Jayson Werth and the 5 Dumbest $100 Million Contracts Handed Out in MLB History

Perry SchwartzCorrespondent IIIApril 29, 2011

Jayson Werth and the 5 Dumbest $100 Million Contracts Handed Out in MLB History

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    Washington Nationals' right fielder Jayson Werth is hitting just .220 with six RBI in 21 games this season. He signed a seven-year, $126 million deal with Washington during the offseason, but is extremely unlikely to live up to the hype.

    Werth is just one of several MLB players who have been overpaid considerably in recent years.

    As recently as 1990, the New York Yankees signed first baseman Don Mattingly to a five-year, $19.3 million deal. The $3.75 million annual salary made Mattingly the highest paid pitcher in MLB history.

    However, just eight years later, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed starting pitcher Kevin Brown to a seven-year deal worth $105 million. Brown's contract helped set the stage for dozens of other star players to sign monster contracts, almost none of which have worked out. 

    Here we will rank the most ill-advised $100 million contracts handed out in MLB history. But because there have only been 28 total, we will focus only on the top five.

    Of course, there have been many overpaid players in recent years who have made less than $100 million.

    Heck, we have seen the Dodgers alone overpay a handful of players since the Kevin Brown deal.

    Los Angeles signed Darren Dreifort to a five-year, $55 million deal before the 2001 season, which was about $30 million too much. Before the 2007 season, Los Angeles signed past-his-prime starting pitcher Jason Schmidt to a three-year deal worth $46 million. Then, just one year later,  Andruw Jones signed a two-year, $36.2 million deal with Los Angeles, and we all know how badly that panned out.

5. Carlos Lee, LF

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    Six years, $100 million (2007-2012)

    Looking to revamp their roster after a disappointing 2006 season, the Houston Astros signed Lee to an optimistic long-term deal.

    Prior to signing with the Houston Astros, Lee was a consistently productive hitter year in and year out, but he was not widely regarded as a superstar. Throughout Lee's eight-year career, which included seven years with the Chicago White Sox, he had a .286 life-time batting average and had hit more than 32 home runs in a season just once (37).

    However, Houston paid Lee as if he was a consistent 320 hitter who hit 40 home runs year after year.

    After signing with Houston, Lee immediately went on to have three of his better offensive seasons, driving in as many as 119 runs in 2007. However, he has tailed off considerably as of late, including a 2010 season in which he posted an OPS of just .708.

    Worst of all, Lee's UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) has quickly dipped from a mediocre 0.6 back in 2006 to a dreadful -31.5 last season.

    Lee is off to bad start in 2011, as the Houston organization is probably wishing they had instead signed him to a three-year, $50 million deal.

4. Kevin Brown, SP

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    Seven years, $105 million (1999-2005)

    Brown was drafted back in 1986 and spent the first half of his career with the Texas Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched well with both franchises, but never spectacular, making just one All-Star appearance total.

    However, before the 1996 season, Brown signed as a free-agent with the Florida Marlins where he suddenly evolved into a star. During Brown's two years with Florida, he had an overall win-loss record of 33-19 and a spectacular ERA of 2.30. He also won a World Series as a Marlin in 1997.

    He was traded to San Diego before the 1998 season, where he went on to have another fantastic year, posting a 2.38 ERA and helping lead the Padres to a World Series appearance.

    After the 1998 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Brown to a seven-year deal that would make him the highest paid player in MLB history. The only problem was that Brown was already 33-years-old and would be 34 before the 1999 season.

    Brown went on to pitch very well with the Dodgers when healthy, going 58-32 with a very respectable 2.83 ERA in his career with Los Angeles. However, he suffered a variety of injuries throughout his five years with the team and was traded to the New York Yankees two years before the contract expired.

    Los Angeles was undoubtedly hoping for more than 58 wins and zero postseason appearances from Brown. But at the same time, Brown pitched very well for essentially four out of his five years as a Dodger, which is not bad for a guy in his mid-to-late 30s.

3. Jayson Werth, RF

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    Seven years, $126 million (2011-2017)  

    Washington shocked the baseball world during this past offseason, by dishing out superstar money to Werth, who was not widely considered to be an elite player.

    We expected Werth to sign a long-term deal worth the upwards of $50 million, yet his new contract with the Nationals is worth more than double that number.

    Throughout Werth's major league career, he has been named to just one All-Star team and has never driven in 100 runs. He has a very mediocre lifetime batting average of .270, and has hit 30 home runs in a season just once.

    This would be okay if Werth was still in his mid-20s, but he is less than a month away from turning 32-years-old.

    Werth is also a great athlete who can hit for power, run well, and get on base. But is he really werth $126 million?

2. Barry Zito, SP

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    Seven years, $126 million

    Prior to signing with San Francisco, Zito had an impressive resume with Oakland. However, he appears to have peaked too early.

    Zito made his major league debut in 2000 and pitched extremely well throughout his first four seasons. Although he walked a lot batters, he had a great win-loss record of 51-29 and an impressive ERA of 3.12.

    However, Zito was not as effective during his next three seasons with Oakland, as his ERA increased and he had further difficulties throwing strikes. Despite his struggles, he still won 10 or more games and pitched at least 213 innings each year. 

    By the time Zito was eligible for free agency, he still had a great overall career win-loss record of 102-63 and a solid ERA of 3.55. However, he was clearly not the same pitcher he had been during the early part of his career.

    San Francisco must have ignored Zito's control issues and obvious statistical regression, as they offered him a contract worth $126 million.

    Since coming to San Francisco, Zito has failed to meet expectations, to say the least. He is just 40-58 as a Giant with an ERA of 4.48. Unsurprisingly, his BB/9 has consistently been among the worst in the league.

    Zito was left off of the Giants' postseason roster last season and is now in danger of falling out of the Giants' starting rotation completely.

1. Vernon Wells, CF

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    Seven years, $126 million (2008-2014)

    Wells was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays with the fifth overall pick in the 1997 MLB amateur draft and spent the first 14 years of his career with the organization.

    Prior to signing the $126 million deal after the 2006 season, Wells played excellent at times, but was incredibly inconsistent. In two of his five full seasons before signing the extension, Wells hit over .300 with at least 32 home runs and 106 RBI. But in the other three years, Wells never hit more than 28 home runs and his best batting average during those years was just .275.

    Nevertheless, Toronto went on to sign Wells to an extension that suggested he was a consistently great hitter.

    Wells is currently just over three years into the extension and has continued his trend of inconsistency. He hit as well as .300 in 2008, but hit just .260 in 2009. His home runs over the past three years have ranged from 15-31.

    Similar to Carlos Lee, Wells' defensive range has diminished considerably. His UZR was just -31.7 last season, which is embarrassingly low for an athlete making $18 million per year.

    However, Wells' contract has suddenly become the Los Angeles Angels' problem as they have taken on the last $86 million of the deal.


    Honorable mention: Mike Hampton—eight years, $121 million (2001-2008)

    Many of you are probably surprised that Hampton was not on this list, especially considering that he was just 21-28 with Colorado with an ERA of 5.75.

    However, as opposed to many of the guys on this list, Hampton was one of the most coveted free-agents on the market at the time of the deal and was expected to sign a deal worth about $100 million.

    Hampton was 28-years-old at the time of the deal and was coming off of back-to-back stellar seasons. He went 37-14 overall in 1999 and 2000 with a great ERA of 3.01.

    He was a sinker-ball pitcher, which led Colorado to believe that he had the stuff to keep the ball inside Coors Field. Unfortunately for the Rockies, Hampton gave up 55 home runs in his two years with the team before being traded to the Atlanta Braves before the 2002 season.