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.
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15 D.J. Augustin
The 9th overall pick by the Bobcats in the 2008 NBA Draft, Augustin played his first four seasons in Charlotte and then signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Indiana Pacers after the Bobcats rescinded their qualifying offer to him. It was later revealed by Bobcats President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins that Augustin had turned down a lucrative contract extension for more money than he received from the Pacers, most likely believing his stock was on the rise after posting a career best 14.4 points and 6.1 assists per game during the 2010-11 season. The amount and term that he rejected was never reported, but it's fair to guess that it was a more secure contract than he'll ever see as a player who has since bounced around from team to team.
14 Stephen Drew
Former Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew became a free agent after the 2013 season and was given a $14.1 million qualifying offer that would insure the Red Sox would get draft pick compensation if Drew left. He rejected the qualifying offer to test the free agent waters, but due to the attached loss of a draft pick and a lack of teams needing a veteran shortstop, there was very little interest in his services. Drew ended up sitting out the first month and a half of the 2014 season before returning to the Red Sox on a one year, $10.1 million deal – a pro-rated amount of the deal he had initially rejected.
13 Brandon Jennings
After averaging a career high 19.1 points per game in 2011-12, Brandon Jennings reportedly turned down a four year, $40 million extension from the Milwaukee Bucks, opting to play out the final year of his deal and become a restricted free agent. When the 2013 offseason arrived, Jennings found that the market for him wasn't what he expected. He considered accepting the Bucks one year qualifying offer to return to Milwaukee, but ultimately joined the Detroit Pistons in a sign and trade on a three year deal at a little more than $25 million. Jennings' play has dropped off significantly since and he may never see the type of deal he rejected from the Bucks again.
12 Chris Davis
When Chris Davis hit free agency this past offseason, he was the top slugger on the MLB market having hit 159 home runs over the previous four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles reportedly offered Davis a seven year, $154 million contract to return, but he turned it down as he and agent Scott Boras sought offers of eight years and $200 million. Those offers never came and in January Davis re-signed with the Orioles on a seven year, $161 million deal which was the largest deal in Orioles franchise history, but still less than what Davis was expecting.
11 Petr Nedved
Petr Nedved seemed to overvalue himself throughout his NHL career as he was involved in several contract disputes. The most notable one came in 1997 when he rejected a five year, $14 million deal from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nedved sat out the entire 1997-98 season and part of the following season before he was dealt to the New York Rangers. The Rangers then inked him to a three year, $10.5 million contract, but the slightly higher average salary couldn't make up for the lost season, the irreparable damage he had done to his reputation, and the amount of money he cost himself in the long term.
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.
Lincecum then went on to have the worst statistical season of his career with a 5.18 ERA, but pitched well out of the bullpen in the 2012 postseason to help the Giants take home their second World Series title in three years. Aside from throwing a no-hitter, he mostly continued to struggle as a starter in 2013 and took a pay cut to sign another two year deal, this time for $35 million. It's hard to really blame Lincecum for placing a high value on himself given his early success, but in hindsight it cost him $24.5 million.
9 Anderson Varejao
After helping the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 2007 NBA Finals appearance, Anderson Varejao became a restricted free agent and was reportedly seeking a contract worth $10 million per year despite averaging just 6.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in the 2006-07 season, numbers which, at that point, were career highs. Varejao is said to have turned down offers of five years, $32 million and three years, $20 million from the Cavaliers. He sat out the beginning of the 2007-08 season waiting for a better offer before finally signing a three year offer sheet with the Charlotte Bobcats for just $17.4 million, an offer the Cavaliers had no problem matching.
8 Bonzi Wells
After his lone season with the Sacramento Kings in 2005-06 in which he averaged the third highest point totals of his career with 13.6 per game and a career best 7.7 rebounds per game, Bonzi Wells reportedly turned down a five-year extension from the Kings, ranging from $36-$38.5 million. Shortly thereafter, Wells fired his agent, Bill Phillips, in hopes of landing a more lucrative offer at upwards of $50 million. The move backfired and Wells ended up settling for a two year, $5 million deal with the Houston Rockets shortly before training camp began. Wells' new agent, Merle Scott, tried to downplay the reduced salary claiming, "This isn't about the money, this is about being in the right place."
7 Kelly Stouffer
After being taken sixth overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1987 NFL Draft, quarterback Kelly Stouffer refused to sign, reportedly turning down a four year contract that would've paid him $1.78 million plus incentives and made him the highest paid rookie in franchise history. Stouffer sat out the entire season before being traded to the Seattle Seahawks where he signed a four year, $3.1 million deal including a $1 million signing bonus. He may have gotten more money in the short term, but the move likely stunted his development and hurt his value long term as he started just 16 games over four seasons in Seattle before disappearing from the NFL entirely.
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."
The Yankees increased their offer to $25,000 but refused to go any higher while DiMaggio did not budge from his demands. His case wasn't helped when Gehrig signed a new deal for $39,000, but he continued to hold-out for the first few games of the 1938 season before finally relenting and accepting the Yankees' $25,000 offer. Although he may have overestimated his value at the time, DiMaggio would prove to be worth much more over the next few years as salaries rose across the Majors and he became the first player in MLB history to receive a $100,000 salary in 1949.
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.
After the 2003 season, Garciaparra's agent suggested to Red Sox management that if they weren't go sign the player, they should trade him and as the Red Sox closed in on a deal to acquire Alex Rodriguez, they worked outa separate deal to ship Garciaparra to the Chicago White Sox. After the Rodriguez trade fell apart, Garciaparra remained a member of the Red Sox, but it became apparent that his days in Boston were numbered. At the 2004 trade deadline, he was shipped to the Chicago Cubs and the Red Sox went on to win the World Series without him. Garciaparra finished the season with the Cubs and then re-signed in Chicago for just one year and $8 million.
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.
The move was clearly illegal and the team was punished severely for it. The investigation of the deal was completed shortly after Smith had signed his third one year deal at a $2.5 million salary and that contract as well as his previous two were voided, taking away the Timberwolves Bird rights and making Smith an unrestricted free agent. By this point his production had dropped off and he signed a one year deal with the Detroit Pistons before returning to the Timberwolves on a less lucrative six year, $34 million contract.
3 Ian Desmond
In 2013, Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond rejected a seven-year, $107 million extension in favor of testing the free agent market this past winter. When the offseason arrived, the Nationals made him a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer to net them draft pick compensation if he departed and Desmond rejected that offer as well. As the winter wore on, Desmond realized that no only was the market for his services thinner than he expected, but there wasn't much of a market for shortstops in general and he ultimately signed a one year, $8 million deal with the Texas Rangers to play left field.
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."
Sprewell then played out the final year of his contract, had the worst statistical season of his career, and despite offers to return at an even smaller salary, never played another game in the NBA after that.
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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