Managing a professional sports roster takes more than an eye for talent – it takes wisdom, smarts, and guts. It’s not easy being entrusted with the task of making a team that is revered by so many into a championship winning entity. One slip up can set a franchise back a decade (or longer, in serious cases) on and off the field.
Because of this, managers must be wary of where they are spending their money – more specifically, who’s worth the big-time contracts, and who should be let go or passed on? This is perhaps the biggest dilemma for general managers across sports today; a player breaks out in his contract year, or has a couple of flash-in-the-pan seasons, and is suddenly in high demand and ready to cash in. Do you pay up with the hopes that that player will continue to thrive, or lay off for fear that the best years have past?
As we’ve seen throughout history, most of the time managers will bite the bullet and dish out huge amounts of cash to attract top players, only to have them wither away on their roster because they’ve already peaked in terms of their on-field productivity. Coaches will keep sending those guys out onto the field until they’re blue in the face, but ultimately they have to do what’s best for their roster and sit the players who aren’t producing, or simply don’t have the talent to match up with “everyday” players.
Thus, the bench-warmer is born – the athlete who was good enough to make it to the highest of competitive levels, but just short in terms of being able to get quality playing time. It’s bad enough being a bench-warmer, as it limits one’s ability to talk trash, impress the ladies, or bask in the glory a professional athlete usually gets – but it’s even worse when you’re paid like a starter and find yourself relegated to the bench (unless you’re really lazy, then you’re in heaven).
Grab a seat and get comfortable (almost as comfortable as the guys on this list are), here are the highest paid bench-warmers in sports today.
*We’ll be looking at player’s average salaries for this article.
20. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees – $2.9 million
Technically, A-Rod is warming up wherever he’s been for the past several months, but he’s definitely not earning his money at the hot corner. Thankfully for him, Derek Jeter made sure the room under the spotlight was sufficiently filled all season long, to the point where many people probably forgot that Rodriguez was even a member of the Bronx Bombers. Of course, the Steinbrenners are still very aware of him, as they are still paying him $2.9 million dollars this season to sit out his suspension. Better than paying the entire salary, of course, but still a lot to shell out for a guy who’s done nothing but cause headaches for the franchise over the past two years.
19. Chase Daniel, Kansas City Chiefs – $3.3 million
Chase Daniel doesn’t fall under the journeyman category yet, but he’s certainly making a name for himself as a perennial backup quarterback. He’s managed to get himself on rosters where, barring injury, there is absolutely no chance of him playing. Behind Drew Brees in New Orleans and now Alex Smith in KC, Daniel doesn’t see the field unless it’s garbage time or a playoff spot is already locked up. Not a bad way to earn a cool $3.3 million dollar salary, if you ask me.
18. Ryan Doumit, Atlanta Braves – $3.5 million
The Atlanta Braves had a disappointing year, to say the least – and it’s not like Ryan Doumit was going to be called upon to make a major impact for this team. At $3.5 million a year, though, you’d expect a bit more than a .197 batting average and 17 RBI’s. He only appeared as a defensive player 20 times all year, contributing mostly as a pinch-hitter. Doumit underachieved in all offensive categories compared to his career averages, so the Braves can’t be pleased with their return on investment.
17. Matt Hasselbeck, Indianapolis Colts – $3.625 million
Matt Hasselbeck has had everything go his way during his career (for the most part). He spent the majority of it starting for a solid Seattle Seahawks roster. Now, as retirement looms, he gets to sit back and marvel at the show Andrew Luck puts on week in and week out, knowing full well he’ll never have to spell the third-year superstar while collecting a big paycheck for warming the bench. Hasselbeck will probably end up on TV at some point after his career, so the cushy jobs won’t end with his current backup role.
16. Joel Anthony, Boston Celtics – $3.65 million
Joel Anthony, in his role, has been fairly productive over his career. He has two championship rings on his resume, but never really played a prominent role on the dominant, Lebron James-led Miami Heat rosters from 2010-2014. Anthony is now a member of the Boston Celtics, playing a similar benchwarmer-type role; he averaged 5.6 minutes and less than a point per game last season, all while raking in $3.8 million a year.
15. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins – $4 million
Matt Moore went from a starter in Carolina, to a backup in Miami, to a starter in Miami, and is now back on the bench in Miami. The roller coaster role ride has mirrored his erratic play on the field, but there’s no doubt that Moore is at the very least one of the best backups in the league. Because of this, Miami decided to shell out a fairly substantial amount of money to Moore a few years ago to keep him around in case Ryan Tannehill didn’t work out (he almost got his shot at the starter’s job last week). For the past two seasons, though, Moore has been glued to the bench, quietly earning his $4.0 million a year to stand next to Tannehill while the offensive coordinator goes over stills with him.
14. Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers – $4.935 million
It’s almost cruel to add Chris Pronger to this list, as he is only sidelined because of serious injuries sustained a few seasons ago. He still deals with symptoms today, including vision problems and daily battles with post-concussion syndrome. “Technically,” Pronger is retired. There’s no way he’s getting back on an NHL ice-rink, and everyone knows it. The problem is that if Pronger calls it quits now, the Flyers are on the hook for his cap-hit until his contract expires in 2018, thanks to the new CBA rules. So, Pronger plays a minor role in the front-office now while collecting salary, just so that the Flyers don’t have to count him against their cap.
13. Roberto Soldado, Tottenham Hotspur – $5.05 million
Ben Hayward, a Spanish football writer for Goal.com, put it best in the headline of a recent article: “From Liga goal machine to Spurs benchwarmer – what has happened to Roberto Soldado?”
Soldado came to Tottenham after a successful run with Valencia. After a promising start under Tottenham coach Andre Villa-Boas, Soldado could not find the back of the net. Off field family issues did not help, and when Villa-Boas was let go for Tim Sherwood, Soldado was relegated to the bench. A lack of confidence in himself and from the team have dropped his value down considerably – and the 13 total goals in 41 appearances is a black mark on an otherwise solid record.
12. Keith Bogans, Philadelphia 76ers – $5.2 million
Keith Bogans could have been listed under a couple of different teams. The veteran has been on three rosters in the last few months alone – he was moved from Boston to Cleveland, and is not in Philadelphia after the Cavs simply used him for salary cap purposes. Bogans is better know for being part of the trade that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn, but he’s also known for making a ton of money to average just over nine minutes a game. If Bogans doesn’t get more playing time on a brutal 76ers roster, well…
11. David Clarkson, Toronto Maple Leafs – $5.25 million
While David Clarkson still gets ice-time, it’s nowhere near what it should be for a power-forward making $5.25 million dollars a season. Clarkson was the Leafs big free-agent acquisition last summer; after several solid seasons in New Jersey, Clarkson was expected to bring the toughness and truculence that the Leafs and their fans love, combined with legitimate goal-scoring ability. Instead, a lack of production and injuries led head coach Randy Carlyle to only use Clarkson for about 15 minutes a game, when he should be closer to 20-21 minutes.
10. Dave Bolland, Florida Panthers – $5.5 million
To be clear – Dave Bolland probably won’t be on this list for much longer. Not only is he now playing for a bad Florida Panthers team, he’s being paid like a player who’ll get a lot of ice-time. Last season, though, Bolland was no where near where the Leafs needed him to be. An achilles injury derailed his season for the start, but when he was available, Bolland was a massive disappointment. Because of that, he averaged just over 14 minutes of ice-time a game, losing minutes to younger, more productive players like Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak. There’s no guarantee he’ll get a ton of ice-time in Florida now, either, as he’ll be contending for minutes with younger, more skilled players like Alexsander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad, to name a few.
9. Shawn Horcoff, Dallas Stars – $5.5 million
Horcoff falls into a similar situation as Clarkson – brought into Dallas to be a strong two-way player with offensive touch, he was never able to truly meet the expectations that we’re set for him based on his success in Edmonton. Horcoff only put up 20 points in 77 games last year, and, with the arrival of Jason Spezza, Horcoff might get even less than the 12 minutes a game he played last season – not to mention the Stars overall depth at the center position, which might lead to a move to the press box or out of town altogether.
