MLB Power Rankings: The 10 Biggest Over-Spenders in Baseball Today
They are the teams notorious for causing the decline of America's most beloved pastime.
Instead of bolstering their clubs through their farm systems and through trades, these teams have signed ballplayers to hundreds of millions of dollars over long periods of time.
Whatever happened to simply signing players at a price that could involve all 30 MLB teams?
Some small-market teams can't even get in on players they are seeking, as bigger market clubs reach into their bank vault to sign most of these players each offseason.
All the smaller teams can do is sit on their hands and wait for a bargain to appear before them.
No, it doesn't always pay off to spend the most money among all 30 teams, but the point is that each team should be granted the same opportunities to sign a player like the next team in front of them.
When looking at the top-10 overspending teams, many key statistics stick out to any baseball fan.
How impactful was a player with the team? How much has the team spent over the last five years? Has that team ever made it to October?
Some of these teams had high hopes for many top-flight free agents over the past several years, yet they virtually fell victim and paid the price in baseball's uneven structure without a salary cap.
Here now are the top-10 overspending teams in baseball today. All historic statistics and team salaries courtesy of ESPN's MLB Free Agent Tracker. Enjoy.
10. Baltimore Orioles
Highest win total: 70 (2006)
Playoff appearances: 0
Total team spending: $159,955,000
I bet some of you find it kind of funny the Baltimore Orioles even made this list, but they did.
How could a team that is in arguably baseball's toughest division go out and keep spending and overspending on guys, knowing they probably will not be able to climb out of the cellar by season's end?
Some of the overpriced Orioles acquisitions over the past five years include relievers Danys Baez and Jamie Walker (each signed to three-year deals worth total of $31 million combined).
Both pitchers finished their careers with the O's in 2009, where Baez went just 4-12 with a 5.02 ERA in two seasons and Walker finished with a lifetime 4.67 ERA in three seasons.
Let's all hope the Orioles' pitcher Kevin Gregg for, who signed a two-year, $10 million contract this past offseason doesn't follow the same path of unsuccessful free agent Baltimore relievers over the last few years.
9. Seattle Mariners
Highest win total: 88 (2007)
Playoff appearances: 0
Total team spending: $144,200,000
Seattle has one of the best all-around outfielders in the game in Ichiro Suzuki. But even with the 10-time All-Star, the Mariners have not made the playoffs since the 2001 season.
Even with their lack of contending over the past decade, the Mariners have still managed to spend a lot of money—and have certainly paid the price.
Don't get me wrong, Seattle does have a reason to try and land big-name free agents by overspending, especially when they have to compete in the American League West with the always dangerous Los Angeles Angeles, the underrated Oakland Athletics, and of course, the reigning American League Champion Texas Rangers.
What is overlooked though is how poorly the Mariners have spent their money over the past several years.
Miguel Batista, signed in 2006 to a 3-year, $25 million deal and went just 27-29 with a 4.84 ERA in his three years in the Emerald City.
Carlos Silva was even worse for Seattle, going a horrendous 5-18 with a 6.81 ERA in 34 starts between 2008 and 2009. This was after signing a four-year, $48 million deal with the Mariners right before the 2008 season.
Even today, the Mariners have yet another player that may enter the discussion of becoming another overpriced bust.
Entering his second season with Seattle this season, third baseman Chone Figgins hasn't quite lived up to his four-year, $36 million contract he signed in 2009.
A career .287 hitter through eight seasons with the Angels, Figgins managed to hit just .259 in 161 games with Seattle in 2010, hitting one home run and driving in 35 runs.
If Seattle wants to make a push in the right direction, Figgins needs to step up and have a bounce-back year this season.
8. Philadelphia Phillies
Highest win total: 97 (2010)
Playoff appearances: 4 (2007-2010)
World Series Championships: 1 (2008)
Total team spending: $261,400,000
The Philadelphia Phillies were anything but known for their team spending a few years ago, but over the past few seasons they have become one of the National League's premier spenders.
