Baseball is a sport that is constantly analyzing the performance of players and the teams they play for. At virtually every level of the game, players are being assessed on the quality of their skills and the performances they deliver on the field. This analysis has given birth to the era of advanced statistics, which have further enhanced our abilities as fans to assess the value of any given player. Despite all of these tools being at the disposal of General Managers, determining the value of a player is still not an easy task and clubs continue to overspend on underproducing players.
In baseball’s current environment, certain players are still being paid based on their past performances or for their continued legacy to a team. Many of the players on this list collect salaries that far exceed the performances that many of them are currently able to deliver. Many factors can cause a player’s performance to fall below their past achievements. Injuries and old age are a common explanation for superstars that are in the fading years of their career, while the younger members of this list are not consistently showing the promise they once did.
With pitchers and catchers reporting in just a few days, and their teammates joining them a couple weeks later, the MLB season is on the horizon. Last year, the Giants continued their legacy of World Series triumphs, but will return to the diamond a dramatically different team in 2015. Based on the pattern that they have set over the past few years, there will likely be a new champion this season. The past few seasons have also shown us that the players on this list are not putting up the numbers as they once were. At this point in their respective careers, these players can be considered the most overrated in the Major Leagues.
20 Jose Reyes
After he left during the first inning of the Blue Jays’ Opening Day game with a hamstring injury, Jose Reyes managed to stay on the field for the remainder of the 2014 season. Reyes benefitted greatly from a contract year blitz with the Mets where he hit .337, a number he has never come close to approaching in any of his 11 other Major League seasons. Reyes also posted a career high 19 errors last season and the worst fielding percentage of any full season. Reyes is due $22 million per year for the next three years making him a costly option for the Blue Jays.
19 Mark Teixeira
Mark Teixeira is another aging contract that the New York Yankees must pay over the next two seasons, which could keep them from competing in the American League East Division. Last year, Teixeira returned from a wrist injury to play in 123 regular season games. He posted the lowest batting average of his career going .216 on the season. Although he managed to hit 22 home runs, he only had 62 RBIs for the season and struck out 109 times in 508 plate appearances. Tex will collect $46.25 million over the next two seasons before he becomes a free agent in 2017.
18 Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols is due a staggering $189 million in compensation over the next seven seasons from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The former face of the Cardinals franchise is collecting a salary worthy of the production shown by teammate Mike Trout. While remaining a productive player, Pujols posted the second-lowest season batting average of his career and led the league in double plays grounded into. Despite these diminishing levels of performance, he still managed to garner 1% of the votes for American League MVP, which makes you question what the voters are watching.
17 Prince Fielder
From 2011 to 2013, Prince Fielder did not miss a single regular season game while playing for the Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers. After Fielder moved to Texas last year, he missed a career-high 120 games after undergoing neck surgery in May. In the time he did put in on the diamond, he hit only .247 with three home runs in 178 plate appearances. Fielder has declared himself to be fit and ready for the 2015 season, but only time will tell if the slugger will return from the same surgery Peyton Manning and Ryan Kalish have struggled with.
16 Brandon Phillips
At the age of 33, Brandon Phillips has already begun to show the signs of inevitable decline. Last year, he played in the lowest number of games of the last nine Major League seasons. Phillips batting average remained a paltry .266 while he hit only 8 home runs with 51 RBI. Phillips is also not contributing on the base paths as he once had, and his stolen bases total was a dismal two last season. Thankfully for the Reds, Phillips will only collect $39 million in salary over the next three seasons.
15 Pedro Alvarez
Pedro Alvarez showed signs of being a real slugger for the Pittsburgh Pirates during their exciting playoff run in 2013. Last season, he fell far short of what Buccos fans expected from El Toro when he hit only 18 home runs while continuing to struggle to hit for average hitting only .231 in 2014. The third baseman also struggled in the field with numerous throwing errors and a career low fielding percentage of .924. If the Pirates are going to continue to be contenders in the National League Central, Alvarez will need to be a consistent producer. At this point he is beginning to look like a feast or famine type hitter.
14 Alex Rios
In his first full season with the Texas Rangers, Alex Rios continued to prove that he was overrated. Rios managed to hit .280, which is slightly above his career average of .278, but his production in runs, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, and slugging percentage all declined. This led to the Rangers declining to pick up Rios’ 2015 option. After suffering defeat in the World Series, the Kansas City Royals signed Rios to replace Nori Aoki. In this situation, Rios may actually be an upgrade over Aoki, but the Royals have paid $11 million for that marginal upgrade.
13 Josh Hamilton
Last season, Angels fans voiced their displeasure with former slugger Josh Hamilton by greeting him with a chorus of boos while he went 0 for 13 in the American League Championship Series against the Royals. Hamilton’s average continued to slump below .275 while he struck out nearly once out of every three at bats. Hamilton still has three years and $90 million remaining on his contract, but must win over the favor of Angels fans if he hopes to continue with the club. Last season in an interview, Hamilton stated, “We don’t necessarily play for the people in the stands. We play for each other.”
12 Curtis Granderson
Last season, Curtis Granderson signed a huge deal to become the new center fielder for the New York Mets, but fell far short of the performances he delivered while playing for the Yankees over three of the four previous seasons. Granderson managed to stay heathy for the full season, but posted a career-low batting average of .227. He hit 20 home runs, which is dramatically reduced from the back-to-back 40 home run seasons in 2011 and 2012. Granderson will turn 34 in March and could be on the decline as his previous two campaigns have indicated.
