Introducing MLB's 2022 All-Overpaid Team
A lot of very rich Major League Baseball players are robbing their teams blind.
Per Spotrac, there are 200 players making at least $7 million in 2022, and—to put it lightly—they aren't all worth what they're getting. In fact, a bunch of them are getting eight-figure salaries while producing at a below-replacement level, per Baseball Reference.
We'll discuss two overpaid players at each position as well as five starting pitchers and five relief pitchers.
The examples aren't all as drastic as Stephen Strasburg's getting $35 million for one bad appearance or Miguel Cabrera's making $32 million for by far the worst OPS of his career. But owners would probably void every single one of these contracts if they could.
This 28-player All-Overpaid Team is making a combined total of $553.5 million in 2022. That's more than double the Los Angeles Dodgers' payroll and more than 12 times what the Baltimore Orioles are paying players. Yet, through Monday, these players were worth negative-7.2 bWAR.
Might want to have some anti-nausea medicine nearby for this one.
Worst ROI: Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox
$18.3 million, -1.0 bWAR
Grandal was worth every penny at this price in 2021. He made only 375 plate appearances, but he homered in 23 of them while setting career bests in on-base percentage (.420) and slugging percentage (.520).
But this year, Grandal has been a shell of himself at the dish. He has been limited to 275 trips to the plate, most of which have been unfruitful.
His batting average (.198) and on-base percentage (.305) are career worsts, while his slugging percentage (.257) ranks among the worst in recent history. Since 2012, there have been 2,641 instances of players with at least 300 plate appearances in a season. The only one to do so with a worse mark was A.J. Ellis, who slugged .254 in 2014.
Runner-Up: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
$10 million, 0.1 bWAR
Love me some Yadi and believe he should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer five years from now. However, his farewell tour simply has not been worth what St. Louis is paying. Molina is still undeniably one of the best in the business at throwing out would-be base-stealers, but his .514 OPS is atrocious.
Worst ROI: Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
$9.3 million, -0.7 bWAR
Through his first seven seasons, Sano was something of a Chris Davis 2.0 or Chris Carter 2.0: He may well lead the majors in strikeout percentage, but you can live with it so long as he's homering on a good number of the balls that he doesn't miss. And to that end, Sano homered once every 17.3 trips to the plate from 2015 to 2021—on par with the rates of Nolan Arenado (17.6), Shohei Ohtani (17.3) and Kyle Schwarber (16.9) during that same window.
That version of Sano never showed up in 2022.
He went 5-for-54 with one home run and 21 strikeouts in April, missed nearly three months because of knee surgery, came back for three games and then landed on the 60-day injured list, presumably ending both his season and his tenure with the Twins.
Runner-Up: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
$25 million, -0.1 bWAR
It was a toss-up between Sano and Votto, but at least the latter has recovered from his terrible start. Votto hit .122 with one extra-base hit through Cincinnati's first 22 games. He's hitting .234 with 11 home runs over the past three months. Still definitely not worth $25 million, but at least he is providing some value.
Worst ROI: Jonathan Schoop, Detroit Tigers
$7.5 million, 0.0 bWAR
Excluding 2020, Schoop entered this season having hit at least 21 home runs in each year since 2016. He out-homered Jose Altuve 131-128 in that span even though the Houston Astros' slugging second baseman made nearly 300 more plate appearances.
But that power has gone missing, leaving Schoop hovering around the infamous Mendoza line and providing minimal value to the Tigers.
From 2016 to 2021, Schoop hit .268, slugged .458 and had an OPS of .767. However, he is batting .203 with nine home runs, only four of which have come since June 1. His slugging percentage is all the way down to .317, and his .554 OPS ranks 200th among the 201 players with at least 300 plate appearances.
Schoop does at least have a solid glove, boasting a .993 fielding percentage. That has kept his season from being a complete disaster.
