The 10 Worst Contracts in Seattle Sports History

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIMay 14, 2009

In honor of Carlos Silva, who continues to flop about on the mound while earning $48 million from the Mariners, we at Outside The Press Box decided to come up with the 10 worst contracts across all Seattle sports, and Silva’s lucky he just missed the cut.

This isn’t about the worst players (Dan McGwire) or worst draft picks (Rick Mirer), but the actual deals given to players who were supposed to contribute to their teams’ success only to flame out (or, in one case, never play at all).

In alphabetical order, the Top (or bottom?) 10:


Shaun Alexander

The Seahawks were in a tough spot coming off their 2005 Super Bowl season. Alexander had been named the NFL’s MVP in his contract year, so how could they not give him a new deal?

They ended up paying him an $11.5 million signing bonus in an eight-year deal worth $61.7 million. But he missed nine games over the next two years due to injuries, and the Seahawks decided to cut him before the 2008 season.

He was paid $18.5 million for 2006 and 2007 and counted $6.9 million against the salary cap in 2008 even though he was no longer on the team.

Alexander had one of the greatest five-year runs in NFL history from 2001 to 2005, but the combination of his injuries and a rapidly deteriorating line made that $61.7 million deal one of the worst in team history.


Vin Baker

At the time, it seemed like this was going to be a win-win situation. After all, Baker had played well in 1997-98 after being acquired in a three-team swap for Shawn Kemp. So the Sonics gave him a six-year, $87 million deal and then watched Baker’s career go into the toilet.

Baker became the symbol of a contract albatross throughout pro sports, as he ballooned in weight, battled with alcohol and became less and less effective each year.

He played in only 31 games the year he signed the mega-deal, and by the time the Sonics finally shipped him off to Boston, he was feuding with coach Nate McMillan. Baker’s squandered talent is one of the NBA’s real tragedies.


Calvin Booth

Proving that height makes right in the NBA, the Sonics lavished Booth, a marginal player at best, with a six-year, $34 million contract in 2001 even though he had played a grand total of 66 games in his prior two seasons.

He promptly missed most of the 2001-02 season, playing in 15 games, and then found himself shuttled to the end of the bench for the remainder of his Seattle career.

Despite being seven feet tall, Booth was a non-entity in the middle, muscled out by stronger players and outmaneuvered by quicker ones. He posted his “best” season in 2003-04 (five points, 1.4 blocks, 3.9 rebounds) before being dealt to Dallas. Amazingly, Booth is still collecting an NBA paycheck.


Brian Bosworth

The Seahawks won a lottery against 37-1 odds to get linebacker Brian Bosworth with the top pick in the 1987 supplemental draft.

After months of the Boz posturing about not wanting to play in Seattle, he ended up signing the richest rookie contract in NFL history. Although dwarfed by today’s standards (Detroit guaranteed QB Matt Stafford almost $42 million), Bosworth got a 10-year deal worth $11 million.

But his star-crossed career was cut short by steroid-fueled shoulder problems. He ended up playing in 24 games over three seasons and is considered one of the biggest busts in NFL history.


Jeff Cirillo

Cirillo was an All-Star in the NL, but his horrific years with the Mariners are proof that making the switch in leagues is perhaps more difficult than we acknowledge.

The Mariners inked the third baseman to a four-year, $29 million deal in 2002, looking for the kind of consistent numbers he put up in Colorado. But Cirillo forgot how to hit, tallying marks of .249 and .205 in his two seasons in Seattle and drawing the ire of angry fans who saw Cirillo as the symbol of their deteriorating team.

Cirillo was kind of a jerk, but he turned out to be able to laugh at himself, donating $20,000 to charity after losing a bet to a local sportswriter after failing to hit .280 in 2003.


Kenji Johjima

A serviceable catcher who is not going to remind anyone of Johnny Bench behind the plate or with his bat, Johjima was inexplicably given a three-year, $24 million contract by the Mariners last year, a shocking figure considering his age (31), average at the time (.200) and the fact that the Mariners had drafted a catcher (Jeff Clement) with their No. 1 pick.

Even worse is that the Mariners essentially outbid themselves, as no one else was interested in inking Johjima at the start of the 2008 season. Immediately, fans and media latched on to the fact that the Mariners’ Japanese ownership acted quickly to secure one of their own, as it were, despite just OK numbers.

Johjima has done nothing since to dispel those notions, hitting .227 last year, causing a rift with Mariner pitchers about his game-calling abilities and missing most of this year with injury.


Jim McIlvaine

Signing this 7'1" chump was the biggest mistake in Sonics history.

Coming off a loss to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in 1996, the Sonics decided they were a center away from winning the NBA title, so they lavished a seven-year, $33.6 million deal on McIlvaine, a second-year center who had averaged less than three points and three rebounds the previous season.

The deal turned out to be the undoing of the Sonics. The team refused to pay power forward Shawn Kemp, who had been a superstar in the NBA Finals, and ended up trading Kemp to Cleveland the next year, getting Vin Baker in return. Meanwhile, McIlvaine never lived up to the big contract and was traded to New Jersey in 1998.


Nate Odomes

Odomes was the first big free agent signed by the Seahawks, who gave him a four-year deal worth $8.4 million in 1994.

It was a great signing, considering Odomes was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL at the time and was fresh off four Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills. He had tied Seattle safety Eugene Robinson with a league-leading nine interceptions in 1993 and had been pursued by eight teams in free agency.

But Odomes never played a game for Seattle. He blew out a knee in a charity basketball game in June 1994 and missed all of his first season in Seattle. Then he injured the knee again at the start of training camp in 1995 and missed that season, too. And the Seahawks let him go after giving him over $4 million for nothing.


Richie Sexson

Sexson was the kind of slugger the Mariners were hoping would help jump-start their offense, signing him to a four-year, $50 million deal in 2004. And he actually did fine in his first two seasons in Seattle, combining for 73 home runs and 228 RBI.

But at $12 million a year, you expect consistency, and Sexson began a precipitous dropoff, hitting .205 with 21 homers in 2007 and .218 with 11 homers in 2008 before the Mariners simply gave up and released the aging slugger. Sexson spent most of those final two years flailing at pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone.

By that point, Sexson had become a cancer in an increasingly toxic clubhouse, and the team was more than willing to eat $7 million to get rid of him.


Grant Wistrom

In 2004, team president Bob Whitsitt took over contract negotiations and did his best to turn himself and the Seahawks into laughingstocks.

His biggest gaffe was paying a team-record $14 million signing bonus to Wistrom, a high-effort defensive end who nonetheless was not a top pass rusher and not worth the six-year, $33 million deal Whitsitt handed him. Word is Wistrom’s agent, Tom Condon, was hoping to get as much as $8 million in bonus money. But Whitsitt offered $12 million, so Condon naturally asked for $16 million. They settled in the middle.

The deal looked even worse when Wistrom missed seven games in his first season in Seattle. The Seahawks paid Wistrom $21 million over three years and cut him in 2007 after they signed Patrick Kerney. By that time, Wistrom’s body had worn down to the point that he simply retired.


Why are people ripping Mike Holmgren for talking about how it would be nice to work for the Seahawks again someday? Go Outside The Press Box to find out.