For years now I’ve been forecasting the day when baseball GM’s (sports GM’s really, but baseball is the worst offender) rub their eyes, focus their vision, look around at the mess they’ve wrought and realize they’re a bunch of idiots wasting insane amounts money. Then Prince Fielder gets signed for $214 million to play at first base, you know, the position that Miguel Cabrera was manning for the Tigers.
Some day teams will do a better job of paying players what they’re actually worth, when they’re worth it, but that day has not yet come. Instead, if anything, baseball has doubled down on the days of the mega-contract. From John Lackey to Jayson Werth to Albert Pujols, teams are lining up to pay players enormous fortunes for … well, something, but not what you should expect from a 37 year old athlete with a million miles on his body. With that in mind I wanted to re-approach baseball’s largest contracts ever and see which, if any, paid off.
The table above shows baseball’s twenty largest contracts ever. The ones highlighted in yellow are either already certifiable busts, or have a high probability of being busts when all’s said and done. That total’s twelve of the deals on the list. That’s a lot of money down the drain. Let’s focus on some of the worst and best.
Alex Rodriguez should get his own paragraph because he probably has the best and worst contracts on the list. He was superb during the lifetime of his first contract and is on a collision course with a legal settlement with the Yankees during his second one. Apparently the Angels forgot how old Albert Pujols will be in five years.
Vernon Wells, of course, deserves a monument in the awful contracts hall of fame. Only Alex Rodriguez made more money last year. That may well be the worst contract of all time, although Carl Crawford is working hard to wrestle the title away from him.
The Barry Zito and Jayson Werth deals also stick out, just because at no point in their careers were these guys ever among the twenty best players in the game for more than a single season, if that, but they’ve managed to get two of the biggest deals in the game’s history. I’m not sure if I should be proud of them or their agents.
The deals, of course, weren’t all bad. Miguel Cabrera is on his way to being one of the game’s best hitters of all time. Todd Helton may not be the most popular player, but he was solid for the Rockies during that deal. CC Sabathia has continued to impress in pinstripes. And, of course, Derek Jeter was excellent during the entirety of his signature, $189 million deal. Unfortunately, there’s more good than bad on that list and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
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