Bad contracts are one of the biggest ways for a Major League Baseball player to become a villain. It’s not always their fault as the team has to agree to the deal too. But when a player is unable to live up to the contract, putting up poor numbers by comparison to the amount he’s making, he gets a bad reputation and ends up on a list with the word “worst” in the headline.
Every team has at some point experienced a bad contract and at any given time you can find one. The deals pay for the past, present, and projected future. The future projections for a player tend to be the one they get paid for the most as MLB deals are handed out years in advance with little adjustment along the way after arbitration. Unfortunately nobody knows for sure what someone will do and often favorable deals backfire.
Searching through the payroll of all 30 MLB teams you will find players getting overpaid everywhere just as much as you will see some earning hardly anything when compared to their teammates. For instance, Dallas Keuchel made $524,500 in 2015 to win a Cy Young Award. Meanwhile, Cliff Lee was paid $25 million to spend the entire season on the disabled list. MLB contracts don’t work the same way it does in DraftKings or FanDuel where they are adjusted toward performance. These guys make what they were promised and there’s very little teams can do along the way to get out of it even when they stink up the joint.
Included in this list are players who are on bad deals because their on-field performance has declined or never was very good. There are also a few potential All-Stars on contracts we know will get worse along the way. Whatever the situations, these are the worst contracts for every MLB team.
30 Arizona Diamondbacks: Aaron Hill
Infielder Aaron Hill is your typical case of a number one pick that a decade later has declined greatly. Once a guy who could hit 20+ home runs with decent RBI totals and a good batting average, Hill is no longer playing up to his contract. The Arizona Diamondbacks have shopped him around with the hopes of dumping the remainder of his salary. Right now, he’s only owed $12 million in 2016 before the Diamondbacks are done with him for good. Leaving few good memories of late, for the $23 million he made combined in 2014 and 2015, Hill offered only a .238/.290/.359 slash line.
29 Atlanta Braves: Nick Swisher
Nick Swisher’s bad contract for the Atlanta Braves is a result of their own doing. They acquired him and Michael Bourn, another veteran on a bad deal, from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Chris Johnson who is also getting paid way more than he deserves. This midseason trade in 2015 was one of the strangest swaps of bad contracts. yet it somehow works for both teams. Considering Swisher has slashed only .224/.315/.373 since 2013, including a .196/.312/.320 slash line in 2015, we have to figure the Braves won’t let him reach 550 plate appearances in 2017 to extend his deal another year. Swisher’s current contract will pay him $15 million in 2016 and $14 million in 2017 if he somehow reaches the 550 plate appearances from the Braves’ bench.
28 Baltimore Orioles: Ubaldo Jimenez
The Baltimore Orioles don’t have many reprehensible contracts, however the Ubaldo Jimenez one can be considered the worst. Signed in February of 2014, Jimenez is set to make over $50 million over four years with Baltimore including $13 million in 2016 and $13.5 million in 2017. Thus far in two seasons with Baltimore, he has gone 18-19 with a 4.39 ERA, underperforming greatly. Baltimore was expecting a lot more from the veteran starting pitcher who somehow had much better numbers with the Colorado Rockies.
27 Boston Red Sox: Rick Porcello
Out of all the bad contracts the Boston Red Sox have given, starting pitcher Rick Porcello's contract is the worst because it's completely unwarranted. For whatever reason, the Red Sox decided to extend Porcello shortly after acquiring him in a trade in the 2014-2015 offseason before he even threw a regular season pitch for them. The deal was worth $82.5 million and will pay Porcello over $20 million for the next four seasons. In his first year with Boston (before the extension kicks in), Porcello went 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA. Previous to joining the Red Sox, he had a 4.30 ERA for his career already and exactly zero All-Star appearances and Cy Young Award votes combined. Porcello makes Pablo Sandoval look underpaid.
26 Chicago Cubs: Edwin Jackson
The Chicago Cubs have actually been pretty good at handing out the right contracts. In fact, nobody on the roster really has a bad one. The trouble is the guy getting overpaid the most isn’t even with them anymore yet has his name on the payroll sheet. Starting pitcher Edwin Jackson will earn $13 million from the Cubs in 2016 even though he won’t pitch for them. They released Jackson in July of 2015 in spite of some decent numbers as a relief pitcher. The price unfortunately was too much to have him on the roster in a long-relief role as Jackson no longer could effectively work as a starting pitcher.
25 Chicago White Sox: John Danks
Why on earth is John Danks getting paid over $15 million in 2016? In fact, why has he earned over $14 million every year since 2013? The Chicago White Sox apparently don’t consult a crystal ball before contract extensions as they’re paying a fourth/fifth starter big bucks. Since 2011, Danks is 33-56 with a 4.71 ERA. He has been practically predictable over the last three seasons with an ERA between 4.71-4.75 and losing between 11-15 games each year. Good thing they have Chris Sale to balance things out and make up for Danks’ poor pitching.
