron man streak of 547 consecutive games played. Whether he can come back or not remains to be seen, but his production for this season makes him the most overpaid player in baseball.