MLB: The 13 Worst Contracts of the National League Central
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When the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees finalized the A.J. Burnett trade many believed that arguably the worst contract in baseball was on the move.
It may be bad, but is it the worst even in the National League Central?
This week, I will take a look at some of the worst contracts in the National League Central and rank them from worst to, well, less worse.
13. Milwaukee Brewers Pitcher Randy Wolf
Randy Wolf hurls a pitch towards the plate in last years playoffs.
Contract: Three years, $29.75 million
2012 Salary: $9.5 million
Highest Yearly Salary Remaining and Year: $10 million in 2013
Randy Wolf is not a horrible pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, and he has been in the middle of a career resurgence the last few years. He serves as a very, very productive middle of the rotation pitcher in Milwaukee, but his contract is that of an ace's.
Does he deserve the contract? By the numbers I would say that he's very close to earning that contract, but as I alluded to, it's a contract that's best served for an ace. Wolf isn't an ace even in a very bad rotation, and especially not one with Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke in the same rotation.
12. Houston Astros Pitcher Wandy Rodriguez
Wandy Rodriguez is arguably Houston's best pitcher and by that he deserves his contract.
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Contract: Three years, $34 million. Team option in 2014 for $13 million
2012 Salary: $10 million
Highest Salary Remaining and the Year: $13 million in 2013.
Rodriguez's contract that he signed before 2011 has been a tough pill for the Astros to swallow. Not for his production, however, as he is a solid pitcher. His ERA has been between 3.02 and 3.60 and he has pitched at least 190 innings the last three seasons.
The Astros were trying really hard to trade him at last year's deadline, but they were turned back by many teams due to his contract and perceived reputation as an NL-only pitcher. If Rodriguez survives this deadline, we will certainly find out if he can pitch in the AL with the impending move in 2013 to the AL West.
11. Cincinnati Reds 2B Brandon Phillips
Brandon Phillips goes to field the grounder.
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Contract: Four years, $27 million
2012 Salary: $12 million
Highest Salary Remaining and Year: $12 million in 2012.
Heading into the final year of his current deal, Phillips needs to prove his worth of $12 million. In 2012, he will be the highest paid player for a very good Reds team. Last year was arguably his best year when he hit .300 with 18 homers and 38 doubles.
If Phillips can produce similar numbers with a little more power, he could arguably make a higher salary in free agency. He is worth the four-year, $27 million contract, but is he worth the $12 million and the label of highest paid player? I say no.
10. Milwaukee Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks
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Contract: Four years, $38.5 million
2012 Salary: $10 million
Highest Salary Remaining and the Year: $11 million in 2013 and 2014
After showing little to no power potential in his career prior to 2010, the last two years saw Weeks hit 49 homers with a consistent .269 average. But is he really worth $10 to $11 million a year?
I don't think the production quite justifies the contract, but as an All-Star in 2011 he is slowly playing to his worth. Contracts like his, Randy Wolf's and the newly signed Aramis Ramirez's could be a very big reason the Brewers were unable to afford Prince Fielder.
9. Cincinnati Reds Pitcher Bronson Arroyo
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Contract: Three years, $35 million
2012 Salary: $7 million
Highest Salary Remaining and Year: $7 million in 2012.
He's a workhorse. Can't deny that as evidenced by his over 200 innings pitched in every year since 2006 when he joined the Reds, except for 2011 (199 innings). But he is also very suspect to giving up the long ball as he gave up 46 homers in 2011.
His contract is pretty big for a pitcher of his stature and ability, and it baffles me as to why the Reds gave that contract to a pitcher like Arroyo. He's not even close to being one of their best pitchers. He needs to improve off the 46 homers allowed and 5.07 ERA if he wants to even remotely live up to his $7 million due this year.
8. Chicago Cubs Pitcher Ryan Dempster
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Contract: Four years, $52 million
2012 Salary: $14 million
Highest Salary Remaining and Year: $14 million in 2012.
After a 17-6, 2.96 ERA campaign in 2008, Dempster earned his $52 million extension. Since then, however, he hasn't. He logged seasons of 11, 15 and 10 wins from 2009 to 2011 and he added ERAs of 3.65, 3.85 and 4.80.
It wasn't a terrible contract when he signed it and, in fact, it was less than a lot of the contracts other guys got in free agency. Some of those players were arguably not as talented as Dempster at the time.
Dempster is playing for another contract this offseason and a new management team. He needs to return to form and not continue to show a slowing of production as he ages.
7. St. Louis Cardinals CF Carlos Beltran
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Contract: Two years, $26 million
2012 Salary: $13 million
Highest Salary Remaining and Year: $13 million in 2012 and 2013.
