In 1992, the highest paid player in baseball was Bobby Bonilla at $6.1 million for the New York Mets. In 2012, the Yankees' average salary is higher than what Bonilla earned twenty years ago, sitting at $6,186,321.
In 2002, Alex Rodriguez was the highest paid player in baseball, earning $22 million for the Texas Rangers. Now, Alex Rodriguez makes $30 million in the 2012 season alone, while the A’s and Padres' entire payrolls hover around $55 million each for the lowest in baseball.
Baseball has seen a dramatic increase in revenue due to television contracts, merchandising and tax-payer funded palaces where baseball is played. With that being said, there are some ridiculously overpaid players out there in Major League Baseball.
Here, you'll find 20 of the most overpaid "superstars" in the league.
When a guy hits 39 home runs and drives in 111 runs, how can he be overpaid? Well, the issue with Teixeira is that he is signed through 2016, due $22.5 million per season going forward, and at 32 years of age, he is showing some signs of decline.
Teixeira is the top-paid first baseman in baseball and has the fourth highest annual salary of all current players. He earned the big payday by having Scott Boras as his agent, and he also earned it by crushing the ball in 2008, his "contract year," when he hit .308/.410/.552 with 41 doubles, 33 home runs and had 121 RBI for the Braves and Angels. The Yankees outbid everyone and have seen Teixeira hit 122 home runs in his three-plus years in the Bronx, but what else are they getting?
Four more years of a declining Teixeira is what they are going to get. He still has power but his OPS has gone from .962 in 2008 to .948 in 2009, to .846 in 2010, to .835 in 2011 and now it sits at .796. Teixiera's strikeout rate is as low as it has been in his career in 2012, but his walk rate is also at a career low.
Teixeira has dealt with some very abnormally low BABIP (.268 in 2010, .239 in 2011 and .243 in 2012), but something doesn't look right for him going forward. He may still have some power, but he could become a less important piece that costs a lot of money for the Bronx Bombers as time continues to pass.
Alex Rodriguez is a soon-to-be 37-year-old who is deteriorating worse than your grandmother who fell and broke her hip...poor hip included. Quite possibly one of the ten greatest players to ever put on a uniform (debate amongst yourselves on his position), Rodriguez has been on a decline since 2007 when he won the AL MVP by mashing 54 home runs, 156 RBI and posting a 1.067 OPS.
However, more of the same for the Yankee long-term contracts. Just like Teixeira, A-Rod's OPS has gone down from the 1.067 in 2007 to .965 in 2008, .933 in 2009, .847 in 2010, .823 in 2011 and to .796 this season. Unlike Teixeira, though, Rodriguez's strikeout rate is on the rise, up to 20.7 percent, and is the highest since he became a full-time player in 1996 for the Mariners. With a declining walk rate, down to 10.8 percent, it is just another example of age catching up to skills, or, rather, taking away those skills.
Alex Rodriguez is signed through 2017 and he is owed $117 million plus incentives for home run milestones from 660 to 763 of $30 million. His contract decreases in annual salary each year until the expiration of the deal, so the Yankees may have a few million to work with as Rodriguez continues his decline.
No amount of cash received by the Angels in their trade with the Blue Jays makes the acquisition of Vernon Wells and the $42 million that he is owed in 2013 and 2014 any less ridiculous. Wells has gone from a budding superstar to a total dud.
He signed his seven-year, $126 million deal after the 2006 season, after he posted a .303/.357/.542, 40 double, 32 home run and 106 RBI-season for the Jays. He promptly rewarded the franchise with an astounding .245/.304/.402, 36 double, 16 home run and 80 RBI 2007 season.
Wells rebounded to a .273/.331/.515, 44 double, 31 home run and 88 RBI 2010 season before being shipped off to Los Angeles with $5 million for Mike Napoli (how awful is his defense now that he is one of the top catchers in baseball?) and Juan Rivera. Once arriving out west, Wells posted the highest strikeout rate of his career and a career worst walk rate in 2011.
Not all is lost for the Angels, though. They can bench Wells and play Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. One thing to remember about Wells was that his BABIP in 2011 was .214, even while hitting 25 home runs and driving in 66. It "could" turn around, but $42 million is a lot of money to wonder about.
When a team pays for a "local guy" to keep the "face of the franchise" and the "top player at his position" in town, how well does that work out? Ken Griffey, Jr. to Cincinnati comes to mind, but it will be replaced immediately by the over-reaction of the Minnesota Twins to pay Joe Mauer $184 million over eight years for one great season.
