MLB teams are tasked each year with assessing a player's worth and then signing him to a contract that reflects their opinion of his perceived value.
It’s not an exact science, and it likely never will be.
Ever since the advent of free agency, a player’s worth relative to his salary has been debated ad nauseum. Did he do enough to warrant the money he received? Is he being paid on what he's expected to deliver?
Those same questions will keep popping up year after year.
With all that in mind, here is a prediction for one player on each MLB team that will have trouble living up to his contract in the 2013 season.
Past performance, age and injury history could all be factors, but in some cases, it could just be a hunch.
The Arizona Diamondbacks started their offseason early, entering into a three-team trade that netted reliever Heath Bell from the Miami Marlins.
Bell signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Marlins prior to last season and then promptly went out and stunk up the joint. He posted a 5.09 ERA with just 19 saves in 73 appearances.
Bell was dropped as the closer twice last season by the Marlins and will likely set up shop as the setup man behind closer J.J. Putz in Arizona.
He makes $9 million in each of the next two seasons, with the Marlins picking up $4 million in each year. Still, $5 million in the hopes that Bell can turn things around is a major risk, especially with him pitching in a role he’s not accustomed to.
In 2012, Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla put up the worst performance of his career. He put up career lows in home runs (19), RBI (78), batting average (.220), slugging percentage (.384) and OPS (.732).
Uggla is owed $13 millon in each of the next three seasons. If he continues on his current path, he’ll easily qualify as the most overpaid player on the Braves' roster.
Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy signed a new three-year deal prior to the start of last season. He then put up numbers that were far worse than the previous year.
After hitting .269 with 30 home runs, 80 RBI and a .801 OPS, Hardy slipped last season to a .238 average, 22 homers, 68 RBI and just a .671 OPS. While Hardy won his first-ever Gold Glove Award, the decline in offense was certainly a cause for concern.
Hardy’s future in Baltimore is cloudy, with prospect Manny Machado now breathing down his neck. It will be even cloudier if he doesn’t live up to his contract in 2013.
The Boston Red Sox signed outfielder Shane Victorino to a three-year, $39 million contract in early December. Considering how he performed last year, especially against right-handed pitching, it screams of an overpay.
Victorino struggled mightily against right-handers last year, hitting just .229 with a .629 OPS. He hit close to 100 points higher against southpaws.
A platoon situation would be much more ideal, and it’s hard to justify paying $13 million for a platoon player.
Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol’s 2012 season was a tale of two halves.
Marmol posted a 5.61 ERA in the first half, closing with a 1.52 ERA and 12 saves after the All-Star break.
Marmol will make $9.8 million in the 2013 season. Considering that the Cubs have already tried to unload him this offseason, it’s clear that they don’t even think he’s worth his contract.
Chicago White Sox starting pitcher John Danks worked an abbreviated season last year after signing a five-year, $65 million contract.
He was shut down on May 19 after experiencing stiffness in his left shoulder. When therapy and throwing programs didn't correct his condition, he underwent exploratory surgery on July 31.
The surgery was deemed a success, and Danks' labrum appeared normal—definitely a positive sign. However, he's still not a complete lock to be fully ready by Opening Day.
Danks is the highest-paid member of the White Sox next season at $15.75 million. They will certainly expect that if he is indeed ready to start the season on time, he's able to live up to the lofty contract given to him by previous general manager Kenny Williams.
Here's guessing that simply won't happen.
The Cincinnati Reds are now handing the ball to Jonathan Broxton rather than Aroldis Chapman to close out games in the ninth inning.
At least that's the plan, anyway.
Chapman was otherworldly last season in a breakout year that saw him post 38 saves and an incredible 15.3 K/9 rate. Broxton was brought in as part of the late-inning setup team, supporting Jose Arredondo and Sean Marshall in getting the ball to Chapman in the ninth.
Next season, however, Chapman transitions to the starting rotation, with Broxton taking over closing duties. He certainly has the resume, with 111 overall saves, including 23 last year with the Kansas City Royals before his trade to the Reds.
However, the Reds had a great recipe for success last year, and they're now spoiling the broth. Broxton is no longer the hard-throwing fire-baller that blew away hitters early in his career. With the reduced velocity on his fastball, he relies more on guile and location these days.
Considering the success had by the Reds with their bullpen last year, this just wreaks of the wrong move.
If there is one thing about baseball that can at times be maddening, it's the fact that all too often, mediocrity is rewarded.
That would certainly apply in the case of Cleveland Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez led the majors with 17 losses last season, posting a miserable 5.40 ERA in 31 starts. For that less-than-stellar performance, the Indians paid him $4.2 million.