Runner-Up: Adam Frazier, Seattle Mariners
$8 million, 0.5 bWAR
Frazier hasn't been awful, but there aren't many highly-paid second basemen to choose from. He has never been a power hitter with just 43 home runs in his seven-year career. Still, his .245 batting average and .312 slugging percentage are considerably worse than his usual marks. And he picked a bad year to put up those stats, as he'll hit free agency for the first time this offseason.
Worst ROI: Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels
$36.6 million, 0.9 bWAR
In each of the three seasons before he reached free agency, Rendon batted at least .300, slugged at least .530 and had an OPS north of .900. Among 234 qualified hitters from 2017 to 2019, he ranked in the top 10 in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, RBI and doubles. And he was still only 29 years old, so it wasn't much of a surprise when the Angels made him one of the highest-salaried players in baseball.
What L.A. has gotten, however, is an injury-prone, lesser version of "Washington Nationals Rendon."
Over the last two seasons, Rendon has played just 103 games (and will miss the rest of this season) with a triple slash line of .235/.327/.383. The Angels are paying him to produce like Mike Trout, but what he's actually giving them are numbers on par with those of Ben Gamel and Colin Moran.
And Los Angeles better hope he gets healthy and turns a corner, because it has to pay Rendon like a superstar through 2026. It is going to be tough if his contract is more or less the reason the Angels don't sign Shohei Ohtani to a long-term deal.
Runner-Up: Evan Longoria, San Francisco Giants
$19.5 million, 0.3 bWAR
At no point since he joined San Francisco during the 2017-18 offseason has Longo been worth what the Giants are paying. But with the exception of a six-game stretch in late May in which he hit .364 with five home runs, this season has been especially rough. Longoria has already made three trips to the IL and is saddled with the highest strikeout rate and one of the lowest batting averages of his career. The three-time Gold Glove Award winner isn't exactly a vacuum at the hot corner anymore, either.
Worst ROI: Didi Gregorius, Philadelphia Phillies
$15.3 million, -0.6 bWAR
It's not exactly the "seven years, $126 million for Barry Zito" standard for horrendous contracts, but the two-year, $28 million deal Philadelphia gave Didi Gregorius before last season is surely one of the worst short-term pacts in recent history.
Gregorius was one of the Phillies' most valuable players during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He played all 60 games, batted .284, had an .827 OPS and hit 10 home runs. Since the start of last season, though, he has hit .210 with a .613 OPS and was worth negative-1.4 bWAR.
Gregorius hit just one home run in 232 plate appearances in 2022.
Even though Gregorius is making $15.3 million this season, when Jean Segura returned from more than two months on the IL, the Phillies released Gregorius on Aug. 4.
Runner-Up: Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
$16 million, 0.0 bWAR
Crawford darn near won the National League MVP Award last season at the age of 34, setting career bests in home runs (24), RBI (90), batting average (.298) and, by more than 100 points, OPS (.895). So, the Giants gave their long-tenured shortstop a two-year deal worth $32 million, only to watch his numbers drop off a cliff. He has not homered in 32 games since June 3 and is hitting .221.
Worst ROI: AJ Pollock, Chicago White Sox
$14.5 million, 0.3 bWAR
In a one-for-one swap of well-compensated veterans, the White Sox flipped Craig Kimbrel to the Dodgers for Pollock a week before the start of the season, adding versatility and leadership to what is otherwise a young outfield.
But while Pollock has played in more games this season than every teammate not named Jose Abreu, he has barely given Chicago replacement-level production.
One year removed from a .297 average and .892 OPS, Pollock is at .246 and .674. And the 2015 Gold Glove center fielder is no longer anything close to a defensive asset; he's in his sixth consecutive season with a negative defense rating.
At least Pollock does have some value, though. Kimbrel has been worth negative-0.2 bWAR for L.A. So I suppose the trade was fine even though neither team has particularly benefited from it.
