Rating Alex Rodriguez and the 10 Highest-Paid Players in MLB

Jim FlanneryAnalyst IJune 14, 2013

Rating Alex Rodriguez and the 10 Highest-Paid Players in MLB

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    Teams around baseball's major leagues have a lot of money—like, a lot of money.

    When you start to look at some of the outrageous contracts handed out to superstar players, you can see that the owners have a bunch of dough kicking around, and ample will to spend it.

    Well, the "have" teams do at any rate, but do they spend it wisely?

    According to spotrac.com, the top-10 wage-earners in the majors right now are all pulling down in excess of $21 million, and that doesn't include all of the endorsement and appearance fees they generate away from the diamond.

    Sadly, the guys pulling down all this money are, more often than not, players whose best years are behind them.

    But that seems to be the reality of MLB contract negotiations. Players who have just played the best years of their careers command the most money, even if the odds are stacked against them in being able to continue to perform at that level due to steadily advancing age.

    Teams willing to spend big bucks on blue-chip talent are therefore often paying for past performance, not what they're actually going to get for their money.

    Let's look at the 10 highest-paid MLB players of 2013 and see if they're actually earning their keep this season.

Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers: $21 Million

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    Once upon a time, Adrian Gonzalez was a big fish in the little pond that is the San Diego Padres. His salary was relatively modest, as he earned $4.875 million in 2010, according to Baseball-Reference.com, but his performance was huge.

    Gonzalez earned a spot on the NL All-Star team from 2008-2010, winning two Gold Gloves along the way and never hitting fewer than 31 home runs a year during that span despite playing his home games in one of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in baseball.

    After getting traded to the Boston Red Sox in 2011, the Sox decided to send him back to California midway through the 2012 season, landing him in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

    The Dodgers are now paying Adrian the big bucks. He is signed to a seven-year, $154 million deal through the end of 2018.

    To this point in the season, Gonzalez is putting up solid numbers. His stat line of .312/.375/.475/.851 is close to being in line with his historical averages, although his power numbers have slipped somewhat.

    His defense has also slipped a bit, as Gonzalez is on pace to post both the worst fielding percentage and worst range factor of his 10-year career.

    Are the Dodgers getting a good return on their huge investment? Adequate, maybe, but I wouldn't go so far as to say good.

    Rating:

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: $21 Million

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    Miguel Cabrera might be the best player in the majors right now.

    Cabrera won the AL MVP last season after earning baseball's first Triple Crown title since Carl Yastremski did it with the Red Sox in 1967.

    In 2013, Cabrera is actually playing even better. His current stat line of .358/.450/.638/1.087 are all career highs and he is on pace to hit 46 home runs—also a career high. He is well on his way to a third straight batting title, an accomplishment that is almost unheard of for right-handed batters.

    Miggy is in the middle of an eight-year, $152.3 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. I have no doubt that the Tigers will be thrilled to have him through to the end of 2015.

    No doubt, Miggy is worth every penny. 

    Rating: A-plus

Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants: $22.25 Million

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    Tim Lincecum won back-to-back Cy Young Awards as the best pitcher in the NL during his first two full seasons in the majors. Consequently, his value shot up and now the 29-year-old right-hander is the fourth-highest paid pitcher in the majors.

    Unfortunately for the San Francisco Giants, however, his performance has not kept pace with his salary.

    "The Freak" is pulling down $22.25 million in the final year of his contract with the Giants. Statistically, he's in the midst of the second-worst year of his career, with only a slight rebound from a disappointing 2012 season.

    Last year, Lincecum had a 10-15 record and a poor 5.18 ERA. Although he was still striking out a batter per inning, he struggled with his command, walking a career-worst 4.4 per nine innings. He was also catching too much of the plate when he did hit the strike zone, resulting in allowing a career-worst 1.1 home runs per nine innings.

    His sub-par performance in the regular season landed him in the bullpen for most of the 2012 playoffs. He performed reasonably well in that capacity with a 2.54 ERA in San Francisco's run to the World Series, but he was moved back into the starting rotation to start the 2013 season.

    As a starter this season, his 4.70 ERA is well above his career average and his 1.422 WHIP is equally uncharacteristic.

    Don't expect the Giants—or anyone else—to offer Lincecum the same kind of money he's getting this year without a dramatic improvement the rest of the way.

    Rating: C-minus

Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers: $23 Million

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    It was big news when the Detroit Tigers won the Prince Fielder sweepstakes after the 2011 season, bringing the slugging first baseman in from the Milwaukee Brewers.

    In his time with the Brewers, Fielder put up some massive numbers, hitting 30 or more homers five straight years, including a 50-bomb season in 2007. 

    In 2012, the Tigers had to be pretty happy with what they got out of Fielder. He had a career-high .313 batting average, hit 30 home runs and drove in 108 runs, providing an excellent complement to Miguel Cabrera's MVP season.

    This year, Fielder is once again posting solid numbers. His .286 average is right in line with his career average, and he is on pace to reach 30 homers for the seventh consecutive year.

    Overall, Fielder continues to produce at his historical norms, so he seems to be justifying the nine-year, $214 million deal he has with Detroit so far.

    Rating: A-minus

Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins: $23 Million

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    It is not every day that the small-market Minnesota Twins open up the bank vault to pay a marquée player, but Joe Mauer isn't an everyday player either.