Yes, spending bags of cash may have won them the 2008 World Series, but before the days of being one of baseball's elite teams, things weren't always so perfect in The City of Brotherly Love.
Before their recent NL success, the Phillies overspent on two big-name free agents a few seasons ago in starting pitcher Adam Eaton and outfielder Geoff Jenkins.
Eaton did anything but live up to his three-year, $24.5 million contract he signed in 2006, finishing his Phillies career with a record of 14-18 and a 6.10 ERA in 49 starts.
Jenkins was also a big bust of an overpriced free agent, playing just one season in Philadelphia and hitting .246 with nine HR and 29 RBI in 2008.
Since those two signings, the Phils have still spent loads of money, but this time around things have definitely worked out.
Players like Raul Ibanez and Jamie Moyer were given big contracts and played up to their expectations, leading Philadelphia to just their second ever World Series title in 2008.
The Phillies did break out the cash yet again this past offseason for ace Cliff Lee, signing the southpaw to a five-year, $120 million contract.
But come on, every baseball fan knows what an impact Lee will bring to Philadelphia once again this season, teaming up with Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt.
Rather than saying the signing was part of the team's overspending streak, one could argue it was instead a bold move by GM Ruben Amaro, showing fans his will and determination to get the Phillies back to the Fall Classic.
7. New York Mets
Highest win total: 97 (2006)
Playoff appearances: 1 (2006)
Total team spending: $244,925,000
Even with large amounts of overspending the last few seasons, the New York Mets have still played second fiddle to their American League rival New York Yankees as the top team in the city.
They only have one playoff appearance over the last five seasons—something the Yankees have had no problems with during the same time span.
Yes, the Mets still have David Wright, Johan Santana, and Jose Reyes, but they have also committed a lot of money to free agents that never fully reached their full potential.
Former second baseman Luis Castillo hit just .274 with five HR and 105 RBI in four seasons with the Mets, after signing a four-year, $25 million contract before the 2008 season.
Pitcher Oliver Perez, recently released by New York went a combined 29-29 with a 4.71 ERA covering 91 starts.
Mets fans have to wonder if outfielder Jason Bay will turn into another bust of a signing, as the former Red Sox slugger hit just .259 with six HR and 47 RBI in an injury-plagued, 95-game 2010 season.
This after signing a four-year $66 million deal last offseason.
Injuries have already hit Bay hard in 2011, as he was placed on the 15-day DL due to a strained intercostal muscle before this season started.
6. Washington Nationals
Highest win total: 73 (2007)
Playoff appearances: 0
Total team spending: $210,900,000
After spending a total of just $64 million the past four seasons, the Washington Nationals have quickly jumped up to become one of baseball's top overspenders this past offseason.
The lone reason for such an increase: Former Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth.
Yes, Werth hit .296 with 27 HR and 85 RBI in 156 games in 2010, but come on, does any baseball fan out there really believe Werth is worth $126 million over the next seven years? I didn't think so.
Personally, I think it was a bad move to commit so many dollars and years to a player already in his early 30's.
Plus with ace Stephen Strasburg undergoing Tommy John surgery and rookie phenom Bryce Harper still a little ways away, breaking the bank for a player like Werth just doesn't seem like it was the best move by the Nationals at this point in time.
I hope I'm wrong, but Washington looks like they could be looking back on Werth's signing a few years from now wishing that he never scribbled his signature on the dotted line.
5. Los Angeles Angels
Highest win total: 100 (2008)
Playoff appearances: 3 (2007-2009)
Total team spending: $261,655,000
While they have been one of the game's most consistent teams over the past few years, the Los Angeles Angels are yet another team that have overspent on many free agents over the years.
Players like outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. and infielder Shea Hillenbrand were big free agent signings a few seasons ago, but both left the City of Angels leaving no lasting impact with the team or Angels fans.
Coming off solid seasons with the Texas Rangers, the Angels decided to push hard for Matthews Jr., eventually signing him to a five-year, $50 million deal.
The outfielder was anything but the player he was with Texas, hitting a combined .248 in three seasons with L.A., slugging 30 HR and driving in 168 RBI.