Runner-Up: Kris Bryant, Colorado Rockies
$18 million, 0.5 bWAR
Bryant has been OK when he has actually played. He hit .359 through his first 10 games and batted .341 with five home runs in 22 games in July. But he has missed 75 games to a litany of injuries, and his home run rate (162-game pace of 19) is nowhere near what we expected with his move to Colorado. Here's hoping for the Rockies that Bryant is just getting a disappointing year out of the way early, because his salary spikes to at least $27 million for each of the next six seasons.
Worst ROI: Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs
$24.5 million, -0.7 bWAR
Heyward probably isn't going to play again in 2022, and the Cubs have already said they'll release him after the season with one year left on his deal, bringing to an end one of the worst contracts in MLB history.
Heyward signed an eight-year, $184 million deal with Chicago after the 2015 season. He did win Gold Gloves in 2016 and 2017, and everyone in and around the club always talked about his great locker-room presence. But he has 8.9 bWAR in his Cubs career.
It was always bad, but this year marked rock bottom. Heyward homered once in 151 trips to the plate, setting career worsts in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. And for the first time in his career, he posted a negative ultimate zone rating on defense.
Really, it was just a question of whether we put him down for worst return on investment in center or right, and he played more at the 8 than he did at the 9 this season.
Runner-Up: Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers
$18 million, -0.4 bWAR
While Heyward has been a painful sunk cost pretty much from the moment he landed with Chicago, Cain was providing a respectable return through last season before he became unusable in 2022. In 43 games before the Brewers released him, his strikeout rate (23.1 percent) was the highest of his career, he hit just one home run, and his batting average (.179) and on-base percentage (.231) were more than 100 points below his career marks.
Worst ROI: Nick Castellanos, Philadelphia Phillies
$20 million, -0.7 bWAR
In 2021, Castellanos ranked 15th among 132 qualified hitters with a batting rating of 30.0.
This season, he is 128th out of 146 with a negative-5.9 mark.
Castellanos also ranks last in "dollars" at negative-9.6. How that is calculated or what it means, I'm not sure, but let's just say it's not a great sign that he's in the 2013 Ryan Doumit range (negative-10.5), as he's 1,545th out of 1,555 qualifiers since 2012.
Not exactly worth $20 million is the moral of the story. He does at least have occasional spurts wherein he sees the ball well, but he's not hitting for power, he's striking out a ton, and his defense ranks somewhere between not great and statuesque.
Runner-Up: Wil Myers, San Diego Padres
$22.5 million, 0.2 bWAR
Could have also gone with Charlie Blackmon, Avisail Garcia, Jackie Bradley Jr. or even Giancarlo Stanton, as right field is seemingly overrun with expensive players amounting to little. But it's Myers, who may have had the strength sapped from his body Space Jam style. He mashed 15 home runs in 2020 and averaged one blast for every 6.3 games from 2016 to 2021, but he has one homer in 42 games this season and is slugging .329 after entering 2022 with a career mark of .446.
Worst ROI: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
$32 million, -0.7 bWAR
Fair or not, Cabrera has become the cautionary tale in paying a player like he's going to stay in his prime forever.
The first season of the eight-year, $248 million extension he signed for 2016-23 was rock solid, but Detroit has been paying ridiculous amounts for simply no value ever since.
Cabrera did at least tap in to the fountain of youth for the first half of the Tigers' games this season, batting .308. However, he did so with just three home runs, and he is hitting a woeful .128 in 26 games over the past five-plus weeks. Might as well keep playing him, though, since the Tigers have no hope of reaching the playoffs.
Runner-Up: Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves
$16 million, -1.3 bWAR
Ozuna does have 20 home runs this season, so it's a little surprising that Baseball Reference and FanGraphs regard him as one of the least valuable hitters in baseball. Then again, he is batting .214, is averaging just a shade under four strikeouts per walk and was recently dropped to eighth in the order. If Atlanta weren't on the hook for $18 million in each of 2023 and 2024, it would be a no-brainer to boot Ozuna when Ozzie Albies recovers from his broken foot.
Worst ROI: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
$35 million, -0.3 bWAR
Since leading Washington to the 2019 World Series title, Strasburg has made eight starts with a 6.89 ERA, and he reportedly won't pitch again this season after he made just one start in early June. This is highway robbery, and the Nationals will be the victims of it until 2029.
