Blog Entry

Baseball's worst contracts, Part I: IF/C

Posted on: February 1, 2012 7:57 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 8:48 am

By Matt Snyder

This past weekend I posted a blog about Joe Mauer feeling healthy so far this offseason and in the comments section a small discussion about bad contracts broke out. So, I figured, why not sort through all the contracts in baseball and come up with some of the worst? We're still more than two weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting, but it would be shocking to see a free agent sign for a contract that would rank among the worst in baseball -- considering the players left unsigned. So the timing works well. Let's check it out and discuss, shall we? If there's one thing baseball fans love, it's arguing.

We'll go at this in three different parts. First (now) is infielders and catchers, Thursday we'll look at the outfielders and designated hitters while Friday is pitchers.

One last note before we proceed. The way baseball's salary structure is set up, the overwhelming majority of the players can't make big bucks -- relatively speaking, of course -- until they've been in the league for about three years. Then there is arbitration, so they aren't free agents for another few years. So, most of the time, the overpaid players were underpaid -- again, relatively speaking -- when they were young studs. So you could argue it evens out. And I would in many cases. I also don't begrudge any of them for making gobs of money to play a game. They have a special talent that people pay to watch. They deserve a huge cut. So let's just try to stay on topic here, OK? Great. Let's dive in.


Worst: Joe Mauer, Twins
Remaining contract: 7 years, $161 million

Mauer is obviously coming off a disastrous season and should improve greatly in the next few years. That being said, his health issues throughout 2011 were a bit of a wakeup call on how bad that contract will likely prove to be. He has to remain behind the plate to be worth anywhere close to $23 million per season, and what are the chances that he stays productive and healthy as a full-time catcher for the next seven years? If he moves to first base, he's a well-below average power hitter at the position and that harms the offense as a whole. While Mauer is certainly a stand-up guy and a hometown hero, it's hard to see this contract coming close to paying off for Minnesota in the end.

Honorable Mention
Victor Martinez, Tigers: This one is mitigated by the fact that the Tigers have insurance (that will reportedly pay almost half), but he's still owed $38 million over the next three seasons. In fairness to the Tigers, though, this wasn't really a bad deal when signed. They didn't know he'd get badly hurt and they'd then sign Prince Fielder to a gargantuan contract. It's just that there aren't really any other bad catcher contracts. I'm even cheating by putting Martinez here because he's predominantly a DH. I just had to list someone here.

First Base

Worst: Ryan Howard, Phillies
Remaining contract: 5 years, $125 million

The achillies injury wasn't taken significantly into account because there's no way the Phillies knew that was coming. Still, this deal was signed in April of 2010 but is just now kicking in for the start of the 2012 season. We're talking about a guy who hit .253 and only had a .488 slugging percentage last season. Jose Reyes and Shane Victorino had higher marks in slugging, which is a power stat. The 33 home runs and 116 RBI look good, but Howard is set to make $25 million per season for the next five years. He also hit just .105 with a .263 slugging percentage in the 2011 NLDS, where the Phillies lost in five games to the Cardinals due predominantly to a lack of offense. When Howard is 36 and making $25 million, it'll be an albatross of a contract.

Honorable Mention
Albert Pujols, Angels: It's actually a huge bargain for the next two seasons, when Pujols will make a combined $28 million, but by the time you get to age 42 and $30 million per year, it's pretty rough. The Angels are counting on having already made their money by then. And they very well might do so, which is why he's only in "honorable mention." We'll see.

Prince Fielder, Tigers: Similar to Pujols, the nine-year, $214 million deal doesn't look bad until several years down the road. We'll see, part two.

Mark Teixeira, Yankees: Teixiera is similar to Howard in several ways. He is actually coming off back-to-back seasons of sub-.500 slugging percentages (Howard was only below in '11) while getting most of his value from home runs and RBI, the latter of which is a team stat. The difference is Teixeira is a great defender and is owed slightly less ($115 million and change in five years). And he is completely healthy, which bodes better in his chances to right the ship these next few years.

Second Base

Worst: Dan Uggla
Remaining contract: 4 years, $52.8 million

Uggla salvaged what could have been an awful 2011 season by getting insanely hot in the second half. He ended with a career-high 36 homers, but that's about all that looks good, on the whole. He hit .233/.311/.453 with 156 strikeouts, poor defense and a career-low 22 doubles. He'll be 35 in the final year of his contract.

Honorable Mention
Chase Utley, Phillies: Past performance means he's probably earned this, but $30.575 million for the next two seasons seems awfully high for a 33-year-old coming off a .259/.344/.425 season.

Brian Roberts, Orioles: Let's just hope he finds a way to recover from all the post-concussion symptoms for the sake of his quality of life. The Orioles have far bigger problems than the $20 million Roberts will make the next two seasons.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Twins: OK, so $6 million for two seasons isn't much money to any team in the majors, but Nishioka was probably the worst position player in baseball last year and it's hard to see any improvement.


Worst: Jose Reyes, Marlins
Remaining contract: 6 years, $106 million

I don't think this was an awful signing at all, from a certain point of view. The Marlins wanted to make a splash and Reyes is the type of player that can single-handedly energize an entire lineup ... when he's in it. Yep, there's that qualifier and that's why he's here. Leg injuries -- on a player who relies on speed -- have limited Reyes to 295 games the past three seasons. Can he stay healthy for the next six? That's a tall order. Again, though, I don't think this one is egregious, and it's possible he ends up well worth the money. It's just that there aren't many bad contracts at shortstop and this represents a huge risk.