Signing a one-year, $6.5 million contract also before the 2007 season, Hillenbrand battled injuries and ended up playing just one season with the Angels, hitting .254 with three HR and 22 RBI in only 53 games.
The Angels also spent millions of dollars on outfielder Torii Hunter in 2008, but he has actually become a slightly better player than he was in Minnesota, hitting .299 with L.A. in 2009—the highest season-ending batting average in his 15-year career.
Still, was his five-year, $90 million deal overpriced?
Former Detroit Tigers reliever Fernando Rodney could eventually be added to this list as well, posting just a 4-3 record with a 4.24 ERA last season after signing a two-year, $11 million contract.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
Highest win total: 95 (2009)
Playoff appearances 3 (2006, 2008-2009)
Total team spending: $339,950,000
This list wouldn't be complete if it did not include the baseball team actually located in La La Land: The Los Angeles Dodgers.
They too have overspent on many players over the last five years, including signing one of the biggest names in baseball in Manny Ramirez.
The two-year, $45 million contract Ramirez signed was way too high of a price for a player on the backside of 30 years old.
He did manage to post some big numbers in his time with the Dodgers, hitting .322 with 44 HRs and 156 RBI in three seasons with L.A.
What unfortunately stood out more than Ramirez's stats with the Dodgers was his 50-game suspension he had to serve in 2009 for violating MLB's performance enhancing policy.
When he did play though, Mannywood became an instant classic.
Another free agent pick up, (probably one of the worst signings over the past decade) happened when the Dodgers signed longtime Atlanta Braves outfielder Andrew Jones to a two-year, $36 million contract before the 2008 season.
That '08 season would end up being his lone season in Dodgertown, as he hit just .156 with three HR and 14 RBI in 75 games.
With the Dodgers committing to better and younger talent of late, with players like Matt Kemp, Andre Either, Clayton Kershaw, and Chad Billingsley, it could be a matter of time before L.A. will overpay for another highly-regarded free agent in hope of pushing them over the top.
3. Chicago Cubs
Highest win total: 97 (2008)
Playoff appearances: 2 (2007-2008)
Total team spending: $430,975,000
The Chicago Cubs. What else is there to say about baseball's hungriest team starving for a World Series title?
Seriously, can you blame them for spending some extra cash each year?
Not winning a World Series since 1908 can certainly take a toll on the entire organization and the die-hard Cubs fans at Wrigley Field every game.
It's not like Chicago hasn't made the playoffs recently, it's just that when they do, they can't seem to advance any further than the divisional series.
While they do have a tendency to overspend as a team each year, the Cubs have hit on one key player that has become a big staple in the Cubs lineup in third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
Ramirez in nine years on the North Side of Chicago has hit a combined .293 with 213 HR and 713 RBI after re-signing with Chicago in 2006 to a five-year, $75 million contract. Talk about living up to a contract.
Landing a great player like Ramirez comes other less notable players like outfielder Alfonso Soriano.
While he has found a home in Wrigley Field for four years now, the former Yankees star hasn't quite put up the numbers like he did when he was in New York.
Soriano has hit a combined .270 in his time with the Cubs, slugging 106 HR and posting 280 RBI.
Don't get me wrong, they are solid numbers, but certainly not the kind of numbers fans want to see when Soriano is cashing a big pay check each season, let alone every game.
The always hot-headed Milton Bradley is another guy Cubs fans are still reeling over.
After Chicago signed him to a three-year, $30 million deal in 2008, the outfielder hit just .257 with 12 HR and 40 RBI in his first season in Chicago last year.
Could Carlos Pena join Bradley this season after signing a one-year, $10 million contract this past offseason? The verdict is still out on that one.
If only there was a way to do it, I just wish the Cubs would find a better way to overspend to finally get rid of the Billy Goat curse, instead of going out and acquiring potential busts.
2. Boston Red Sox
Highest win total: 96 (2007)
Playoff appearances: 3 (2007-2009)
World Series championships: 1 (2007)
Total team spending: $514,475,000
The days of finishing in second place behind the New York Yankees are over for the Boston Red Sox, as they have certainly made their claim to become the American League's top team once again in 2011.
