Each MLB Team's Best and Worst Contracts
Show me the money.
Those were the famous words uttered by fictional Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell in the 1996 movie classic Jerry Maguire.
Those words certainly ring true today in Major League Baseball.
MLB stars have indeed been shown the money—according to CBSSports.com, the average annual salary in 2012 is $3.44 million. In 1992 the average MLB salary topped $1 million for the first time, meaning a more than three-fold jump in 20 years.
For general managers throughout baseball, it's a real balancing act trying to determine a player's worth. Analyzing prior performance against future production is certainly a key factor in money offered to players, but even at that, it's a slippery slope.
We will take a look at each MLB team's current salary obligations and make determinations as to the best and worst contracts are for each team.
Contracts for rookies making the major league minimum will not be considered; only those who have been on rosters for at least three seasons.
In addition, injuries in some cases will factor in to the worst contracts. This is about money and the value that teams have gotten in return for that money.
Note: All salary figures shown are courtesy of Cot's Contracts.
Best Contract: Brad Ziegler (one year, $1.795 million)
Worst Contract: Justin Upton (six years, $51.25 million)
At the trade deadline last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks looked to bolster their bullpen by acquiring reliever Brad Ziegler from the Oakland A's, with the D-Backs giving up Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto in return.
Ziegler was tremendous down the stretch, posting a stellar 1.74 ERA in 23 appearances. The Diamondbacks avoided arbitration with Ziegler in late January, signing him to a $1.795 million contract for 2012.
Thus far it's hard to say Ziegler hasn't been worth that contract, posting a 2.45 ERA in 37 appearances and helping to provide solid relief in the late innings for manager Kirk Gibson.
Upton signed his six-year deal in March 2010 after a stellar 2009 campaign and representing the D-Backs at the All-Star Game.
While Upton was outstanding in the first two years of his contract, many are now wondering about hid diminished power numbers thus far in 2012, with only seven homers at the break. Upton has raised his average to .273 after a tough start, which saw him hitting .221 as of May 16.
Buster Olney of ESPN wonders whether or not the Diamondbacks have concerns about the status of Upton's shoulder. Upton suffered a partial labrum tear in his left shoulder back in 2006, his first professional season. He re-aggravated the injury in September 2010, as well.
Upton trade rumors have been rampant in recent days, so the D-Backs' original investment in Upton's long-term future with the team may not have been the best decision ever made.
Best Contract: Brian McCann (six years, $29.8 million)
Worst Contract: Jair Jurrjens (one year, $5.5 million)
Following the 2006 season, in which catcher Brian McCann made the All-Star team for the first time, the Braves swooped in and signed him to a six-year, $29.8 million contract with an option for $12 million for the 2013 season.
To say that contract wasn't worth it is an understatement.
McCann has won four straight Silver Slugger awards and been named to five more All-Star teams during that span. He is remarkably consistent at the plate and solid defensively, as well.
Jurrjens was given a $2.25 million raise after his 2011 season, in which he won 13 games and posted a 2.96 ERA. However, Jurrjens was demoted to Triple-A after a horrible start (four starts, 9.37 ERA).
Since his return on June 22 (2.13 ERA in four starts), Jurrjens has been much better, but the Braves will need him to dominate in the second half after the season-ending injury to Brandon Beachy.
Best Contract: Jim Johnson (one year, $2.625 million)
Worst Contract: Brian Roberts (four years, $40 million)
It's hard to argue against the worth of closer Jim Johnson to the Baltimore Orioles this season. Johnson leads the majors with 26 saves, posting a 1.21 ERA and 0.750 WHIP.
He's been about as automatic as you can get in the ninth inning.
By contrast, Roberts, who signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension in February 2009, has played in just 115 games since the contract took hold in 2010, representing 28.1 percent of the total games played by the Orioles in that time.
Roberts has been beset by a myriad of injuries (back, strained abdominal muscle, concussion), and now may be sidelined for even longer.