8. Matt Schaub, Oakland Raiders – $6.75 million
Matt Schaub has had a rough go of it over the past couple of years, to say the least. It started with a tough ending to the 2012 season, as the Texans got mauled by the Pats in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. Then the Texans imploded in 2013, finishing 2-14, the worst record in the league. Schaub was shipped out of Houston and was expected to start for the Oakland Raiders, but he got beat out by Derek Carr for the starters job. It doesn’t get much worse than not being good enough to start for the Raiders…you’d almost feel bad for the guy, until you discover that he’s making close to $7 million to sit on the bench.
7. Kendrys Morales, Seattle Mariners – $7.5 million
Kendrys Morales was a solid contributor for the Los Angeles Angels over the majority of his career, but injuries have slowed down the 31-year old designated hitter. At $7.5 million, Morales is making a lot for a guy who’s put up .218/.274/.338 numbers this year. He was traded from the Twins midway through the season, but didn’t make the impact the Mariners hoped he would. Now, even rival GM’s are worried that Morales has become a “risky” player, according to an article by Tacoma News Tribune writer Bob Dutton.
6. Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons – $8.58 million
Villanueva will be off this list as soon as he steps on the court this season, as he’s signed a much less lucrative deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Last season, though, the former 7th overall pick played out the final year of his massive five-year deal with Detroit by averaging only 9.0 minutes a game – all that running around and he only earned $8.58 million for the season?! That’s preposterous…the Pistons got themselves a steal right there.
5. Andris Biedrins, Utah Jazz – $9.0 million
Andris Biedrins probably warmed his last NBA bench last season. After being traded from Golden State to the Utah last summer, he disappointed with the Jazz and was then promptly waived by Utah this offseason. Biedrins held the inglorious title of the NBA’s highest paid benchwarmer, collecting a cool $9 million to play an average of 7.5 minutes a game – not exactly the production he was expected to deliver after he was signed to a $54 million dollar deal in 2008.
4. Stevan Jovetic, Manchester City – $10.08 million
Stevan Jovetic was expected to be an integral part of a vaunted Manchester City squad, but has yet to live up to lofty expectations. Granted, Jovetic’s issues have stemmed largely from injury issues, but in a sport where patience runs very thin, Jovetic will need to step up and deliver once he gets back on the field. Jovetic had issues with preparation last season (which wasn’t helped by the injuries), so he’ll have to reward the faith of the club’s (so far) patient management.
3. Ashley Young, Manchester United – $10.08 millon
To say that Ashley Young has fallen out of favor among Manchester United management, fans and media would be an understatement. After a brilliant debut in 2011, Young has slowly but surely relegated himself to a permanent spot on the bench. It would take several injuries in the midfield to players like Ángel Di María and Ander Herrara for Louis van Gaal to even consider looking Young’s way. It’s no longer a matter of if, but when Young when leave ManU; according to The Guardian’s Robert Shepherd, Young will be on his way out in January.
2. Lukas Podolski, Arsenal – $11.3 million
Lukas Podolski is a household name among even casual soccer households. The German born striker was on the bench for most of the World Cup, and now he’s finding himself glued to the bench with the Gunners. Podolski was nearly shipped out this summer, but the possibility of him moving on despite being signed until 2016 is becoming more probably with each game he spends watching the action.
“I am a footballer through and through, I am a street footballer and I love competition. And when I don’t have that competition every weekend, there has to be a change,” Podolski said (according to ESPN.com).
1. Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers – $17 million
For the money Andre Ethier is getting paid, you don’t just expect him to be starting – you assume that it’s a certainty. The depth in the Dodgers outfield has relegated him to a bench player, though (no doubt not to his liking). With Yasiel Piug and Matt Kemp manning center and right field, respectively, Ethier has been left to battle for playing time with Carl Crawford, who’s been leaned on more since returning from the disabled list. Granted, it’s a good problem for the Dodgers, but Ethier can’t be too pleased with his increase in sunflower seeds consumed of late.
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