And he gets a $1.55 million raise in 2013.
Based on what's been seen from Jimenez since the second half of the 2010 season, the Indians may rue the fact that they picked up his 2013 option.
The Colorado Rockies were expecting big things from starting pitcher Jorge de la Rosa when they signed him to a three-year, $31.5 million extension back in 2010.
De la Rosa exercised the option on the third year of that contract back in October. And why not—it's another $11 million in his pocket. Thus far, de la Rosa has given the Rockies exactly five wins for their money.
De la Rosa will presumably be healthy to start the 2013 season after needing most of last season to recover from Tommy John surgery.
At this point, just staying on the field would be a plus for the Rockies.
Armed with a brand-new five-year, $80 million contract, Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez received a gift that has clearly defined this offseason—the gift of overpay.
Rather than have the Chicago Cubs overpay Sanchez for his services, the Tigers countered with an overpay offer of their own.
Quite a few experts absolutely agreed the Tigers overpaid to acquire Sanchez. If the Tigers go out and capture the World Series in 2013, that will quiet criticism surrounding the deal.
If not, expect to read about the overpay of Sanchez again next winter.
The Houston Astros will start play in the American League next season armed with a whole lot of young wannabe major leaguers and hope for the future.
They'll also be spending next to nothing in the first year there as well.
Well, in the world of baseball, a payroll of less than $30 million is practically next to nothing.
Newly-signed designated hitter Carlos Pena is the highest-paid Astro with his one-year, $2.9 million contract. It would be hard to call him overpaid considering he took a $4.35 million cut in pay.
The Astros certainly can't be called overpaid. Their fans, however, wouldn't mind seeing them over-achieve.
The Kansas City Royals traded away top hitting prospect Wil Myers in an effort to bolster their starting rotation. They'll now be hoping that right fielder Jeff Francoeur can actually live up to his contract as a result.
Myers was thought to be the heir apparent to Francoeur after hitting 37 home runs with a .314 average in the minors last season.
To say that Francoeur's 2012 season was a disappointment after signing a two-year, $13.5 million contract extension would be an understatement. It was one of the worst years of Francoeur's career—a .235 average with just 16 homers and 49 RBI with an on-base percentage of just .287.
Francoeur's defense didn't measure up either—his -4.2 UZR rating ranked just 12th among 17 qualified right fielders.
Manager Ned Yost sees a bounce-back year from Francoeur.
“Jeff is not a dummy,” Yost said. “He knew it was a rough year for him last year, and he knew he needed to bounce back. He worked diligently this winter for that to happen. I’ve got a real good feeling he’s going to come into spring training and put together a very productive year for us.”
Not a surprise hearing that—one would expect a manager to be positive regarding his players. Whether or not Francoeur can live up to that expectation is another story entirely.
This qualifies as one of the no-brainers on this list.
Considering what Los Angeles Angeles outfielder Vernon Wells has delivered—rather, what he hasn't delivered—in his two years in Anaheim, the 2013 season doesn't give many fans much promise for improvement.
Wells is currently pegged as the fourth outfielder on a team expected to start Josh Hamilton in right field, Peter Bourjos in center and Mike Trout in left. With Mark Trumbo likely getting most of the looks at designated hitter, Wells will see a whole lot of bench time.
Paying $21 million for a bench player probably wasn't what owner Arte Moreno had in mind when he approved the deal that brought Wells to Anaheim.
The Los Angeles Dodgers feature a team with many players that fans and pundits alike would classify as overpaid.
In the case of infielder Juan Uribe, overpaid and overvalued might both apply.
The Dodgers were more than happy to give Uribe a three-year, $21 million contract after his one really good season with the San Francisco Giants in 2010.
Uribe has given them less than a full year of play with a .199 average and six home runs in his two years thus far.
The Dodgers are actively trying to deal him. Not surprisingly, they've found no willing partners.
They've had no problem throwing money around to attract the best talent available. But in Uribe's case, it's more like throwing money away.
At a salary of $11.5 million, Miami Marlins starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco is now easily the highest-paid player on the team.
Considering the overall body of work, it's hard to justify him living up to that contract next season.
Nolasco's K/9 rate has dropped steadily since 2009—from 9.5 to a low of 5.9 last year. His ERA has never been above the league average, and he's never been a pitcher reliant upon pinpoint control.
Nolasco is an innings-eater, posting 30-start seasons in four of the past five years. But durability doesn't equate to quality. Considering the roster the Marlins will be parading out to the field each and every day, it could be a very long year for him.