Becoming arguably the top team didn't come at a small price either, as the Red Sox, like the many previous teams before them, have overspent on high-priced talent.
Sure, the Red Sox have some of the best young players in the game in Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Clay Buchholz, and Jacoby Ellsbury, but the team has still reached deep into its pockets to sign free agents over the past few seasons that haven't lived up to their multi-million dollar contracts.
Here are a two notable Red Sox players that signed for big money:
- Julio Lugo: (four-years, $36 million contract in 2006; hit .251 in three seasons with Boston)
- J.D. Drew: (five-years, $70 million deal in 2006; hit .270 and averaged 19 HR in four seasons)
Let's not forget about former Japanese baseball icon Daisuke Matsuzaka, who not only signed with the BoSox for six-years, $52 million back in 2007, but it took an extra $51 million just to talk to the pitcher and work out the deal as well.
If that's not absolutely over-spending on a guy, I don't know what is. Daisuke Matsuzaka has gone 46-27 with a 4.18 ERA in four seasons in Boston
Last year's newcomers Mike Cameron and John Lackey have also steered away from the players they once were with their former clubs, and somewhat disappeared so far in Beantown.
Mike Cameron hit .259 with four HR and 15 RBI in just 48 games in 2010.
John Lackey went 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 33 starts last year—Not to mention Lackey is already 0-1 with a 22.09 ERA to start this season.
I know it's still way too early, but newly acquired outfielder Carl Crawford has struggled out of the gate as well in his first taste with the Red Sox.
Signing for seven-years, $142 million this past offseason, the former Tampa Bay Rays star is was removed from the leadoff spot after hitting just .182 (2-for-11 AB) and striking out five times.
1. New York Yankees
Highest win total: 103
Playoff appearances: 4 (2006-2007, 2009-2010)
World Series championships: 1 (2009)
Total team spending: $1,048,200,000
Honestly, did you really expect anyone else?
Not only are the New York Yankees Major League Baseball's top over-spender, they have spent more than double what the runner-up Red Sox spent over the last five years, where their current team spending over that time span has exceeded $1 billion.
When you think of the Yankees and their over-priced talent, you think of one person: Alex Rodriguez.
A-Rod signed baseball's biggest contract in 2007, signing for 10-years, $275 million. You could say the third baseman has earned some money, leading the Yanks to their 27th World Series title in 2009, but come on, no baseball player is worth $32 million each season.
Only $4.1 million separates Rodriguez's contract when put up against the entire Kansas City Royals team salary, as seen in this ESPN article.
Besides A-Rod basking in his millions, there have certainly been other notable Yankees that have received contracts that simply have not made it in the Big Apple.
- Kei Igawa (five-years, $20 million contract in '06; combined 2-4 with a 6.66 ERA in 13 starts)
- A.J. Burnett (five-years, $82.5 million deal in '08; combined 23-24 in 66 starts with a 4.63 ERA)
Now I know the Yankees want to keep their original core of players together, but we're talking about guys who are reaching their mid to late 30s but still make as much as they have been throughout their standout careers.
- Jorge Posada: four-years, $57.5 million in '07
- Mariano Rivera: three-years, $45 million in '07
- Derek Jeter: three-years, $59 million in '10
It's only a matter of time before the Yankees sign even more great talent to hundreds of millions of dollars over the next half decade or more in the same manner they locked up both C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira...in the same offseason.
- C.C. Sabathia: Seven-years, $161 million in '08
- Mark Teixeira: Eight-years, $180 million in '08
And all the rest of the 20-25 teams in the league can do about it is simply nothing.
Thinking about all these 10 teams really makes you wonder, how long can Major League Baseball keep allowing teams to overspend on players like this? Will we ever see a salary cap in baseball?
For the game's sake, it sure would be nice to put an equal price tag on each Major League club. For now, these overpriced ballplayers will simply bolt from city to city searching for their next best multi-million dollar deals.
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