11 Tim Lincecum
Tim Lincecum appears to be only a fraction of the Cy Young caliber pitcher he once was. Lincecum played an interesting role on last season’s World Series winning Giants squad, where he came out of the bullpen on several occasions. As he prepares to return to the starting rotation for the 2015 season, Lincecum must control the limited velocity remaining in his fastball. If he cannot, his ERA will continue to balloon, like the 4.74 he posted last season. With a diminishing strikeout rate and velocity, the Freak will have to prove he is worth continued investment during his contract year in 2015.
10 Carl Crawford
Since signing a massive deal with the Boston Red Sox in 2011, Carl Crawford has struggled to live up to the enormous expectations that come along with a gigantic price tag. Crawford will collect over $21 million in salary in 2015 and will finally see everyday action with the Dodgers, but will need to show significant improvement to be worthy of that investment. He returned to form after a slow start to 2014 finishing with a .300 average, but will need to continue that trend in order for the Dodgers to stay competitive.
9 Ryan Howard
Ryan Howard is currently the poster boy for both Subway and bad contracts in Major League Baseball. Ryan Howard will collect $50 million over the next two seasons before the Phillies will be forced to pay $10 million to buy out the remaining option year on Howard’s albatross of a contract. The 35-year-old Howard shows little sign of returning to being the National League Home Run King, and hit only 23 last season while batting .223. Howard also led the National League in strikeouts with 190 on the season.
8 Andre Ethier
As Andre Ethier approaches his 33rd birthday, he has dropped .035 points off his batting average during the last two seasons. Ethier once hovered around .300, but did not even manage .250 last season, while hitting only four home runs during his time in the Dodgers crowded outfield. After the trade of Matt Kemp, Ethier will have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth with three years remaining on his contract (with a team option for a fourth). This may not bode well for the Dodgers after Ethier posted career lows in runs, home runs, RBI, and batting average in 2014.
7 Shin-Soo Choo
In the first year of his seven-year contract with the Texas Rangers, Shin-Soo Choo had arguably the worst season of his decade in the Major Leagues. Choo finished the 2014 season with a career-low .242 batting average in his 123 games played. Choo also posted the second lowest home run total of the last seven years with only 13 on the season. Choo was an outside candidate for MVP in 2013, but performed far below the standard he had set in that season. After this season, Choo’s contract is set to jump from $14 million to $20 million and the Rangers will be paying him until at least 2020 when he will be 37.
6 CC Sabathia
The continued deterioration of CC Sabathia’s knee was a concern for the New York Yankees last season as the big man pitched only 46 innings. Sabathia luckily avoided microfracture surgery and should return healthy for the start of the 2015 campaign. At the age of 34, Sabathia’s best years are likely behind him, but the Yankees will spend $48 million over the next two seasons before a vesting option could kick in for the 2017 season. Over the last two seasons, his ERA has ballooned from 3.38 to 5.28, meaning we may have already seen the best from Sabathia.
5 C.J. Wilson
While receiving the highest salary of his Major League career, C.J. Wilson had arguably the worst season of his career during 2014 with the Angels. The veteran starter pitched under 200 innings for the first time in five seasons, finishing with only 175.2 on the year. Wilson’s ERA of 4.51 was the highest of his career as a starter, and he also issued 85 free passes to hitters. Wilson’s salary will increase by $2 million this season, bringing his salary to $18 million, which may be a bit much for a 34-year-old starter.
4 Mark Trumbo
Mark Trumbo may have been a player that posted inflated stats during his early years due to being protected by the Angels’ killer lineup. In his fourth Major League season, Trumbo missed significant time due to a foot fracture and played only 88 games in 2014. The power hitting Trumbo managed only 14 home runs in 362 plate appearances while striking out more than once per game. Trumbo will need to prove that he can produce in Arizona, while being one of their clubhouse leaders.
3 B.J. Upton
While his brother Justin continues to show signs of improvement at the Major League level, older brother B.J. has struggled over the last two seasons in Atlanta. B.J. hit only .208 last season, which was actually an improvement over his 2013 mark of .184. Upton hit only 12 home runs in 582 plate appearances. B.J. is now on the north side of 30 and could continue to decline from his currently lackluster production levels. It will be interesting to see how 2015 plays out for Upton.
2 Bryce Harper
According to an anonymous poll of 143 Major League Baseball players, Bryce Harper was considered the most overrated player by his peers. The former teenage phenom struggled significantly during his third season in the Majors, hitting a career-low 13 home runs in a season that saw him play only 100 regular season games. Harper’s April thumb injury kept him from playing a full season, and he continues to strike out at a high rate—last season striking slightly more than once per game. During the next two seasons, Harper will need to show signs of improvement if he hopes to earn the gigantic salary that Scott Boras should be able to get him.
1 Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez remains the most controversial figure in baseball and for good reason. Coming off his suspension for PED use, A-Rod decided to reach out to Barry Bonds for advice on how to continue hitting as an aging slugger. As he continues his comeback attempt to challenge Bonds for baseball’s all-time home run crown, the Yankees third baseman has not approached hitting .300 in his last five seasons. He also failed to hit 30 home runs in his last three full seasons, while being plagued by nagging injuries that have caused him to play only 265 of 486 regular season games. Rodriguez will collect $22 million in salary from the Yankees this year, and his future with the club includes marketing bonuses for hitting home run milestones.