5 Signs Baseball Contracts Are Spiraling out of Control

Ben BerkonContributor INovember 29, 2013

5 Signs Baseball Contracts Are Spiraling out of Control

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    Jhonny Peralta should be thanking his agent profusely.
    Jhonny Peralta should be thanking his agent profusely.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Baseball players get paid a lot of money. And with each passing year, new contracts seemingly become more and more excessive.

    But while teams could make a case for breaking the bank on players like Robinson Cano, for instance, there have been some real head-scratchers in the offseason thus far.

    Perhaps the most “wow” moment was when the St. Louis Cardinals inked Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53 million contract. Even though Peralta enjoyed a stellar campaign in 2013, posting a .303 batting average, park-adjusted 119 OPS+ and 11 home runs, he was also suspended for using illegal drugs and has a history of inconsistent production.

    There is no doubt that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it's possible some general managers are inflating the market with questionable signings.

    Read on to see the five signs baseball contracts are spiraling out of control.

      

    All statistics sourced from Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com.

Tim Lincecum

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    Tim Lincecum is no longer the pitcher he once was. But he still will be getting paid like it.
    Tim Lincecum is no longer the pitcher he once was. But he still will be getting paid like it.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Going into the offseason, it appeared as though the San Francisco Giants would be freed from the disastrous two-year, $40.5 million contract they handed Tim Lincecum in January 2012. 

    Despite winning the Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009 and finishing within the top 10 in 2010 and 2011, Lincecum quickly faded over the past two seasons. In fact, the right-hander combined for a 4.76 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 72 ERA+), 1.38 WHIP and 2.31 strikeout to walk ratio.

    But the Giants apparently didn’t mind Lincecum’s obvious skills decline, as the team re-inked the former ace to a similar two-year, $35 million pact. The 29-year-old showed few signs of ever returning to his pre-2012 self last season, so the future doesn’t bode well either.

Carlos Ruiz

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    The Phillies impulsively handed Carlos Ruiz an undeserved three-year deal.
    The Phillies impulsively handed Carlos Ruiz an undeserved three-year deal.Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    After missing significant time in 2013 due to both injuries and a drug-related suspension, it appeared as though the 34-year-old Carlos Ruiz would be forced to accept a one-year deal to prove himself. Considering Ruiz witnessed his park-adjusted OPS+ decrease by almost 40 percent last season, it only seemingly solidified this notion. 

    But despite the status quo, the Philadelphia Phillies re-signed the catcher to an eye-popping three-year, $26 million deal.

    The likelihood of Ruiz, a mid-30s catcher, producing at his 2012 rate again is slim. Having never eclipsed more than 472 plate appearances in a given season to boot, handing a near-future backup catcher the above contract is the definition of excessive spending.

Derek Jeter

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    Only Derek Jeter would be able to pull a $12 million contract after hitting .190.
    Only Derek Jeter would be able to pull a $12 million contract after hitting .190.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Derek Jeter is an undeniable icon. As the face of the New York Yankees for almost two decades, Jeter deserves a lot of credit. The shortstop didn’t deserve the one-year, $12 million contract he signed this offseason, however. 

    After missing all but 17 games in 2013, the Yankees still felt compelled to hand their former star a sizable pact. Even when Jeter was on the field this past season, the 13-time All-Star showed few signs of still being an impact player. Jeter posted a mere .190 batting average, park-adjusted 51 OPS+ and an abysmal minus-46.4 UZR/150 in the field.

    The Yankees hedged their Jeter bet by additionally inking defense-first shortstop Brendan Ryan. But make no qualms about it: Derek Jeter’s new contract was a pure public relations move.

Jhonny Peralta

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    Most critics were shocked by Jhonny Peralta's new contract.
    Most critics were shocked by Jhonny Peralta's new contract.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Perhaps a surprise to even Jhonny Peralta himself, the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to sign the shortstop to a four-year, $53 million contract. 

    To Peralta's credit, the 31-year-old posted a .303 batting average, park-adjusted 119 OPS+, 11 home runs and a 4.8 UZR/150 in 2013. But the infielder was also handed a 50-game suspension due to testing positive for illegal substances. Morality aside, Peralta's new, big contact is still questionable.

    Peralta has exhibited a rather inconsistent year-to-year career since 2005.

     

    Year

    BA

    OPS+

    2005

    0.292

    137

    2006

    0.257

    84

    2007

    0.270

    101

    2008

    0.276

    113

    2009

    0.254

    85

    2010

    0.249

    93

    2011

    0.299

    122

    2012

    0.239

    84

    2013

    0.303

    119

     

    Having posted a 3.3 bWAR in 2013, Peralta could easily be worth $13.25 million per season over the next four years. But given his notable ups and downs, the Cardinals could be in for a roller coaster.

Skip Schumaker

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    There was little reason for the Cincinnati Reds to spend any notable coin on Skip Schumaker.
    There was little reason for the Cincinnati Reds to spend any notable coin on Skip Schumaker.Elsa/Getty Images

    Players like Skip Schumaker are often the 25th man on the roster. Specifically, Schumaker can technically play second base and outfield and has a passable career 7.8 percent walk rate. 

    But when the Cincinnati Reds decided to ink the 33-year-old to a two-year, $5 million deal, it was only normal to respond, “Why?”.

    Playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013, Schumaker posted a .263 batting average, park-adjusted 90 OPS+, two home runs and two stolen bases over 356 plate appearances. Despite below-league-average offensive production, the California native was unable to balance it out with defense.

    According to FanGraphs, Schumaker posted a minus-14 DRS over 298.1 innings at second base last season. And while the former Dodger was a better defender in the outfield, gloving a 3 DRS over 157.1 innings, Schumaker was still worth minus-1.4 bWAR on the whole.

    Suffice to say, the Reds could have potentially inked Schumaker—or a player like him—on a minor league deal. So why drop $5 million on Skip Schumaker?