Just 17 games after his return from concussion symptoms, Roberts has been diagnosed with a right hip labral tear that will likely require surgery, ending his season and his comeback.
Boston Red Sox
Best Contract: David Ortiz (one year, $14.575 million)
Worst Contract: Carl Crawford (seven years, $142 million)
With a .312 average, 22 HR and 57 RBI at the break, 36-year-old designated hitter David Ortiz has shown that he is once again worth every penny. Ortiz leads the team in all three categories, in addition to slugging percentage (.607), OPS (1.013) and total bases (187). He is also one of only five players in the majors with OPSs above 1.000.
Not bad for an old man.
On the other hand, the man thought to be the answer in left field for the foreseeable future has been anything but.
Crawford suffered through a miserable first season (.255 BA, .289 OBP) after signing his $142 million deal and has yet to make an appearance in 2012 after wrist and elbow issues.
Honestly, there were several Sox players who could have been considered for worst contract, including John Lackey (five years, $82.5 million), Daisuke Matsuzaka (six years, $52 million) and Josh Beckett (four years, $68 million).
Best Contract: Jeff Baker (one year, $1.375 million)
Worst Contract: Alfonso Soriano (eight years, $136 million)
Utility player Jeff Baker will never be confused with an All-Star, but his contributions to the Chicago Cubs in a limited role have been superb. Baker has played four different positions for the Cubs this season, hitting .272 with 3 HR and 15 RBI.
Making a full $2 million less than the MLB average, Baker has provided terrific bang for his buck.
On the other hand, Soriano will be costing the Cubs vast sums of money even if he isn't with the team after the trade deadline. Soriano has long been rumored to be on his way out, and even when he leaves, it's likely the Cubs will be paying the bulk of the roughly $44 million remaining on his contract.
Chicago White Sox
Best Contract: Paul Konerko (three years, $37.5 million)
Worst Contract: John Danks (five years, $65 million)
After a couple of seasons that featured a decline in production (2008-2009), Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko bounced back with huge numbers in 2010: a .312 average, 39 homers and 111 RBI. The White Sox rewarded Konerko with a three-year, $37.5 million extension.
Since that time, Konerko has continued producing, earning two All-Star selections and producing numbers better than his career marks overall.
When the White Sox signed southpaw pitcher John Danks to a five-year, $65 million contract this past December, head-scratching was in order.
Sure, Danks was durable, but with a 54-56 record and 4.03 ERA through his first five seasons, was it justified?
Right about now, White Sox fans are saying no.
After posting a 3-4 record and 5.70 ERA in nine starts, Danks was sidelined indefinitely after tests found a tendon tear in his left shoulder. Danks hasn't pitched since May 19, and the tendon tear was diagnosed only after a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte in June.
Danks has been doing pool work in his ongoing rehab, but according to Scott Merkin of MLB.com, he feels pain in the shoulder only when he's throwing.
Oh, that's nice—it only hurts when he throws!
There is no current timetable for Danks' return.
Best Contract: Johnny Cueto (four years, $27 million)
Worst Contract: Ryan Madson (one year, $8.5 million)
Starting pitcher Johnny Cueto signed his four-year deal in January 2011, avoiding arbitration at the time. Last year, Cueto's 2.31 ERA would have placed him second in the NL, behind Clayton Kershaw, had he qualified with enough innings, and this year Cueto has picked up right where he left off, with a 10-5 record, a 2.39 ERA and an All-Star snub courtesy of NL manager Tony LaRussa.
This offseason the Reds signed former Philadelphia Phillies closer Ryan Madson to a one-year, $6 million contract with an $11 million mutual option for 2013 and a $2.5 million buyout.
The Reds are now out at least $8.5 million courtesy of Madson's season-ending Tommy John surgery, performed on April 11.
I am not a conspiracy theorist, nor do I claim to be one.
However, does anyone else think there was a good reason that the Phillies rescinded their four-year, $44 million offer to Madson last November?