Say what you want about batting average because when you just slap balls all over the field without any power, you don't drive in runs. Mauer has won three batting titles, but the crowing achievement has to be his MVP season of 2009, when he struck it rich by having a season that he won't ever come close to touching again.
Mauer hit .365/.444/.587 with 30 doubles, 28 home runs and 96 RBI. His 28 home runs were 15 more than his previous career high (13 in 2006) and are 13 more than he has in 1005 at bats since the 2010 season started. Target Field could have sapped some of his power, but he sapped the pockets of Twins ownership when he signed this contract.
Mauer is an excellent hitter and has great on-base skills, but he isn't worth the $136 million the Twins owe him from 2013 through 2018
Torii Hunter has a smile that is infectious and his home run thievery was well-documented for several years; however, he is now the fifth highest paid outfielder in baseball and has the 20th highest annual salary in the league at $18.5 million.
Hunter turns 37-years-old in July and he is in the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Angels. He has been pretty productive for the Angels over the course of his time out west, averaging a a .279/.349/.465 slash and ripping 98 home runs and 365 RBI in a little over four seasons. Again, with aging, though, comes the decline.
Hunter posted the lowest OPS since he became a full-time player in 2001 in the 2011 season, when he had a .765 OPS. He has rebounded a little this season to an.820 OPS, but his strikeout rate is at a career high 25.4 percent after jumping to 19.3 percent last year (his career rate stands at 18 percent). So, while he has hit a home run on 28.1 percent of his fly balls, he is also swinging and missing to gain that power.
Hunter is a very good player and still has some athleticism, but he has lost a step, which is why he is now in right field. It is debatable as to whether he is worth $18.5 million, but he certainly won't be making that next season when he hits free agency.
Am I picking on the Yankees? Maybe, but when they were bidding against themselves for Jeter's services, it is easy to blame the ownership for such a ridiculous contract for "The Captain." In 2010, Jeter posted the worst OPS of his career, .710, and the Yankees gave him three-years, $51 million with a fourth-year player option for $8 million that could escalate to $17 million if Jeter wins a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, ALCS MVP, World Series MVP or finishes in the top six in AL MVP voting.
So, Jeter will receive $16 million this season and $17 million next season, when he is 39-years-old. Jeter rebounded (if you want to call it that) last season to a .743 OPS behind a robust .336 BABIP. In 2012, his BABIP is up to .341. With a career BABIP of .354, this is nothing new for the future Hall of Famer.
Jeter is hitting .315/.366/.426 this season and seems to have re-established some value behind the absurd contract that he received. Whether it was a part of the 3,000 hit marketing, the value of keeping a piece of the dynasty intact or worrying about public reaction to the loss of the Yankee great, there aren't many who would say that this was a good use of money by the Steinbrenner clan.
Bay had an excellent season, in a contract year, for the Boston Red Sox in 2009, posting a .267/.384/.537 line with 36 home runs and 119 RBI. He rode that excellent season into New York for a four-year, $66 million deal, with a fifth-year vesting option (600 plate appearances in 2013 or 500 each in 2012 and 2013, the second of which won't happen due to his rib injury).
Bay is making $16 million in 2012 and 2013 after making $18.125 million in 2011 to hit .245/.329/.374 with this lowest OPS of his career, .703, until you look at his 2012 OPS of .642. Something just hasn't worked for Bay in New York, whether it is the stadium, the media-hype or the high expectations. Though, he has been held back by several injuries, playing in just 95 games in 2010, 123 in 2011 and just 18 games this season.
Whatever the issue is, Bay has been a total flop. He could rebound and become useful this season, but based on his production last season and to this point in 2012, he looks like a total bust, and I'm not talking about the good kind, either...Kate Upton.
Aubrey Huff's photo, above, has him on the bench, probably looking on while Brandon Belt starts at first base for the Giants. That is really where he belongs at this point. Huff is making $10 million this season to be a part-time player, and while Giants manager, Bruce Bochy, won't fully commit to playing Belt over Huff, it is only a matter of time.
