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The best and the worst of the top contracts

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  April 7, 2012 12:27 AM

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One good part about staying in a hotel is you get a free copy of USA Today under your door. The paper the other day ran a list of all the MLB salaries by team.

What struck me was how bad some of the contracts were for the highest paid player on each team.

Here's a general grouping:

Expensive but well worth it
Cliff Lee (Phillies) $21.5 million
Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox) $21.8 million
Felix Hernandez (Mariners) $19.7 million
Jose Bautista (Jays) $14.0 million
Matt Holliday (Cardinals) $16.2 million
Nick Markakis (Orioles) $12.3 million
Brandon Phillips (Reds) $12.5 million

We Hope This Works
Prince Fielder (Tigers) $23 million
Yoenis Cespedes (A's) $9 million

Team Icons Getting Paid For It
Chipper Jones (Braves) $14.0 million
Michael Young (Rangers) $16.1

Paying The Going Rate For Starters
Zach Grienke (Brewers) $13.5 million
Derek Lowe (Indians) $15 million
Ted Lilly (Dodgers) $11.6 million
James Shields (Rays) $8 million

Thank God Another Team is Paying Some Or Most Of This
Vernon Wells (Angels) $24.1 million
A.J. Burnett (Pirates) $16.5 million
Carlos Zambrano (Marlins) $19.0 million

This Was The Dumbest Thing We Ever Did
Barry Zito (Giants) $19.0 million
Alfonso Soriano (Cubs) $19.0 million
Jake Peavy (White Sox) $17.0 million
Johan Santana (Mets) $23.1 million
Carlos Lee (Astros) $19 million

In Retrospect, Not Such A Great Idea
Alex Rodriguez (Yankees) $30 million
Joe Mauer (Twins) $23.0 million
Jayson Werth (Nationals) $13.5 million

Somebody Has To Be The Highest Paid
Michael Cuddyer (Rockies) $10.5 million
Stephen Drew (Diamondbacks) $7.7 million
Billy Butler (Royals) $8.5 million
Huston Street (Padres) $7.5 million

So of the 30 highest-paid players on each teams, 11 are generally regretful decisions, 13 are good or at least OK, 2 are wait-and-sees and four are sort of innocuous.

It's really amazing how many deals that were celebrated at the time turn out to be just awful. This list also shows just how perilous free agency can be. Of the 11 deals that went sour, 10 were free agents. Only Mauer was homegrown and he could well turn out OK.

The next time an owner wants to drop $19 million on some player, he would be better off to use that money to get the best scouts and minor league coaches in the business. In the long run, it would be a better investment.

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