First Runner-Up: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
$30 million, 0.0 bWAR
Sale has made 11 appearances since 2019 and makes $30 million per season. At least he pitches well when healthy, making him the first runner-up to Strasburg. This year, he suffered three separate injuries: a rib stress fracture, broken finger and broken wrist. He was limited to two starts, ensuring that "if he stays healthy" will be attached to his name for the rest of his career.
Second Runner-Up: Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals
$23.4 million, -2.5 bWAR
As frustrating as it has been for the Nationals to pay Strasburg to not pitch, at least they aren't giving him a ton of money to go out and get shelled every fifth day like they are with Corbin. The left-hander was an NL Cy Young Award candidate in 2018 and 2019, but he has gone from bad to worse to historically awful since then. At least Corbin's 7.02 ERA is helping the Nats lock up the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.
Third Runner-Up: Hyun Jin Ryu, Toronto Blue Jays
$20 million, -0.3 bWAR
Ryu made six starts with a 5.67 ERA before undergoing Tommy John surgery in mid-June. He'll likely miss most, if not all, of 2023, for which the Blue Jays owe him another $20 million. What a steep fall from grace after Ryu almost won the NL Cy Young in 2019 and American League Cy Young in 2020.
Fourth Runner-Up: Madison Bumgarner, Arizona Diamondbacks
$23 million, 0.1 bWAR
"MadBum" got out to an impressive start this season, allowing just three earned runs in 23 innings in April. In 17 starts since mid-May, however, Bumgarner has a 5.18 ERA, allowing multiple runs in all but one of those games. The Diamondbacks owe him another $23 million next season and $14 million in 2024, which makes the mediocre production sting just that much more.
Worst ROI: David Price, Los Angeles Dodgers
$32 million, 0.6 bWAR
Now in the final season of a gargantuan seven-year, $217 million contract, Price has done an OK job in what has primarily been low-leverage, middle-relief work. He has a 2.51 ERA this year and a 0.96 ERA over the past two months. But he hasn't been worth anything close to $32 million since the season before he signed that contract.
First Runner-Up: Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
$18 million, 0.1 bWAR
Through his first 12 appearances of the season, Chapman didn't allow a single run. He has also kept opponents off the board over the past few weeks, putting together an impressive line of 9.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB and 10 K since July 26. In between, however, he couldn't find the strike zone, missed more than a month with an Achilles injury and got shelled for an 11.70 ERA. We shall see which version shows up in less than two months when it matters most.
Second Runner-Up: Zack Britton, New York Yankees
$14 million, 0.0 WAR (has not pitched in 2022)
Hate to include a guy who has missed the entire season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but Britton also cost the Yankees $13 million for 18.1 innings with a 5.89 ERA in 2021. So that's now $27 million since the start of last season for a whole lot of nothing. We'll see what sort of market there is this offseason for the soon-to-be 35-year-old who had a sub-2.00 ERA in 2019 and 2020.
Third Runner-Up: Will Smith, Houston Astros
$13 million, -0.7 bWAR
Smith pitched 11.0 scoreless innings with six saves for Atlanta during last year's playoff run, and Houston is surely hoping there's still some of that postseason magic left in his left arm. Despite his dreadful metrics, Houston traded for him just before the deadline, and he has delivered a not-great 4.76 ERA in six appearances.
Fourth Runner-Up: Craig Kimbrel, Los Angeles Dodgers
$16 million, -0.2 bWAR
It looked like the Dodgers hit the jackpot with Kimbrel early in the year, but he has posted a 5.29 ERA and 1.58 WHIP over his last 34 appearances. And while he hasn't blown a save since July 3, Kimbrel also hasn't had a 1-2-3 inning since before the All-Star break. Kimbrel has 392 career saves, but his 3.89 ERA since the beginning of 2019 suggests he might be Los Angeles' weak link in the postseason.