After an injury-riddled 2009 and 2010, Beltran put together a solid 2011 campaign, playing in 142 games last season. Was it enough to warrant a two-year, $26 million contract in December with the Cardinals? I say no.
I believe, deep down, that it was the Cardinals trying to dig deep and make up for losing Albert Pujols to the Angels by bringing in another recognizable, marketable name. It certainly wasn't worth $13 million.
6. Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun
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Contract: 13 years, $150 million
Year Signed: 2011
2012 Salary: $6 million
Highest Remaining Salary and Year: $19 million in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The reigning National League Most Valuable Player has a bad contract? Braun signed a 13-year, $150 million contract in 2011, and while it's very team-friendly early on, by the time 2016 rolls around it turns pretty bad. Entering 2016 as a 33-year-old, Braun will make $19 million that season and the following two after that.
If he's not able to perform at this level from 2016 through 2018, it will look like one of the worst contracts in baseball history. Contracts of 10-plus years typically don't end well for teams. Just ask the Mets about Mo Vaughn.
5. St. Louis Cardinals LF Matt Holliday
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Contact: Seven years, $120 million
2012 Salary: $17 million
Highest Remaining Salary and Year: $17 million for duration of the contract.
In 2010, Holliday signed a seven-year, $120 million contract when it was obvious he wasn't quite as dynamic as he was in Colorado. At the same time, though, he didn't have to be that dynamic with arguably this generation's greatest player in the same lineup.
This year, he'll need to prove his worth of $17 million. The bad part of the contract? It expires in 2017 when Holliday will be 37 years old. What will his production be like in four to five years?
4. St. Louis Cardinals Pitcher Kyle Lohse
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Contract: Four years, $41 million
2012 Salary: $11.875 million
Highest Salary Remaining and Year: $11.875 million in 2012
After a very lackluster 2007 in Philadelphia and Cincinnati, Lohse was signed by the Cardinals to a mid-level contract for use at the bottom of the rotation. Then 2008 came. Lohse did what he's NEVER been able to do and put in an ERA under four (3.78), and the Cardinals rewarded him with that four-year, $41 million contract.
Then he had seasons with ERAs of 4.74 and 6.55 before finally playing decent last year with a 3.39 ERA. He simply is not worth that contract, especially with Wainwright, Carpenter and Garcia as arguably better options. Lohse's playoff performances in the past have also left a lot to be desired.
3. Houston Astros LF Carlos Lee
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Contract: Six years, $100 million
2012 Salary: $18.5 million
Highest Remaining Salary and Year: $18.5 million
Entering the final season of a six-year, $100 million contract that he signed in 2006, Carlos Lee is due $18.5 million this year. When he signed this contract, the Astros were a good team and on the verge of a World Championship. Now? Well, they are a shell of what they were.
The Astros are in shambles and on the verge of moving to the American League West. Lee's power has dropped every season since 2006, and he only hit 18 homers last season. His defensive game also continues to fail, and the Astros have started moving him to first base. Lee will get a new contract after this season, but I expect him to end up in the American League as a DH, especially with a good year.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates Pitcher A.J. Burnett
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Contract: Five years, $82.5 million
2012 Salary: $16.5 million
Highest Salary Remaining and Year: $16.5 million in 2012 and 2013.
The Pirates, just a few days ago, made a move that they aren't accustomed to making when they acquired A.J. Burnett from the New York Yankees. The Pirates, fortunately, are only responsible for $13 million of Burnett's salary, but it is still a shocking move for the Pirates nonetheless.
Burnett was a solid pitcher in the National League with the Marlins and should certainly benefit by moving from the tough American League East to the National League Central. How well he benefits remains to be seen.
1. Chicago Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano
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Contract: Eight years, $136 million
2012 Salary: $18 million
Highest Remaining Salary and Year: $18 million due for duration of contract.
Could there be a worse signing in baseball history? After two very solid years in a tough baseball market with the Yankees, Soriano was the centerpiece for the Rangers in the Alex Rodriguez deal. Since then? He has not produced all too well. His highest batting average since that trade is .299, which he hit in his first year in Chicago. Outside of that season, .280 is his best.
He did hit 46 homers in 2006, a career high, but outside of that he hit 36 in 2005 and no higher than 29 since 2008. He's recorded only one 100-plus RBI season in that span—104 in 2005—and only had 95 of them in his 46-homer campaign of 2006.
His production continues to diminish, and with three years remaining on his contract it gets worse and worse as time goes on and Soriano ages.