Huff is due another $10 million in 2013, but the Giants would be wise to buy him out for the $2 million option that they have. Huff is hitting .155/.296/.256 this season after hitting .246/.306/.370 in the first year of his two-year, $22 million deal. If you take a look at his career, Huff has an interesting trend in his career. I reported on my blog, back in July of 2011 (here):
"Huff was an All-Star caliber player from 2002 to 2004, averaging 33 doubles, 29 homers, and 90 RBI for the then-lowly Devil Rays. He was a light in the world of darkness that faced the early struggles of the franchise. Huff then began a trend in 2005 that has carried over up to this season, though, 2005 was a solid season overall, his slash line took a hit when compared to his three-year breakout. Aubrey Huff is an All-Star in even-numbered years and a dud in odd-numbered years. Take a look:
2005: .261/.321/.428, .749 OPS, 26 2B, 22 HR, 92 RBI
2006: .267/.344/.469, .813 OPS, 25 2B, 21 HR, 66 RBI
2007: .280/.337/.442, .779 OPS, 34 2B, 15 HR, 72 RBI
2008: .304/.360/.552, .912 OPS, 48 2B, 32 HR, 108 RBI
2009: .241/.310/.384, .694 OPS, 30 2B, 15 HR, 85 RBI
2010: .290/.385/.506, .891 OPS, 35 2B, 26 HR, 86 RBI"
Huff continued his "not good" trend in odd years in 2011 and he is proving my hypothesis wrong for even years, to this point. Huff is about as done as it gets right now, whether Bochy believes it or not is the biggest factor in the productiveness of the Giants lineup for the remainder of the year.
From 2005 to 2009, Brian Roberts had a .294 batting average and averaged 45 doubles, 13 home runs, 64 RBI and 36 steals per season. He was rewarded with a four-year, $40 million deal prior to the 2010 season. He has rewarded the Orioles by playing in 59 games in 2010, 39 games in 2011 and he made his 2012 debut on Tuesday.
Roberts' missed 122 games in 2011 due to a concussion from which he just. He missed 91 games due to an abdominal strain in 2010. Add in some back soreness and you have a guy who just can't stay on the field. Robert Andino has been holding down second base for the Orioles and is fourth in the AL in All Star votes there...shocking.
Clearly, paying a guy to be on the disabled list isn't fun. This is kind of like that whole Carl Pavano in New York thing, only Roberts has always been with the O's. The good news is that by the time Roberts is done collecting another $10 million next year, Manny Machado or Jonathan Schoop could be ready to land in Baltimore.
Figgins gets $9 million this year, $8 million in 2013 and a vesting option for $9 million if he reaches 600 plate appearances in 2013. Something tells me he won't be coming anywhere near that after his pathetic excuse for playing baseball since arriving in Seattle via a four-year, $36 million deal in 2010.
Figgins established himself as a versatile asset when he was playing second, third and the outfield for the Angels from 2002 to 2009. Since 2010, Figgins has a .229/.301/.284 slash and he has done the Mariners a favor by missing 54 games due to a hip flexor issue over the last year or so.
Figgins is still capable of playing all over the field, but we like to call those guys bench players, and bench players don't earn this much money. Especially when they are as "good" as Figgins has been.
In 2009, the Cincinnati Reds acquired Scott Rolen when the team wasn't in the hunt for the playoffs. His veteran leadership paid off when the team went to the playoffs in 2010, but when his injuries set back in during 2011, his value as a leader was worth nothing. Add in the fact that Rolen was paid $8,166,666 in 2011 and he is making $6.5 million in 2012, and you have yourself a player who had injury issues for several years who was paid for an intangible that really has no value.
Leadership isn't worth money, production is. Rolen is riding pine and shouldn't have a job when he come back due to the existence and thriving production of Todd Frazier for the Reds. However, with Dusty "I-love-my-veterans" Baker around, Frazier could be sent to Triple-A to make room for his return. Not that it is likely at this point, but we are talking about Dusty Baker.
Rolen was brutal before his most recent shoulder woes, posting a .174/.238/.304 line in 2012. This is after his .242/.279/.397 line in 2011. Rolen can provide leadership when he is a coach and he would cost the Reds a lot less, but he shouldn't be getting paid to take up space as a 37-year-old with a shredded left shoulder.
Hafner signed a six-year, $66.1 million deal prior to the 2007 season after posting a .308/.439/.659 line with 42 home runs and 117 RBI in 2006. It was a solid investment, especially after the 2004 to 2006 seasons in which Hafner totaled 103 home runs and 334 RBI in those three seasons.
But...injuries, injuries, injuries...they've destroyed Hafner's career and productivity. Hafner missed 191 games on the disabled list from 2007 to 2011, and he has been on the disabled list in 2012 since May 24. While he is due back at the end of June, you have to wonder how long he will be active before the next issue arises.
Hafner is still a solid on-base guy and he has some power, but shoulder injuries have destroyed his ability to hit 40 home runs in a season ever again. "Pronk" is making $13 million in 2012 and he is due $13 million again in 2013, or a $2.75 million buyout. With the Indians issues creating offense, they could bring Hafner back at a severe discount, but if he wants more than $5 million in 2013, including his buyout, you have to wonder if he injured his head somewhere along the line.