24 Cincinnati Reds: Homer Bailey
Homer Bailey must have saved a lot of orphans in a past life to earn the dollars he will get paid over the next few years. After making $10 million in 2015 to make two starts, Bailey is set to take home even bigger amounts in the coming years. He will make $18 million in 2016 with his salary climbing a few million each year until 2019 when he gets $23 million. There is a $25 million deal in place for 2020, but that includes a mutual option and $5 million buyout which the Cincinnati Reds will surely end up using. Lifetime, Bailey is only 58-51 with a 4.19 ERA without any All-Star appearances or Cy Young Award votes.
23 Cleveland Indians: Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson’s contract is apparently so bad it’s valued at Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn’s bad contracts combined. Not actually that terrible at $7.5 million in 2016 and $9 million guaranteed in 2017, it’s his lack of production that makes it look worse. After nearly winning a batting title in 2013 with a .321 batting average, Johnson has seen his numbers decline drastically with the strikeouts piling up. He slashed .263/.292/.361 in 2014 and .255/.286/.337 in 2015. At this point. he’s just a part-time player lucky to be on the Cleveland Indians, if only because they have limited third base options.
22 Colorado Rockies: Jose Reyes
Even before the alleged domestic abuse, Jose Reyes’ career was in turmoil. For a time one of the best shortstops in the MLB with great offensive abilities and some of the fastest legs in the game, injuries have caught up with the former All-Star. The contract the Miami Marlins gave him in 2012 is now hurting the Colorado Rockies, as he is owed $22 million guaranteed over the next two seasons before they are able to buy him out in the summer of 2017. Bad salaries for the Rockies seem far too common, as there’s always someone’s deal they seem willing to eat. At the moment it’s Jose Reyes'.
21 Detroit Tigers: Victor Martinez
Unless it’s the final year of a deal, a 36-year-old designated hitter should not make $18 million a year. Unfortunately for the Detroit Tigers, this is exactly what Victor Martinez will take from them in each of the next three seasons. They made the mistake of giving him this big deal after an incredible 2014 campaign where the injury-prone slugger finished second in the MVP voting. Age was somehow not factored into the number of zeroes added to his deal. If any contract is going to hold back an otherwise strong team, it might be the one Martinez is on.
20 Houston Astros: Colby Rasmus
As the highest paid player on a talented Houston Astros team, their worst contract has to go to the lone player making over $10 million. After accepting the qualifying offer from Houston, Rasmus will earn $15.8 million in 2016. At this price, the Astros would normally spend it on a starting outfielder and a starting pitcher; not just one of those valuable pieces. The 2016 contract is almost double the $8 million he made from the Astros in 2015, so drinks are certainly on his tab for the Astros over 21. For a career .245 hitter who strikes out about once per game, it’s a little too much. Offering Rasmus the qualifying offer might have been a mistake.
19 Kansas City Royals: Omar Infante
When the Kansas City Royals signed second baseman Omar Infante they figured he would continue to produce at the plate until the end of his career. Apparently the end came in only the second year of his contract, as Infante slashed only .220/.234/.318 in 2015 during his 455 plate appearances. His poor play forced the Royals to add Ben Zobrist to the roster at the trade deadline, thus moving their $7.5 million per year second baseman to the bench almost full-time. Infante is still owed another $7.75 million in 2016 and $8 million in 2017. The 2018 season luckily has a $2 million buyout which means at the very least the Royals will shell out $17.5 million to a veteran past his prime.
18 Los Angeles Angels: Jered Weaver
Los Angeles Angels’ starting pitcher Jered Weaver has seen better days. Last year, he was paid $18.2 million to go 7-12 with a 4.64 ERA. We have seen his ERA and WHIP climb for three straight seasons now and in 2016 there’s no reason to believe it won’t once again reach new heights. In this season, however he will make $20.2 million. Weaver looks absolutely finished in most of his starts and with over 1,800 big league innings used up on his arm, he’s not getting any stronger. The only bonus is the Angels are done with him after 2016 and can use the free money to make another bad contract signing. Does anyone know if Josh Hamilton has any interest in coming back?