At his press conference during the MLB winter meetings in early December, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke talked about his star second baseman, Rickie Weeks.
Roenicke expects that, for the 2013 season, ”Rickie will be back to being Rickie.”
No doubt that Weeks is hoping for that as well.
Weeks went through a miserable slump for the entire first half of the 2012 season, entering the All-Star break with a .199 average and 28.6 percent strikeout rate.
He rebounded to end the season with a .230 average and respectable .328 on-base percentage, but it was nonetheless a lost season.
An ankle injury suffered in 2011 and lingering pain from that injury likely affected Weeks’ first-half performance. However, it’s still a season he would like to turn the page on.
The Brewers are hoping he can turn the corner as well, especially when an eight-figure salary is attached.
Mike Pelfrey made three starts last season before his year was cut short by a bad elbow that required Tommy John surgery.
The Minnesota Twins took a chance, signing Pelfrey to a one-year, $4 million contract.
It's a cut in pay for Pelfrey, who made $5.675 million last season for the New York Mets. However, it screams desperation on the part of the Twins, who are looking to bolster a starting rotation with bargain-basement pitchers.
Pelfrey never lived up to the promise that led the Mets to select him with the ninth overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft. Pelfrey was an innings-eater from 2008 to 2011, but the 50-54 overall record and 4.36 ERA fell far short of what was likely expected.
Now, Pelfrey will be expected to help improve the Twins' woeful pitching staff with a restructured right elbow.
I can think of better ways to have spent that $4 million.
New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana has finally reached the end of his contract, and he's scheduled to make $25.5 million in 2013.
Unless, of course, the Mets pull off a colossally stupid act and pick up his 2014 option, that is.
Santana was shut down in August last year after making 21 starts and posting a 4.85 ERA. Lower back inflammation was the cause of concern at the time, but there's no question the Mets were also doing everything they could to protect Santana's fragile left shoulder as well.
Santana could make 30 starts next season with a 3.00 ERA—he still wouldn't come anywhere close to living up to his contract.
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to make $28 million next season.
He's also scheduled for hip surgery on Jan. 16, so who knows when his season will actually start.
A-Rod's surgeon, Dr. Bryan Kelly, is hopeful that he can return to play shortly after the All-Star break. However, Kelly also said that the extent of the cartilage damage in Rodriguez's hip won't be known until he actually operates. If more extensive than previously thought, the recovery time could be much longer.
I hope the Yankees have a really good insurance policy.
The trade that sent outfielder Chris Young from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Oakland A's last October was a bit of a surprise.
The A's are pretty well stockpiled with outfielders, with Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp as their starting trio and Seth Smith picking up at-bats as a designated hitter and filling in at both corner outfield positions.
Young missed 61 games last season with a shoulder separation in late April and a quadriceps injury in September. He slumped badly at the plate, hitting just .231 with 14 homers.
It's quite possible that A's general manager Billy Beane has some sort of a plan to alleviate the logjam in his outfield before spring training. But at this point, Young is essentially a very expensive bench player.
The Philadelphia Phillies still owe first baseman Ryan Howard $105 million over the next four seasons. Considering the regression in his numbers, it's really hard to imagine him living up to that.
Howard's on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS have been on the decline since 2009. Though he could certainly be given a mulligan for last season considering his recovery from a torn Achilles tendon.
Still, the decline in the numbers overall is certainly worrisome. Paying $105 million to continue watching that decline is a lot more than worrisome as well.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates signed catcher Russell Martin this offseason, they were banking on a player who could help provide pop in the middle of the batting order.
However, there wasn't a whole lot of love for the deal on the blogosphere.
Before this deal was finalized, I had read that the Pirates and Martin’s most recent team, the Yankees, were the last two clubs in on Russell Martin. I was still busy shaking my head at the Pirates for even getting involved in the bidding when the news came across that the long-suffering Pittsburgh fan base would have to stomach yet another poor decision. The Pirates signed Martin to a two-year pact worth a reported $17 million in a move that signifies the franchise still operates under a state of continuous confusion.
The general consensus was that the Pirates had to overpay to acquire talent. At 29 years of age—presumably the prime of his career—Martin struggled mightily last year, hitting just .211.
He'll have to vastly improve upon that to live up to his deal.
The San Diego Padres brought starting pitcher Jason Marquis back on a one-year, $3 million deal.
Considering they're under new ownership who presumably have more money than the team's previous caretaker, it was a curious signing.