Honorable Mention
Derek Jeter, Yankees: What he means to the franchise -- in addition to how much money the Yankees can afford to spend -- says this deal isn't hurting anyone at all. But if you look at what he's likely to provide in the next two seasons, there's no way it's worth the $33 million Jeter is owed. Again, though, Jeter has earned the "pension," if you will, by this point in his legendary career.

Third Base

Worst: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
Remaining contract: 6 years, $149 million

If A-Rod hit the free agent market right now, what would he get ... half that contract? He's 36, he hasn't played in more than 138 games since 2007 and is coming off a season where he hit .276/.362/.461. I have no doubt if he stays healthy he has another two or even three great seasons left in him, but he's set to make at least $20 million during the season in which he turns 42.

Also, there are marketing bonuses in the contract for several home-run milestones from A-Rod's 660th to 763rd home runs (he currently has 629). It's probably not worth getting into in this space, because if A-Rod actually breaks the home run record, the Yankees will be rolling in the promotional dough from the event(s) and aftermath.

Honorable Mention
Brandon Inge, Tigers: When the Tigers signed Fielder and announced Miguel Cabrera was moving to third base, it made Inge a $5.5-million backup for the 2012 season.

On the other hand ...

Evan Longoria, Rays: Even if the Rays pick up all their club options on Longoria -- which they surely will, barring major injury -- the All-Star third baseman is only owed $40.5 million over the next five seasons. He's only 26 years old and already has two Gold Gloves, 113 career homers, an .874 career OPS and three postseason appearances in just four seasons. He's received MVP votes in all four of his seasons at the majors. He'll make $4.5 million in 2012 while A-Rod will make $29 million. Now that is a club-friendly contract, one that is surely the envy of general managers -- and certainly owners -- across the league.


Thursday: OF/DH

Friday: Pitchers

Source for all figures was Cot's Baseball Contracts

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Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: February 10, 2012 6:43 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part I: IF/C

Joe Mauer hands down!23 million$ for the next 7 years.The Twins throw money aound like they have it.Joe Mauer is nothing but a glorified backups backup.If MLB keeps paying mediocre players that kind of money they will be broke in 5 years.About 6 teams already are.

Since: Feb 7, 2012
Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:35 pm

Baseball's worst contracts?

I think the name of this article should be baseballs most expensive contracts.  All of these guys signed market value contracts.  Saying a guys contract is the worst because he had one bad season due to injury isn't fair.  Where is Adam Dunn on this list?? 

Since: Sep 13, 2007
Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:00 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part I: IF/C

oops, "Mauer just looks........" sorry!

Since: Sep 13, 2007
Posted on: February 7, 2012 4:59 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part I: IF/C

Come on Mauer.....ANYONE 6' 5" should have MORE power than this. Isn't Dustin Pedroa half his size with TWICE the power? Too many double plays, too many injuries. Just like Morneau. Is he EVER going to play a second half? More just looks really good stat wise because he's a catcher (and I'm FROM MN, so I see more than enough of him). TOO much MN nice. Not enough players with gonads on the Twins. I don't buy that small market crap anymore. If that's true, than shouldn't the Yankees be winnig it EVERY year? I mean, IF you have (well, they did two years ago), the best record in ALL of baseball, the SECOND half of the year, and STILL got swept in the playoffs? That's just gay. Too many "role" players starting on this team. Mauer HAS to take the brunt of the criticism!!

Since: Jan 27, 2012
Posted on: February 6, 2012 9:59 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part I: IF/C

How anyone can think Uggla is the best power hitting second baseman in the game today let alone all time is a mystery.  Cano is better hands down. Not to mention the average is significantly better.  The reality is, as long as teams make money from tv contracts and stadium tickets, the salaries will keep spiraling out of control.  Free Agency made sure of that.  It is crazy how a .230 career hitter can make millions but it is the nature of the game.  Sooner or later the teams will price themselves out of profitability and the game will need a restructuring but until then guys like Dunn and Uggla will earn 20-40 times the salary of the president of the United States. and over 100 times the salary of tenured teachers.  Go figure.

Since: Dec 31, 2007
Posted on: February 6, 2012 2:06 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part I: IF/C

None of these a*&holes are worth the money.  It's baseball for crying out loud.  In a land of crazy contracts and arbitration awards and market values, the only guys that are bargains are still within their entry level contracts.

Don't get me wrong, I love baseball, but I ignore contracts.  If you start paying attention to the money, you will start hating the players and more importantly, hating the sport.

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: February 6, 2012 1:46 pm

Dan Uggla

I completely disagree with the Dan Uggla contract. I'd say the Uggla contract is fair to a good deal for the braves. You get the best power hitting 2nd basemen in the game / possibly all time and a solid defender. I thought Uggla was a bad defender until I watched him play, he's actually a fairly good infielder. He continues to get the perception hes terrible defensively after his blunders in the all star game. Also the contract doesn't pay him past 35 and it averages around 13 million a year. I don't understand how the Uggla contract is bad at all. Sure he had a bad first half, but made it up during the second half. His season was flukey and he will get back to his old ways.

Since: Jul 18, 2009
Posted on: February 5, 2012 10:37 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part I: IF/C

Please elaborate, since Detroit only had Gonzalez for (1) year and he was already under contract when they got him. After his (1) season in Detroit he was a free agent and then signed with Cleveland.

Since: Aug 8, 2010
Posted on: February 5, 2012 10:10 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part I: IF/C

Pity you're not doing all-time worst contracts.  I'd make a pitch for Juan Gonzalez to the Tigers. 

Since: Sep 2, 2008
Posted on: February 4, 2012 6:37 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part I: IF/C

Reyes the "worst" contract tell that to us Mets fans WHEN we get SMOKED and are in LAST PLACE IN MAY !!!!

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