17 Los Angeles Dodgers: Carl Crawford
The Los Angeles Dodgers knew what they were getting from Carl Crawford when they took on his contract from the Boston Red Sox several years ago in the mega-deal that also brought them Adrian Gonzalez, a veteran player who still contributes regularly. Crawford, however, does not. In three seasons with the Dodgers, Crawford has only played in 290 games, never more than 116 in a year. Although he has hit a respectable .286, Crawford has essentially become a platoon player only available against righties. Once his greatest weapon, his speed has gone away too. At over $20 million per year since 2013, with two years still remaining on his deal, Crawford is one of baseball’s most expensive part-time players.
16 Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton
Giancarlo Stanton has the opportunity to get paid a lot of money. The Miami Marlins have over $300 million invested in him, although an opt out clause in 2020 will most likely result in the two parting ways. Stanton’s contract is actually pretty appropriate for what he should become and what MLB salaries will look like over the next decade. It’s a bad deal though because this contract has potentially reshaped other deals teams will give young stars. The deal was incredibly misleading and was probably only done to get more Marlins’ fans in the seats. Without wins to back it up, the plan has not worked.
15 Milwaukee Brewers: Matt Garza
The Milwaukee Brewers are going through a rebuilding phase and in doing so they’re going to have to let the clock run out on the few bad contracts they have. Starting pitcher Matt Garza’s deal is the worst, as it is guaranteed to pay him $12.5 million in each of the next two seasons with a vesting option for the 2018 campaign. In his first two seasons with Milwaukee, Garza has suffered injuries and performed unspectacularly. In 2015, he was 6-14 with a 5.63 ERA during a season where many Brewers’ fans lost all hope of winning anytime soon.
14 Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer
When the Minnesota Twins gave Joe Mauer his big contract, it made sense. Mauer was headed toward a Hall of Fame career as a catcher who would hit well over .300 each year. Now, after two straight down seasons where his batting average has dropped about 40 points from his career totals and his strikeouts have gone up, Mauer looks like a burden in the Twin Cities. A first baseman without much power, Mauer will make $23 million in each of the next three seasons. Only because the Twins have been bad enough to get good draft picks does the future look somewhat promising in Minnesota.
13 New York Mets: David Wright
Until he retired, Michael Cuddyer was the New York Mets player with the worst contract. Now no longer employed by the Mets, their worst contract belongs to their captain, David Wright. Wright has been hurt frequently over the past five seasons and no longer has the power he once did. His batting average has also been below the career .298 he has hit for his career. Wright’s contract is a dangerous one, as the beat up third baseman still has $87 million on his deal remaining through 2020. He should produce in some ways and provide leadership, but also be given money the Mets could use to upgrade elsewhere.
12 New York Yankees: CC Sabathia
The former Cy Young Award winner and frequently feared lefty, CC Sabathia, has not been himself over the past three seasons with the New York Yankees. When he hasn’t been injured, Sabathia has gone 23-27 with a 4.81 ERA. Sabathia has performed so poorly he probably won’t even get into the starting rotation in 2016. The Yankees remain on the hook for $25 million in 2016 with a vesting option for the 2017 season. Sabathia basically needs to remain healthy in order to get another $25 million in 2017. You better believe after taking well over $100 million from the Yankees over the past few seasons, the franchise will do whatever they can to avoid paying him more.
11 Oakland Athletics: Coco Crisp
The money-wise Oakland Athletics who make a grandmother look like a wild-spender don’t have too many bad deals on their payroll. The $11 million they paid veteran Coco Crisp in 2015 and $11 million more they’re guaranteed to owe him in 2016 is the worst deal they currently have. Crisp played in only 44 games in 2015 while hitting just .175. As a 36-year-old coming off of an injury, Crisp will have a tough time actually earning what the Athletics are paying him. Thank goodness for the Player’s Union and their guaranteed deals as Crisp will probably spend a lot of 2016 on the disabled list and bench without any financial worries on his mind.
10 Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard
The day the Philadelphia Phillies no longer have to pay Ryan Howard will be a good one. The slugger has earned $20-$25 million each year since 2011 with another guaranteed $25 million for the 2016 season. Howard will also make $10 million when the Phillies buy him out before the 2017 season. What makes Howard’s contract so bad is not only his poor play, but also the injuries that always turn up. Howard has missed significant time since 2012, the year where it all went downhill. Since 2012, Howard has slashed .232/.300/.421 with only 71 home runs. As an example of how far he has fallen, in 2006 alone, Howard hit 58 dingers.
9 Pittsburgh Pirates: Mike Morse
The cheapness of the Pittsburgh Pirates has worked to their advantage in avoiding bad contracts. In fact, the worst one they have is the $8.5 million deal first baseman Mike Morse is on. Now a guy who only hits enough home runs to reach the low teens in a full season, Morse is not the player he used to be. In today’s MLB market though, he’s probably valued exactly where he belongs. It’s a stretch to call Morse’s contract a bad one except for the fact that first basemen should produce more than Morse will give the Pirates in 2016 even at this low price.
