When Major League spring training began for 2016, all Canadians' eyes were clearly focused on Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista and his impending free agency. After being asked if he would consider taking a "hometown discount" to stay north of the border, Bautista responded by saying, "That doesn’t exist. Not in my world. In my eyes, I’ve given this organization a five-year hometown discount already." He also added that there will be no negotiation and that he's told the Blue Jays want he wants and it's up to them to meet his asking price.
Aside from there being a bit of revisionist history of Bautista's part – he had all of one full Major League season as an All-Star caliber player under his belt at the age of 30, when he signed his current contract in 2011 and the deal was a huge risk that General Manager Alex Anthopolous took a lot of heat for at the time and in no way a discount– he may have priced himself out of Toronto, especially if you believe the reports that he's seeking a contract greater than five years and $150 million.
There's no questioning how great Bautista has been for the Blue Jays, but he'll be 36 years old when his next contract begins and the type of money and term he's believed to be asking for maybe difficult for the Blue Jays or any other team to justify giving him. As you'll see from this list, what athletes think they are worth and what they ultimately get paid aren't always one and the same.
15 15. D.J. Augustin
14 14. Stephen Drew
13 13. Brandon Jennings
12 12. Chris Davis
11 11. Petr Nedved
10 10. Tim Lincecum
Tim Lincecum took home the NL Cy Young Award after each of his first two full MLB seasons and continued to pitch well enough that the San Francisco Giants offered him a five year, $100 million contract prior to the 2012 season. Lincecum rejected the deal reportedly seeking tens of millions of dollars more on long term contract. He instead agreed to a shorter term two year, $40.5 million deal.
9 9. Anderson Varejao
8 8. Bonzi Wells
7 7. Kelly Stouffer
6 6. Joe DiMaggio
Early in his career, Joe DiMaggio had become accustomed to making more money than everyone else even in the minor leagues, so after hitting 46 home runs in just his second Major League season, the Yankee Clipper countered the team's offer of a $17,000 salary by asking for $40,000. When the Yankees refused and pointed out that even star player Lou Gehrig didn't make that much, DiMaggio retorted, "Then Mr. Gehrig is a badly underpaid player."
5 5. Nomar Garciaparra
Nomar Garciaparra was the face of the Boston Red Sox at shortstop in the early 2000s and after seeing other upper echelon shortstops like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter sign big money contracts, Garciaparra went to Red Sox management in 2003 looking for an extension. The Red Sox offered Garciaparra a four year, $60 contract, but he wanted them to throw in an $8 million signing bonus to bring the total value of the contract closer to what he believed he was worth. The Red Sox weren't prepared to do that and an extension never materialized.
4 4. Joe Smith
The first overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in 1995, Joe Smith was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers midway through the 1997-98 season after turning down a $80 million extension. When Smith reached free agency following the 1998-99 lockout, he realized the market for him wasn't as strong as he had hoped. He signed a one year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves for just $1.75 million, but it was later discovered that an agreement had been made in which Smith would sign three successive one year contracts, giving the Timberwolves his Bird rights, and then sign a lucrative multi-year contract worth as much $86 million.
3 3. Ian Desmond
2 2. Latrell Sprewell
In 2003-04, Latrell Sprewell helped the Minnesota Timberwolves to a first place finish in the NBA's Western Conference and an appearance in the Western Conference Finals. Sprewell headed into the following season in the final year of his contract and the Timberwolves tried to lock him up by offering a three year, $21 million extension - a significant reduction from the salary he was making. Sprewell rejected the offer and expressed his outrage saying, "I have a family to feed. ... If (team owner Glen) Taylor wants to see my family fed, he better cough up some money. Otherwise, you're going to see these kids in one of those Sally Struthers commercials (where she solicits donations for starving children in developing countries) soon."
1 1. Juan Gonzalez
Over the course of his first nine full big league seasons. Juan Gonzalez reached the 40 home run mark five times and took home AL MVP honors twice for the Texas Rangers. Heading into the final year of his contract, Gonzalez was traded to the Detroit Tigers prior to the 2000 season. Shortly thereafter the Tigers tried to lock Gonzalez up long term, but he turned down an eight year, $140 million deal.
Injuries limited him to 115 games that season and hurt his free agent value. He ended up signing with the Cleveland Indians on a one year, $10 million deal and rebounded with a 35 home run and 140 RBI campaign, but still only earned himself a two year, $24 million deal to return to Texas (he reportedly turned down a slightly higher two year, $25 million deal with the Mets), suggesting that perhaps he was never worth quite as much as he believed.
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