Best Contract: Shin-Soo Choo (one year, $4.9 million)
Worst Contract: Travis Hafner (four years, $57 million)
Last year, Cleveland Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo missed almost half the season, first with a broken thumb courtesy of a wayward Jonathan Sanchez and then with an oblique injury later in the season.
The Tribe brought Choo back for another year at $4.9 million, and along with infielders Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera, Choo has been one of the most consistent players all year. Choo will likely put up numbers close to those of his 2009 and 2010, his two best seasons.
Meanwhile, Hafner is in the final season of his four-year deal, and there really can't be any doubt in anyone's mind that the Tribe will not pick up his option for the 2013 season ($13 million).
Hafner has played in only 55.3 percent of his team's games since 2008.
Best Contract: Matt Belisle (two years, $8.125 million)
Worst Contract: Jorge De La Rosa (two years, $21.5 million)
Listing Matt Belisle with the best contract on the Colorado Rockies was really about the best of evils.
Belisle has been terrific on a Rockies' staff that has been otherwise putrid, pitching in over half of his team's games with a 1.93 ERA.
Considering the rest of the offerings by his teammates, that's value.
De La Rosa was signed to a two-year, $21.5 million contract following the 2010 season, in which he missed two months with a torn flexor band in his right middle finger.
Sure enough, just 10 starts into his 2011 campaign, De La Rosa was again down for the count, this time with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery in early June 2011.
De La Rosa has yet to make it back and may not be back at all until next season. De La Rosa was shut down in late June and won't resume throwing until early September at the earliest.
So much for that $21.5 million.
Best Contract: Miguel Cabrera (eight years, $152.3 million)
Worst Contract: Ramon Santiago (two years, $4.2 million)
When the Detroit Tigers acquired Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins in December 2007, they knew they were getting someone special. They paid him accordingly, rewarding him with an eight-year, $152.3 million contract.
Not one person is complaining about that salary today.
Cabrera has won a home run title, an RBI title and a batting title, in separate seasons, and has registered in the top five in AL MVP balloting the last three seasons.
Santiago was given a two-year contract following last season essentially because the Tigers had no other options at the time. Now, fans are screaming for offense from second base, as Santiago and the rest of the second basemen who have manned the position have combined for a paltry .198 average.
Best Contract: Jed Lowrie (one year, $1.15 million)
Worst Contract: Brandon Lyon (three years, $15 million)
For less than one-third of the MLB average, it's hard to say that shortstop Jed Lowrie hasn't delivered for the Houston Astros. By allowing Clint Barmes to leave and sign a two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Astros saved themselves millions and got far better production in the process.
Lyon signed a three-year, $15 million in December 2009, a deal that puzzled many considering that Lyon was essentially just a middle reliever the previous year.
He did have a decent year in 2010, posting 20 saves with a 3.12 ERA, but Lyon followed up with an injury-riddled 2011 campaign, making only 15 appearances with an 11.48 ERA.
Kansas City Royals
Best Contract: Jonathan Broxton (one year, $4 million)
Worst Contract: Jonathan Sanchez (one year, $5.6 million)
The Kansas City Royals admittedly took a chance in signing Jonathan Broxton to a $4 million contract for the 2012 season. Originally he was to serve as the setup man for closer Joakim Soria. However, when Soria went down in spring training with an elbow injury that required his second Tommy John surgery, Broxton assumed the role he had with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Broxton has excelled, with 21 saves and a 1.99 ERA. In addition, the Royals will now receive solid value in return if they become sellers at the trade deadline and offer Broxton up to contending teams.
Sanchez, on the other other hand, was thought to be a key piece of the starting rotation when the Royals dealt Melky Cabrera to the San Francisco Giants in return for him.
Instead, it's Cabrera who has provided value, and Sanchez has provided nothing but headaches thus far in Kansas City.
Los Angeles Angels
Best Contract: Scott Downs (three years, $15 million)
Worst Contract: Vernon Wells (seven years, $126 million)
When the Los Angeles Angels signed Scott Downs to a three-year, $15 million contract in December 2010, they were getting a bullpen guy who was already established as one of the best in the business.
