THE LINEUP #12: Breaking Bad – Baseball’s 10 Worst Contracts

Posted: August 29, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB, The Lineup
Tags: , , , , , , ,


The Chicago Cubs sit firmly lodged in 5th place in the National League Central, with little hopes of escaping the spot this summer. This is nothing new, as they have been lodged out of competition for the past few summers; however how they arrive there is what the worst part of the story is. The Cubs total payroll sits just a bit north of $125 million, which is the sixth highest total in the game. This would be fine if many of the deals that are driving up the price were from productive players that kept them in the postseason race annually. Not the case here as the team hasn’t been to October baseball since 2008, and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2003. Something’s amiss.

The organization decided that former General Manager Jim Hendry is to blame for this underachieving, and it’s hardly a stretch to believe so. He’s responsible for chaining the team to some of the worst signings in baseball in the last 10 years. However, he’s far from alone. There have been a number of huge deals that continue to haunt payrolls around the game. Some made sense at the time and some others…well…we’ll get to those too.

In one way (or 23 million), here are the 10 worst contracts at work right now in Major League Baseball:


10. Alex Rodriguez: The fiasco around when A-Rod declared his intent to push for a new contract says nothing compared to the ransom he hauled in when he finally got it. The 10 year, $275 million deal he received was a raise to a guy that was in the middle of his best years already and will guarantee him at the minimum $20 million per year past his 40th birthday. Even for the Yankees that’s bad business.

Time is not on the Yanks side with several deals, but Rodriguez will be on the books well past his considerable prime.

9. Carlos Zambrano: The first of a few Hendry engineered deals that will showcase here. It’s always risky when talent has to be judged against character, and they are polar opposites. Now he’s has reached the intolerable level as a character and has been exiled from the clubhouse, but still has around $37 million potentially left on the books. Big problem here, since nobody seems to be interested in alleviating them of Zambrano; he even made it through trade waivers without anyone taking the bait.


8. Aaron Rowand: He cashed in on his career/contract year in Philadelphia in 2007 (.309/27/89) and turned it into a five year, $60 million dollar deal out in San Francisco. Since he arrived in the Bay, he’s never hit over 15 homers or drove in more than 70 runs and has been a part-time starter the last two years.


7. Carlos Lee: It’s not that he hasn’t hit down in Houston, it’s just that it was way too much for way too long. Especially for a player that was due for a decline from the moment he signed his deal. While the power numbers have stay respectable, everything across the board has dropped each year. And now he’s pulling down $18 million per season and has 11 home runs in August, along with an unmovable contract for the rebuilding Astros.

Lee's deal has lasted long past it's value to the Astros as contenders. And now is more of an anchor.

6. CC Sabathia: It’s not that he’s not worth it; he’s averaged it’s just that the Yankees were way too confident in how they dealt it out. CC became the highest paid pitcher in baseball when he signed his 7 year, $152 million deal in 2009. However, an opt-out cause (to add personal security) was included after the third year. And now the Yanks are desperate to improve their pitching, all while their only sure thing is set to potentially opt out of his previously (but now not so) long-term deal, and they’ll have to give him even more than the $23 million he’s pulling down per year now, only for probably the same amount of years he was already on the hook for.


5. Oliver Perez: The Mets signed a lot of big contracts that went nowhere, but few went shorter than what they handed they handed Perez’s way. After resigning him to a 3 year, $36 million dollar deal in 2009, he gave them back two seasons of work that totaled a 3-9 record to go with a 6.81 ERA in 31 games. It got so bad that he was released in March of 2011, while still owed $12 million for the season, which he is collecting as a minor leaguer for the Nationals Double-A squad.


4. Jason Werth: It’s early the call this a complete bust, but from the beginning it scream bad investment long term. The Nationals had a lot of money and had to put it somewhere. Werth’s stock as a back-to-back All-Star was high and he cashed in on it in a major way. To the tune of 7 years and $126 million which will net him $21 million a year on his 38th birthday. Not bad for guy who hit 30 home runs once and has never topped .300 in a single season…not to mention is hitting .224 with 14 home runs in the first year of this deal.


3. Alfonso Soriano: Of the multiple heavyweight deals holding the Cubs down, this has been the anchor of the group. He came to the Cubs fresh off a 40/40 season in Washington and looked to just be getting started into his prime as one of the best overall hitters in the game. However, like the Werth deal, this was given at the wrong time in length-to-value total. Now he’s 35 and has had leg injuries take away much of his productivity and all his speed (he’s never drove in more than 79 runs and has stolen a total of 15 bases the last three years in Chicago), yet he’s still on the hook for $18 million annually through 2014.

Soriano never lived up to numbers he previously reached on the field before Chicago, to earn the one's he gets off it in the Windy.

2. Barry Zito: At the time, this was seen as a major coup for the Giants. They broke the bank for one of the most promising young pitchers in the game who already had a 2002 Cy Young Award to his credit in Oakland. This promise was rewarded to the tune of $126 million over seven years for the then 28 year old lefty. However, since coming to the Bay, Zito has had an ERA of 4.52 (nearly a run higher than the career total he brought to the Giants) and has a 43-61 win/loss mark since 2007. He’s on the books for another $39 million over the next two seasons before the team can buy him out for $7 million. I’m sure General Manager Brian Sabean can’t wait to cut the check to cut ties.


1. Vernon Wells: This a pretty amazing contract all around, and for every possible wrong reason that a contract can be amazing. That the Blue Jays ever thought to give Wells $126 million is the MLB’s answer to Area 51-level confusion. However, they got off light. Just as the deal was about to get messy, they convinced the Angels to take it off their hands. And now, LA gets the heavy lifting of the deal for the rapidly aging Wells, who even at his best was just a very solid player that did a bit of everything well. But now he’s making $21 million annually for the next 3 seasons, out of a contract that who’s only out clause is an early termination option that Wells alone controls.

How’s he making out this season and would he potentially pull the trigger on this opt out? Well considering he’s a top 10 paid player for hitting .201 and getting on-base 23% of the time, I’d say the odds aren’t too good. Enjoy that light lifting on the field for the heavy load leaving the bank Vernon.



  1. idokicks says:

    Mutha loving Cubs.

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