The gambles of giving long-term deals after breakout seasons lies within the current production of Alex Rios. Rios was an exciting player who flashed power and speed skills that made people wonder if he was capable of going 30-30 or even 40-40 in the future. In 2007, he hit .297/.354/.498 with 43 doubles, seven triples, 24 home runs, 85 RBI and 17 stolen bases.
He signed his extension after his age-26, 2007 season. He received a seven-year, $69.84 million deal from the Blue Jays, with a team option for 2015 worth $13.5 million or a $1 million buyout. He won't be getting traded either unless the team taking on Rios' salary is willing to pay him an additional $500,000 in trade escalators from this season until the final guaranteed year of 2014.
Rios is still just 31 years old, and his walk and strikeout rates are still close to or better than his career averages, so he could become useful again; however, he is just an average outfielder when you factor in his inconsistencies to his ridiculous annual salaries.
Carlos Lee never really had a good, athletic body-type, even when he was stealing 13 to 19 bases in a season between 2000 and 2006. His body led him to first base this season for the Houston Astros, and it still couldn't protect him from injuries.
"El Caballo" hasn't been a total bust for Houston, but there were reasons to worry about him when he hit just .246/.291/.417 in 2010, even though he had 29 doubles, 24 home runs and 89 RBI with the lousy average and on-base numbers. Lee rebounded to a .788 OPS with 38 doubles, 18 home runs and 94 RBI in 2011, and was playing well, .759 OPS, before a left hamstring injury put him on the disabled list on June 2.
Regardless of positive or negative production, Carlos Lee is the sixth highest paid first baseman in baseball and the 16th highest paid player in the league. $18.5 million is a lot of money for 36-year-old that is so round that he had to have a weight clause in the final year of his contract. "El Caballo" will be riding off into free agency after the 2012 season. At his next stop, the flubber will still be shaking like Homer Simpson's at the doctors office.
I wrote some about Morneau on my blog (here):
"Justin Morneau won the MVP in 2006 after raking to the tune of a .321/.375/.559 line, with 37 2B, 34 HR, and 130 RBI, leading the Twins to a 96-66 record and the AL Central title. Since then, Morneau hasn’t been all bad, as he was an All-Star from 2007-2010, but then…IT happened.
July 7, 2010, Morneau collided with John McDonald at second base (video of concussion injury) in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, he then missed the remainder of the season, which he left with a .345/.437/.618 line in 81 games, a clear MVP candidate. 2011 was not very friendly after the concussion symptoms cleared up. He missed five games in April with the flu, a couple of games in June due to a sore wrist, and then he had neck surgery to resolve a pinched nerve problem. He came back in mid-August only to miss time with a bruised foot and on August 29, he suffered a shoulder injury which resulted in more concussion-like symptoms and he was done for the year.
Since sustaining his concussion in July of 2010, Morneau has hit just .227/.285/.333 with 16 2B, 4 HR, and 30 RBI in 69 games."
That was written during spring training, and Morneau has gone on to post a .247/.319/.506 line with 10 doubles, 10 home runs and 32 RBI through June 11, 2012. Morneau's strikeout rate has ballooned to 20.3 percent, 15.3 percent career rate, and his walk rate is down to 8.8 percent, while it sat between 10.7 percent and 14.4 percent during his most productive years.
You have to feel for the guy. At 31, he is still young enough to have value, but he may never be the player that he once was. The power numbers are encouraging and you have to wonder if the strikeouts are up due to the big fly tendencies, but if they are a sign of things to come, then Morneau is just another guy making $28 million between 2012 and 2013. Because of the contract and the confusion of what he is capable of doing, he has to fit on this list.
When a team is willing to eat $15.5 million of your $18 million salary, you know you have something wrong. The results mixed with the irrational outbursts led the Chicago Cubs to send Zambrano to the Miami Marlins for Chris Volstad this past offseason.
Zambrano has been decent for the Marlins, posting a 4-4 record with a 3.55 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. His walks are high, as always, but his hits are down and he has been a solid rotation filler for the $2.5 million investment for the Fish.
Still...$18 million in salary for a guy who has been a total headcase, clubhouse cancer and inconsistent performer is a lot of money. The scary part for the Marlins is that if he pitches well enough to finish in the top four in the NL Cy Young voting and he is healthy at the end of the 2012 season, Zambrano's 2013 option of $19.25 million will vest.
So, do you really want him to keep pitching well? There is still a long way to go this season, so anything can happen!