He's certainly been all that more during his Angels career.
Last season, Downs posted a nifty 1.34 ERA in 60 appearances. This year, Downs has made 32 appearances and has allowed a run only once (June 10). With 15 holds and eight saves, Downs has without question proved his worth.
Not so much for Wells. Angels fans were scratching their heads when the team traded for him in January 2011, and got on the hook for $84 million over the next four years. Wells' .218 average last year didn't change anyone's opinion, and now on the DL with a torn ligament in his thumb, he likely won't have much playing time coming to him when he returns in late July/early August.
I don't think the Halos thought they would be paying a bench player $21 million annually.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Best Contract: Chris Capuano (two years, $10 million)
Worst Contract: Juan Uribe (three years, $21 million)
Sometimes, being rewarded for mediocrity has its advantages.
It certainly seemed that way when the Los Angeles Dodgers gave Chris Capuano a two-year, $10 million contract this offseason. Capuano was 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA in 2011 for the New York Mets, certainly pedestrian-like numbers.
The Dodgers' faith in Capuano has absolutely paid off.
Thus far Capuano is 9-4 with a 2.91 ERA and could very easily have been selected as an NL All-Star for his efforts.
Uribe has been simply awful since signing his $21 million deal. He missed over half of last season and hit only .204 in the games he did play, with just four home runs, a far cry from his 24 homers hit the previous year for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
This year has been even worse: a .194 average, one home run and another stint on the DL.
Best Contract: Omar Infante (two years, $8 million)
Worst Contract: Heath Bell (three years, $27 million)
After signing a two-year extension at the end of last season, Miami Marlins second baseman Omar Infante has been the most consistent player in the Marlins lineup for much of the season, hitting .290 with 23 doubles, seven HR and 30 RBI. Can't ask for much more from a player in the No. 2 hole.
It's early yet in his contract, but thus far, closer Heath Bell has been anything but automatic.
Six blown saves, five losses and a 6.75 ERA wasn't what the Marlins had in mind when they paid Bell $27 million.
Best Contract: Ryan Braun (eight years, $45 million)
Worst Contract: Rickie Weeks (four years, $38.5 million)
Thus far Ryan Braun has more than given back value on his original eight-year contract, signed back in May 2008. An All-Star each year and an MVP Award last year have certainly proven that.
The Brewers obviously agree, kicking in with another five-year extension for an additional $105 million that keeps Braun in Milwaukee until 2020.
If you had asked me last year if Rickie Weeks' contract was worth it, I'd have a different tale to tell.
However, Weeks looks completely lost right now.
A .199 average, only eight HR and 100 strikeouts, which leads the NL, isn't quite what Mark Attansio envisioned for Weeks.
There's still time for Weeks to figure things out, but that's an awful lot of money to be dishing out while waiting for someone to figure things out.
Best Contract: Josh Willingham (three years, $27 million)
Worst Contract: Carl Pavano (two years, $16.5 million)
Many wondered how Josh Willingham would do going from one expansive park (O.co Coliseum) to another (Target Field).
Obviously, he's doing pretty well.
Willingham leads the Twins in both homers (19) and RBI (60) and will likely set career marks for both. Even if the Twins don't end up keeping him, they'll get quality back in return, and it's hard to not see the value in that.
Pavano re-signed with the Twins following the 2010 season and has provided them with less than one win per $1 million on his contract thus far.
Hard to see any value in that.
New York Mets
Best Contract: R.A. Dickey (two years, $7.8 million)
Worst Contract: Jason Bay (four years, $66 million)
Last year New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey was 8-13, but he posted a solid 3.28 ERA.
This season Dickey has been other-worldly.
A 12-1 record, 2.40 ERA and back-to-back one-hit shutouts are certainly impressive. But to lead the league in WHIP, at 0.933, is outstanding, especially considering he doesn't necessarily know where the knuckleball is going to land every time he throws it.
