MLB's All-Overpaid Team Heading into 2013

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2013

MLB's All-Overpaid Team Heading into 2013

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    With the 2013 MLB season set to begin in just nine days, teams will have sufficiently chopped down its roster to reach the 25-man limit, and they will have their Opening Day payroll set as well.

    It goes without saying that payroll is one of the largest single expenses for any baseball franchise. Since the evolution of free agency, it takes an even bigger bite out of the bottom line than ever before. In fact, a team owner will often cry poor-mouth when it comes to his or her team's finances because of payroll expenses.

    Many players are given salaries that are exorbitant in nature and oftentimes leads to them being considered overpaid.

    Here, then, is a look at the MLB all-overpaid team at the start of the 2013 season.

     

    Note: All salaries courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Catcher: Joe Mauer

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    2013 Salary: $23 million

     

    Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer is a former MVP and three-time American League batting champion—"former" being the key word here.

    Mauer did have a nice bounce-back campaign in 2012 after two injury-filled seasons by hitting .319 with 10 home runs and 85 RBI and also leading the American League with a .416 OBP.

    Yet those numbers are still a far cry from his MVP year of 2009, when he posted a .365 average with 28 home runs and 96 RBI.

    Mauer is a great player—there's no argument about that—but he is not worth $23 million right now. He was worth that much four years ago, but not any longer.

First Base: Ryan Howard

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    2013 Salary: $20 million

     

    Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard appears to be fully healthy after recovering from a torn Achilles tendon last year. He was able to play 71 games in 2012 with a .219 average, 14 home runs and 56 RBI.

    Howard is also hitting .329 with seven home runs and 16 RBI this spring, certainly an indication that he's ready to rake once again.

    If Howard can regain his form and hit somewhere close to 35-40 home runs and drive in 110-120 runs, I'll be more than happy to take him off this list.

    But even before the Achilles injury, his numbers were in decline, and he needs to bounce back in a big way in 2013.

Second Base: Dan Uggla

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    2013 Salary: $13 million

     

    Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla had the worst season of his career in 2012, hitting just .220 with 19 home runs and 78 RBI. This spring hasn't been much better for him, as he is hitting .224 with two homers and six RBI.

    With the Braves owing Uggla $39 million over the next three seasons, they're going to expect a turnaround, and quickly. Otherwise, his name will be all over the Internet in trade rumors.

Third Base: Alex Rodriguez

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    2013 Salary: $28 million

     

    At third base, the discussion begins and ends with Alex Rodriguez.

    No longer even a top-100 player in baseball, Rodriguez played in just 122 games last season with a .272 average, 18 home runs and 57 RBI.

    His numbers have been falling each year since 2007, and the injuries have been piling up as well.

    Normally, I wouldn't punish a player by placing him on a list like this while injured, but let's face it, Rodriguez has been vastly overpaid for years and will be until the day he retires.

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins

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    2013 Salary: $11 million

     

    Speaking of numbers in decline...

    Shortstop Jimmy Rollins is another guy who is getting paid now for what he did in the past.

    Rollins hit .250 with 23 home runs and 68 RBI last season. However, the strikeout numbers were elevated, and he somehow won a Gold Glove Award despite having a UZR rating far lower than that of Clint Barmes, Brandon Crawford and Zack Cozart.

    Rollins' salary certainly can't be considered outrageous, but at this point in his career, he's definitely being overpaid for what he is actually delivering.

Left Field: Vernon Wells

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    2013 Salary: $21 million

     

    Left fielder Vernon Wells is quietly putting together a nice spring for the Los Angeles Angels, hitting .361 with four home runs and 11 RBI.

    That's certainly a good sign, but that's what been expected of Wells since the day he arrived in Anaheim two years ago.

    Wells has hit just .222 with 36 home runs in his two seasons with Los Angeles, and he'll likely start this season on the bench behind Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton.

    If Wells carries his spring performance into the regular season, it would surely be a huge help, but it won't take him off of this overpaid list anytime soon.

     

    UPDATE: Monday, March 25 at 11:30 a.m. ET

    The Angels and Yankees are nearing a trade that would send Vernon Wells to New York, according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. 

    The Yankees would be on the hook for about $13 million over the next two seasons of Wells' contract.

    ---End of Update---

Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury

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    2013 Salary: $9 million

     

    During a career that rocketed him to stardom with his performance in the 2007 World Series, Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has already produced two seasons that have shown promise and one season (2011) that was indeed special.

    But injury concerns and fragility have led to Ellsbury likely playing his final season in Boston.

    Ellsbury missed another three months last season with a separated shoulder, just two years after he missed all but 18 games with fractured ribs.

    There's no question of Ellsbury's promise, and he delivered on that by nearly winning an MVP award in 2011.

    Still, promise can only be realized when you stay on the field. Ellsbury has yet to prove in recent years that he is capable of doing that.

Right Field: Jayson Werth

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    2013 Salary: $16 million

     

    Jayson Werth is the highest paid player on the Washington Nationals roster. He needs to start playing like it.

    Werth has been tagged with the moniker of overpaid player ever since signing his seven-year, $126 million contract prior to the 2011 season. He didn't help matters any by underachieving in the first year of the deal, hitting just .232 with 20 home runs and 58 RBI.

    He fractured his wrist last year, limiting him to just 81 games, but he still only produced five home runs and 31 RBI in a half-season.