Marquis pitched adequately for the Padres after a horrendous start to the season for the Minnesota Twins, posting a 4.04 ERA in 15 starts for San Diego.
Marquis has been a mystery wrapped around an enigma for most of his career. After being selected in the first round by the Atlanta Braves in 1996, he never lived up to expectations for Atlanta, who traded him to St. Louis following the 2003 season.
He has been with eight different teams in his 13 seasons, including four in the past three years alone.
Granted, $3 million is not a lot of money by today's standards. However, given the Padres' complete lack of activity this offseason, I can think of many better ways to spend that amount of money than on a journeyman pitcher.
The man called The Freak delivered in a big way for the San Francisco Giants in the postseason last year.
Tim Lincecum's performance for the San Francisco Giants during the playoffs redeemed what had been a lost regular season. Lincecum struggled throughout, posting a 10-15 record and 5.18 ERA in 33 starts.
Next season, Lincecum will be paid $22 million, and he doesn't appear to be anywhere even close to the dominating pitcher who won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009.
No one will forget Lincecum's efforts in October last year. However, there will be grumblings if he can't turn things around next season in a starting role.
Seattle Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez was the centerpiece of a three-team trade that brought him to Seattle back in 2008. The defensively-gifted outfielder signed a four-year, $20.5 million deal after hitting .283 with 18 homers and 70 RBI in 2009.
The last two years, however, have been lost seasons for Gutierrez. Injuries have kept him to just 132 games played in that span.
There are encouraging signs, though. Gutierrez hit .349 in 22 games in Venezuelan Winter League ball and appears to be completely pain-free after suffering from concussion-related symptoms last year.
If healthy, he would take over once again in center field, with Michael Saunders moving to left.
Considering his past two seasons, however, that is one major if.
St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal was on his way to a decent season last year, hitting .264 with a .325 on-base percentage. Not great, but not bad for a 34-year old player who's seen his share of injuries.
Then the injury bug bit once again. Furcal was felled for the season in late August when he partially tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He did not require surgery, but given his history, the Cardinals are likely praying that he can be held together for at least one more year.
I'm not holding my breath on that one.
The man formerly known as Fausto Carmona, Roberto Hernandez was signed to a one-year, $3.25 million deal by the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason.
I won't even hazard a guess as to how old Hernandez really is. Under his new name, he's apparently 32 years of age.
Hernandez was awful in 2011 for the Cleveland Indians, posting a 7-11 record and 5.25 ERA in 32 starts. After spending months clearing up his legal issues in the Dominican Republic, Hernandez lost all three of his starts last season before his year ended with an ankle injury.
Considering all that's happened with him in the past two years, the major league minimum salary might have been more in order.
Lance Berkman has been an excellent hitter for a long time in the majors. However, paying $10 million for a player who saw just 32 games of action last year and endured two knee surgeries at the age of 36 screamed of overpay and desperation by the Texas Rangers.
Berkman will be paid that amount to become the full-time designated hitter for the Rangers. Looking to replace the offense left behind with the departures of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli, the Rangers paid a combined $17 million for Berkman and catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
It's a major gamble for the Rangers, and general manager Jon Daniels admitted as much.
"I think every player acquisition has some sort of risk," Daniels said. "I think the big thing is, if you look at Lance's career and the type of hitter he is and what he brings, if he's healthy, he's going to produce. I'm very confident in that."
If he's healthy. Yeah, I'll pay $10 million for a major if.
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Ricky Romero had easily the worst year of his career in 2012, posting a 9-14 record, a 5.77 ERA and 1.674 WHIP in 32 starts.
And he gets a $2.5 million raise in 2013.
Now, the man once considered the ace of the Jays' pitching staff is arguably the fifth-best pitcher. R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow have all surpassed Romero on the depth chart.
Romero is only 28 years of age, so he certainly has time to figure things out. However, if he turns into another Scott Kazmir, he'll have no shot at living up to anything, let alone his contract.
It could certainly be argued that Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth won't live up to his contract simply because he was never worth that much to begin with.
When Werth signed his seven-year, $126 contract in late 2010, many experts and pundits at the time immediately called it an overpay on the part of the Nationals.
Werth hasn't helped his cause, either. He hit just .232 with 20 home runs and 58 RBI in the first year of the deal. He then followed up with a second season that saw him play just 81 games due to a broken wrist, hitting .300 with just five home runs.
Werth is now 33 years of age, and he'll be 34 in the second month of the season. He may not be past his prime, but it's unlikely he'll suddenly morph into the five-tool player many thought he would become.
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.