Bay, on the other hand, may just qualify for the worst contract in Mets history, and that's saying something. The list of bad signings is impressive (Ollie Perez and Bobby Bonilla immediately come to mind), but Bay hasn't been even anywhere close to the numbers he produced in both Pittsburgh and Boston.
New York Yankees
Best Contract: Robinson Cano (four years, $30 million)
Worst Contract: Alex Rodriguez (10 years, $275 million)
New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano signed his original deal in February 2008, and the value he has provided since that time has been outstanding—two Silver Slugger awards, a Gold Glove Award, three All-Star appearances and a top-five MVP finish in 2010.
Cano is currently in the first of two options, and it's likely he'll be signed long-term before the second option kicks in next year.
A-Rod's deal, signed in December 2007, is the proverbial elephant in the closet. The Yankees still have roughly $127 million to pay out, along with a potential $30 million in marketing bonuses.
Best Contract: Bartolo Colon (one year, $2 million)
Worst Contract: Coco Crisp (two years, $14 million)
At 39 years of age, Bartolo Colon isn't letting Father Time get in his way. Signed to a $2 million deal, Colon has put up pretty decent numbers, with a 6-7 record and 3.80 ERA, and gives his team a chance every time out.
Crisp led the American League in stolen bases last season, but this year he has been anything but a threat, with a .236 average, .299 OBP and just 16 thefts.
Best Contract: Carlos Ruiz (three years, $8.85 million)
Worst Contract: Ryan Howard (five years, $125 million)
During the life of his three-year contract, Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz has been rock solid, and this year he is producing the best numbers of his career. With 13 HR, 46 RBI and a .350 average, Chooch has easily been the most consistent hitter in the Phillies lineup all season long.
With an extension signed back in April 2010 that kicked in this season, the Phillies are on the hook for $125 million for Howard.
It's not clear whether or not his Achilles-heel injury will limit him offensively; however, his numbers have been on the decline, in 2010 and 2011 nowhere near what they were in the late 2000s.
Best Contract: A.J. Burnett (five years, $82.5 million)
Worst Contract: Clint Barmes (two years, $10.5 million)
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett may not have worked out so well for the New York Yankees, but he's been a bargain thus far for the Bucs.
Burnett is 10-2 with a 3.68 ERA thus far, and the Pirates are paying only $5 million this season and $8 million next season—the Yankees pony up the rest.
Barmes has been a bust thus far: a .204 average, four HR and 22 RBI. I thought it was a lot of money for the Pirates to dish out for a career .250 hitter when they signed him in November.
I'm sure they didn't count on a Mendoza-line average from Barmes, either.
San Diego Padres
Best Contract: Huston Street (three years, $22.5 million)
Worst Contract: Orlando Hudson (two years, $11.5 million)
The San Diego Padres acquired Huston Street to take over for the departed Heath Bell, who took a $27 million contract with Miami Marlins and has totally stunk up their brand new park. Street has been lights out, posting 13 saves, with a 1.13 ERA and 32 strikeouts, in 24 innings.
In addition Street will give the Padres even more value when they put him up for trade at the deadline, getting rid of the rest of his salary and getting prospects back in return.
Hudson was released after hitting just .211 in 35 games and in clear decline both defensively and at the plate.
But the Padres still owe him roughly $4.5 million.
San Francisco Giants
Best Contract: Melky Cabrera (one year, $6 million)
Worst Contract: Barry Zito (seven years, $126 million)
Last season, the Kansas City Royals offered left fielder Melky Cabrera the same two-year, $13.5 million contract given to teammate Jeff Francoeur.
Cabrera obviously turned it down and, after his trade to San Francisco, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Giants. With a .353 average, a major league-leading 119 hits and a nice shiny new All-Star MVP trophy to add to his mantel, Cabrera can absolutely expect to get paid next season.
You likely won't find a person on the planet that doesn't believe that Zito's contract is one of the worst ever in baseball history. I'm not even sure it's even worth further explanation.