Ervin Santana is pitching his way to free agency. He is making $11.2 million this season and has a $13 million team option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout. There is no way the Angels take that on with how awful he has pitched through 13 starts in 2012.
Santana hasn't been awful over his career, but his inconsistencies are and have been frustrating. He had a 5.76 ERA in 2007, 3.49 ERA in 2008, a 5.03 ERA in 2009, 3.92 ERA in 2010, a 3.38 ERA in 2011 and a 5.74 ERA in 2012.
So far, 22.8 percent of fly balls have gone for home runs in his 13 starts in 2012 and he has a low BABIP, just .267. His walk rate is well above his career average and his strikeout rate is lower than his career average. His fastball velocity is close to what it has been the previous three seasons, so there isn't really any alarming data that jumps out to validate his shameful numbers.
Still, posting such statistics will make people wonder why you're earning so much money. He has allowed 18 home runs in 13 starts. The Padres hitting coach hasn't even given up 18 home runs in batting practice at Petco this season!
Zito has been pretty dreadful since signing with the San Francisco Giants after the 2006 season. He has gone 48-64 with a 4.44 ERA in 158 games (152 starts) for the Giants. So, Zito has been paid about $1.82 million per win for the money he has collected through the 2011 season.
The only issue is Zito makes $19 million in 2012, $20 million in 2013 and a $7 million buyout on a team option for 2014, which vests at $18 million if Zito throws 200 innings in 2013, 400 innings in 2012-2013 or 600 innings in 2011-2013. Can you imagine if that happens? Gross.
Zito has a 3.24 ERA with xFIP of 5.04, so if you have him on your fantasy team and someone will give you anything for him, do it. Zito has benefited from a .242 BABIP and a 75.2 percent left-on-base rate.
It just hasn't worked for Zito in San Francisco, but the good news is that Tim Lincecum has taken over his role for worst Giants pitcher this season, so people may forget just how miserable all of his other work has been in the Bay Area since moving over from Oakland.
From nine years of a .293/.337/.444 to one season of .255/.289/.405, the Tampa-version of Carl Crawford was much more enjoyable to watch. Needless to say, the $14,857,142 that Crawford made in 2011 wasn't equal to his production.
So, is the $122 million that Crawford is due from 2012 through 2017 going to look as ugly? We don't know yet this season, as Crawford was out with a wrist injury and now he is rehabbing an injury to a ligament in his throwing elbow. He should be back around the All Star break to try to redeem himself.
The large investment into speedsters has always been a confusing one to me. When players age and lose their ability to run, what are they? I, personally, didn't think this was a good contract at the time, and it makes me worry for the Marlins deal with Jose Reyes.
Crawford has some skills and the Red Sox and their fans are looking forward to the Rays-version of the left fielder when he returns.
In 2006, in his first full season (500 at bats) as the Phillies first baseman, Ryan Howard erupted for a 1.084 OPS, 58 home runs and 149 RBI. He has a career .275/.368/.560 line and averages 45 home runs and 136 RBI over a 162-game season, based on his career numbers.
With that being said, he has struck out in 27.4 percent of his at bats in his career and his OPS has dropped from .931 in 2009 to .835 in 2011. Just in time for his five-year, $125 million extension to kick in!
Granted, the extension was signed in April of 2010, but Howard hasn't played a single game in 2012 due to a ruptured left Achilles and stitch abscess. The fact that his numbers have been declining should scare Phillies' brass, but the fact that the team option for 2017 for $23 million has a $10 million buyout should leave them running from the booing fans throwing batteries in their direction.
Howard was an excellent player but he was a late bloomer. He'll be 36 in 2016 when the fully guaranteed portion of the contract is completed. His ability to hit for power and drive in runs is legendary for his generation, but due to the nature of his injury, no one knows how he will play when he returns. If it is more declining, it is going to be a rough five years in Philadelphia.
Who do you feel is overpaid that I missed? Was I wrong saying anyone was overpaid, even you, the guy making $30,000 per year with a Masters in Business Administration?
As stated at the beginning of this piece, the dramatic increase in player salaries in the last twenty seasons is absolutely insane. You can blame Scott Boras, ownership, the 1994 strike, Donald Fehr, television rights and contracts, Scott Boras, merchandise sales to hip-hop artists, Osama Bin Laden or, worst yet, Scott Boras, but if the money is there and the revenue is streaming, it goes to the performers responsible for that income. Wait...that would be socialism. Oh well...
Saying these guys are overpaid doesn't necessarily mean that I think they shouldn't get paid that much. If you were offered nine figures to stay at your company or move to a competitor for seven years, you'd do it, too. It's just too bad the new company didn't know about your poor work ethic.