    From 2006-09, Mauer won three batting titles in four years. Over his career, he has also won three Gold Gloves for his performance behind the plate.

    Catchers with this kind of skill set don't come around every year. In fact, they don't necessarily come around once every generation.

    So far in 2013, Mauer's slash line is .332/.416/.494/.910, which is above his career averages across the board. His defense continues to be stellar, although Minnesota is giving him regular time in the designated hitter role to protect his health, sliding him into that spot about once a week.

    Mauer is in the third year of an eight-year, $184 million deal. It looks like the Twins will be very pleased with what they're getting out of him this year. As he gets deeper into his 30s, the Twins will have to hope he stays strong and effective to justify the rest of the contract.

    Rating:

C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees: $23 Million

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    One of three New York Yankees in MLB's top-10 in annual salaries, C.C. Sabathia has been leading the Yankees' pitching staff since he arrived in 2009.

    His performance has been consistent in that time, with Sabathia averaging 18 wins, 226 innings and a 3.22 ERA in his first four years in pinstripes.

    In 2013, the 32-year-old veteran seems to be feeling the effects of his age. His 4.07 ERA thus far is his highest since 2004, he is giving up more than a hit per inning for the first time in his career, and his 1.3 HR/9 is also the worst of his career. 

    At the end of the day, his numbers this season aren't actually bad, but they aren't good enough to be worth the almost $700,000 per start that he's getting paid either.

    Rating: B-minus

Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees: $23.125 Million

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    Mark Teixeira was signed to an eight-year, $180 million contract by the New York Yankees in 2009 following several outstanding years spent with the Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels.

    His first year with the Yankees was right in line with his historical numbers, but he has been in a steady decline ever since.

    Teixeira hasn't hit above .256 since 2010, although his power numbers have continued to be solid with 33 homers in 2010 and 39 in 2011.

    In 2012, he missed 39 games due to injury, further hampering his effectiveness. This year, he has played in just 12 games since coming off the disabled list. In his brief return to the lineup this season, Teixeira still hasn't rediscovered his stroke, batting a meager .182, although he has managed three home runs.

    Obviously, a couple of good weeks could put him right back in the groove, but if the last three years are any indication, Teixeira's 30s are not agreeing with him and there's nothing in his recent past to suggest he'll turn back into the superstar he once was in the majors.

    Expecting him to start playing like a $23 million man seems like expecting way too much.

    Rating: D-plus

Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies: $25 Million

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    At the height of their powers as a heavyweight franchise in 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies brought in prized lefty Cliff Lee to bolster what was already a pretty decent pitching staff.

    They signed him for five years at $120 million. Three years into that that deal, it looks like it was a pretty good move.

    Lee has gone 30-19 for Philly with a 2.72 ERA and a minuscule 1.058 WHIP. His 2.54 ERA this season is a run below his career average and, coupled with his seven wins so far, he's looking like he could generate some NL Cy Young Award buzz before the season is done.

    Just to make things a little more interesting, Lee is also batting a solid .250, so he's even contributing to the offense thus far.

    Lee has been a strong and steady performer on the mound throughout his career and has shown no signs of fading as he enters his mid-30s. He may just be one of those rare athletes who can sustain a high level of play for as long as he wants to keep showing up on the field.

    Rating: A-plus

Johan Santana, New York Mets: $25.5 Million

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    As noted earlier, the Minnesota Twins are not known for paying the huge dollars to keep their top talent. Such was the case with Johan Santana, who left the Twins after the 2007 season to follow the money to the Big Apple.

    Although he had an outstanding year for the New York Mets in 2008, the remainder of his time in New York has been spotty, at best.

    He blew out his shoulder late in the 2010 season and missed the entire 2011 season as a result. Upon his return to the mound last year, he posted a career-worst 4.85 ERA despite recording the first no-hitter in Mets history. He also wound up on the DL twice.

    Prior to the 2013 season, Santana re-injured his surgically repaired shoulder and once again is missing the season with the chance he may never pitch again.

    The Mets have a team option for Santana's contract in 2014. Given his track record since he turned 30, it seems likely to me that they'll take the buyout option and pay Santana the $5.5 million to ply his trade elsewhere, assuming he even can.

    Rating: F

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees: $29 Million

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    Alex Rodriguez has not set foot on the diamond since he was benched during last year's playoffs. That's not a good sign for a guy getting paid more than the entire Houston Astros payroll.

    The New York Yankees signed A-Rod to a 10-year contract extension worth a MLB-record $275 million following his huge 2007 season when he won his third AL MVP. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the 37-year-old Rodriguez has begin acting his age on the field ever since signing his contract and he has been in a steady decline.

    The admitted PED-user has had his home run totals drop from 54 in 2007 to the 30s over the next three seasons, to under 20 the past two seasons. His batting average has also tailed off as well, floundering around the .270s for three straight seasons.

    Rodriguez's health has been in decline recently as well. He hasn't played in more than 138 games in any season since he signed his new contract, missing almost half of 2011, and he has been on the DL for all of the 2013 season thus far.

    I'm sure Yankees GM Brian Cashman thought he was making a good decision when he offered A-Rod more than a quarter-billion dollars to stick with the Bronx Bombers into his 40s, but he didn't. Rodriguez has become a financial albatross around the franchise's neck in addition to being a distraction off the field with his connections to the current MLB doping scandal.

    His contract may turn out to be the worst contract in sports history if things continue as they have.

    Rating: F

     

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