    Werth will continue bearing this moniker until he actually produces like he deserves his salary.

Designated Hitter: Lance Berkman

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    2013 Salary: $10 million

     

    At the age of 37, Lance Berkman is going to make $10 million as the designated hitter for the Texas Rangers.

    This is one year after Berkman landed on the disabled list three times and endured two knee surgeries, playing in only 32 games.

    The Rangers took a huge gamble in signing Berkman this offseason, hoping that he can get back to the level that produced 31 home runs and 94 RBI for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.

    But can he really produce like that two years later and after two surgeries? Can he gain back enough strength in his legs to deliver that kind of production again?

    Berkman has hit just .275 this spring with two home runs as he continues to shake the rust off. By the end of the season, we'll know whether the Rangers threw away $11 million ($1 million included for potential 2014 buyout).

No. 1 Starting Pitcher: Johan Santana

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    2013 Salary: $25.5 million

     

    Johan Santana is in the final season of a six-year, $137.5 million contract with the New York Mets. The Mets also hold a $25 million option with a $5.5 million buyout for the 2014 season as well.

    Santana was shut down after making just 21 starts last season, ending an up-and-down year in which he threw the first no-hitter in Mets history. He also posted a 4.85 ERA, his highest ever as a starter.

    Now, Santana will start the season on the disabled list, as he currently doesn't have enough arm strength to compete against live competition.

    It's going to cost the Mets at least $31 million for Santana's last season in New York, seeing that it's almost a lock they won't exercise next year's option.

    Ouch.

No. 2 Starting Pitcher: Barry Zito

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    2013 Salary: $20 million

     

    This San Francisco Giants starting pitcher has long been considered overpaid, courtesy of the seven-year, $126 million contract he signed back in 2006.

    In Zito's first five years with the Giants, he won only 43 games and wasn't even on the postseason roster when they won the World Series in 2010.

    Last year, though, Zito's postseason performance made up for some of the harsh criticism that he received for not living up to his contract.

    But he's still overpaid regardless.

    Zito will make $20 million this season while serving as the No. 4 pitcher for the Giants, and he'll make more than both Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong combined. In fact, he'll actually make more than twice as much.

    If Zito surpasses 216 innings this year, his 2014 option for $18 million will vest. Otherwise, the Giants can pay $7 million to buy out his final season.

    No matter what he did last season, Zito is overpaid in just about anyone's eyes.

No. 3 Starting Pitcher: Tim Lincecum

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    2013 Salary: $22 million

     

    The Giants also have Tim Lincecum making $22 million this season, and that is after he completely spit the bit as a starter last season.

    Lincecum was a postseason hero with his masterful efforts in a relief role. But as a starter, Lincecum posted a 10-15 record and 5.18 ERA, which was easily the highest of his career. Last season, his fastball lacked the life and late movement that helped define him through his Cy Young years.

    Lincecum has struggled this spring as well with a 10.97 ERA in four appearances, giving up 13 runs on 11 17 in just 10.2 innings.

    If Lincecum can bounce back from his sub-par season, the Giants will certainly benefit from it in the defense of their World Series championship. But for now, it's an awful lot of money to be paying for a former superstar who is clearly struggling to find his way.

No. 4 Starting Pitcher: Roy Halladay

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    2013 Salary: $20 million

     

    Roy Halladay is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. He's also coming off a year in which he landed on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder.

    There is concern for Halladay this spring as well. For instance, he recently gave up seven runs while walking four and hitting a batter in 2.2 innings against the Detroit Tigers. Halladay was then shut down after just one inning in his following start with a stomach virus. In both games, his fastball never registered higher than 88 MPH.

    After earning two Cy Young awards and dominating through much of the last decade, Halladay has earned his elite status, but it's difficult to justify his current $20 million salary.

No. 5 Starting Pitcher: Jorge De La Rosa

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    2013 Salary: $11 million

     

    Jorge De La Rosa signed a two-year, $21.5 million contract prior to the start of the 2011 season. The deal also came with a player option for a third year, one that De La Rosa exercised in November.

    The Rockies must have thought that any starting pitcher who could post an ERA below 4.50 while pitching half his games at Coors Field was worth an average of more than $10 million per year.

    What they didn't count on was elbow issues. After getting off to a 5-2 start in 2011, De La Rosa tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, which required Tommy John surgery. Those are the only five victories De La Rosa has attained during the life of his contract—he didn't make it back until September of last year, starting just three games.

    With the current state of the Rockies rotation, they are absolutely counting on De La Rosa's full recovery and return to form this season. They've already lost $21.5 million, and it's a safe bet that they're not relishing seeing any more money go down the drain.

Closer: Carlos Marmol

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    2013 Salary: $9.8 million

     

    Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol closed the season out strong last year with a great second half, posting a 1.52 ERA in 30 appearances with 12 saves.

    It still didn't stop the Cubs from trying to unload Marmol this offseason, though, and the they nearly succeeded in doing so with the Los Angeles Angels before health issues with former Angels starter Dan Haren nixed the deal.

    The Cubs also signed Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa to a two-year, $9.5 million deal as well, further fueling the fact that Marmol's future in Chicago is cloudy.

    At some point it's entirely possible that Fujikawa could take the closer reins from Marmol this season, which would make Marmol a very overpaid reliever.

     

    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.