8 San Diego Padres: Melvin Upton Jr.
Possibly as a favor to Justin Upton, the San Diego Padres took on Melvin Upton Jr.’s contract last year when they acquired him along with closer Craig Kimbrel in a trade with the Atlanta Braves. Kimbrel has since been traded while Justin is a free agenet, the latter leaving his older brother stranded in San Diego making a ton of money. Upton is only a .244 career hitter who in the last three seasons has slashed .209/.287/.335 with 26 home runs through 354 games. Upton will make over $30 million from the Padres over the next two seasons before he enters free agency and hopes to get a sympathy deal as a bench player going forward.
7 San Francisco Giants: Matt Cain
The San Francisco Giants are holding onto hope that Matt Cain returns to form. Only three years ago a Cy Young Award candidate, Cain has struggled and been injured frequently since 2013. Over the past three seasons, he has made only 56 starts and has gone 12-21 with a 4.37 ERA. Fifth starter numbers, Cain is getting paid like an ace. Since 2013, Cain has made $61 million. The contract the Giants gave him will pay another $42 million over the next two seasons with a possible buyout in 2018 at $7.5 million. This contract might be one of the worst ways possible to spend $50 million as most of Cain’s time has been spent rehabbing.
6 Seattle Mariners: Robinson Cano
Seattle Mariners’ second baseman Robinson Cano remains productive, but not at the level the team is paying him and will continue to pay. Cano’s contract is almost laughable at this point, as it will pay him $24 million every year through 2023 when he’s 40. Since joining the Mariners in 2014, Cano has slashed .300/.358/.450. Other than his OBP these numbers all lower than his career totals. Cano’s run production has also gone down, driving in 82 RBIs in 2014 and 79 in 2015. Cano struck out a career high 107 times in 2015 during a campaign he had to really turn things around in the second half to end the year with good numbers. Still a great player, his contract is terrifying for the people who write the check.
5 St. Louis Cardinals: None
Here’s a challenge: find someone on the St. Louis Cardinals with a bad contact. You won’t one because there are none. Matt Holliday’s $17 million for 2016 only looks bad because he missed time in 2015. Jaime Garcia’s $11.5 million is also a bit tempting to proclaim as the franchise’s worst since he is always injured. The price is still not steep enough to get upset about. The Cardinals pay their players appropriately. Their Glassdoor reviews must be amazing. If anyone has a bad contract, it’s their general manager John Mozeliak. Someone needs to pay this man more for his constant ability to keep them competitive.
4 Tampa Bay Rays: None, They’re Too Cheap
Wouldn’t you know, the Tampa Bay Rays also don’t have any bad contracts. Unlike the St. Louis Cardinals who have this honor because of their smarts, the Rays have managed to avoid bad deals because of how incredibly cheap they are. Only Evan Longoria makes over $10 million per year and he’s set to make slightly above $12 million in 2016. Most of the team is still arbitration eligible with the few who aren’t signed to very favorable team-friendly deals. Don’t expect this to change anytime soon as the Rays are notoriously frugal.
3 Texas Rangers: Elvis Andrus
Elvis Andrus has not lived up to his contract thus far. His batting average is down and his stolen bases are too. He hasn’t been paid much yet, first earning $15.25 million in 2015. However, the Rangers are guaranteed to pay him another $45.75 million over the next three seasons with several more $15 million per season deals along the way. There is an opt out clause after the 2018 and 2019 seasons. After hitting only .258 with a .309 OBP in 2015, the Rangers are surely thankful they can get out of this lengthy deal signed too soon then find a brand new shortstop.
2 Toronto Blue Jays: Russell Martin
A catcher over 30 has to be great to earn the deal the Toronto Blue Jays handed Russell Martin prior to the 2015 season. Although he was an All-Star and hit a career high 23 home runs, Martin was inconsistent and finished the season hitting only .240. He turns 33 in February 2016 and has $75 million guaranteed on his contract through 2019. As catchers breakdown earlier than any other position players, and understandably so, the Blue Jays are walking a fine line hoping Martin can still play ball at 36-years-old in the final year of his deal. Hopefully the DH is still in the American League at that point.
1 Washington Nationals: Jayson Werth
Washington Nationals’ outfielder Jayson Werth got a huge deal from the ball club before the 2011 season after punishing them plenty as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. It started poorly then got better once he was healthy. Sadly, Werth has continued to get injured frequently and it has slowed him down significantly. Coming off a year where he played in 88 games with just a .221/.302/.384 slash line, Werth will play 2016 as a 37-year-old with a guaranteed $43 million left on his contract over the next two years.