Best Contract: Kevin Millwood (one year, $1 million)
Worst Contract: Chone Figgins (four years, $36 million)
For $1 million, Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik bought some time.
By signing Kevin Millwood for $1 million, Zduriencik bought time for his outstanding corps of pitching prospects (Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton) to continue its development without having to rush unnecessarily.
Millwood has a 3.69 ERA in 16 starts, so it's hard to say that he wasn't worth the cool million to serve as a place-holder.
Figgins was brought in with the thought that he would be as pesky at the top of the lineup as he was for the Los Angeles Angels in the mid-to-late 2000s.
Pesky isn't the word I'd use for what he's been in Seattle thus far.
St. Louis Cardinals
Best Contract: Carlos Beltran (two years, $26 million)
Worst Contract: Lance Berkman (one year, $12 million)
The St. Louis Cardinals signed right fielder Carlos Beltran to help replace the offense Albert Pujols took with him. With Beltran's 20 HR and 65 RBI, both leading the team, the Cardinals have gotten their money's worth thus far.
Berkman has played in exactly 13 games, with one homer and four RBI; however, he is expected back shortly after the All-Star after undergoing surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee.
Tampa Bay Rays
Best Contract: Fernando Rodney (one year, $2 million)
Worst Contract: B.J. Upton (one year, $7 million)
Aside from Jim Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney might be the biggest steal on this entire list.
Rodney has been practically unstoppable: a 0.93 ERA, 25 saves, a 8.8 K/9 rate and a 0.75 WHIP.
Upton was given a raise from his $4.825 million last season, when he hit 23 HR with 81 RBI. At $7 million he'll likely come nowhere near those numbers in 2012 unless he catches fire in the second half.
Best Contract: David Murphy (one year, $3.63 million)
Worst Contract: Scott Feldman (two years, $11.5 million)
We always hear so much about the vaunted offense of the Texas Rangers and how stacked they are up and down the lineup.
However, not much is ever said about left fielder David Murphy, the quiet man who always comes up huge.
Murphy continues to deliver—a .288 average, 9 HR and 32 RBI—he could easily match his career numbers, posted in both 2008 and 2009, and yet he's still not considered an everyday player.
But to the Rangers, he's been worth every penny.
Feldman was hurt for much of last season, making only 11 appearances, and this season has been largely ineffective, posting a 3-6 record and a 5.89 ERA. Feldman will likely work as a long reliever for much of the rest of the season, and his $9.25 million option for next season is almost a lock not to be exercised.
Toronto Blue Jays
Best Contract: Edwin Encarnacion (one year, $3.5 million)
Worst Contract: Francisco Cordero (one year, $4.5 million)
After the 2011 season ended, Toronto Blue Jays fans could be seen throughout various forums ranting and raving about "E5," the nickname given not so lovingly to Edwin Encarnacion.
However, those same fans are likely praising the Blue Jays for picking up the option on his contract for the 2012 season.
Encarnacion has been outstanding, hitting .295 with 23 HR and 58 RBI, and was the catalyst for the offense for the first two months of the season while star slugger Jose Bautista was struggling.
Cordero has been simply awful for the Blue Jays, with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.879 WHIP in 39 appearances.
Update: The Blue Jays rewarded Encarnacion with a three-year contract extension on Thursday worth $27 million, including an option year worth $10 million for the 2016 season.
Best Contract: Gio Gonzalez (five years, $42 million)
Worst Contract: Jayson Werth (seven years, $126 million)
The contract that starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez signed with the Washington Nationals after his trade from the Oakland A's was brilliantly constructed: escalating salaries each year, starting at just $3.25 million this season.
It's hard to find anyone who can't justify Gonzalez's salary this year for sure. An All-Star for the second time, Gonzalez is tied with R.A. Dickey for the most wins in the majors (12), owns a 2.92 ERA and has given up only four home runs in his 17 starts.
Werth signed his $126 million deal after spending four productive seasons in Philadelphia. I doubt anyone in Washington would currently use the word "productive" when describing Werth.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.