The 15 worst current contracts in Major League Baseball

A-Rod may have been drenched with champagne after the New York Yankees clinched the AL East, but he's all wet when it comes to bang for the buck with his contract. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In a sport where money is guaranteed, and salary caps cease to exist, overspending is commonplace as many teams overpay for players who under-produce, mainly in an attempt to block rival teams from beating them to the punch. Here are the top 15 flawless examples of this practice.

15. A.J. Burnett, Yankees — age 34

  • five years/$82.5MM (2009-13)
  • signed by New York Yankees as a free agent 12/12/08
  • 09-13: $16.5MM annually
  • limited no-trade clause (Burnett may block deals to 10 clubs each year)

The Yankees have the luxury of never caring about money spent unwisely. They’re like the guy at the casino who tosses a stack of chips on number 13 on eight different roulette tables simultaneously. If one hits, great. If none hits, who cares, play it again. Burnett gives you 33 starts and 200 innings a season, great. He also gives you a less than mediocre 4.83 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over his 97 starts with the Yankees, including 5.56 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in six postseason starts. Who cares, the Yankees still win games. Getting paid $33MM over the next two years at that kind of production would cripple most other teams, but even the Yankees have to agree that this was a bad bet.

14. Johan Santana, Mets — age 32

  • six years/$137.5MM (2008-13), plus 2014 club option
  • acquired in trade from Minnesota 2/2/08 (Santana waived no-trade clause and agreed to new six-year deal, replacing final year of previous contract)
  • 08:$19MM, 09:$20MM, 10:$21MM, 11:$22.5MM, 12:$24MM, 13:$25.5MM, 14:$25MM club option ($5.5MM buyout)
  • full no-trade clause
  • $5MM deferred annually at 1.25% compound interest (payable June 30, seven years after season in which salary was earned), reducing present-day value of package to $123.1MM
  • award bonuses: $500M-$1.5MM for Cy Young (varies based on number won), $250M each for MVP or World Series MVP, $100M each for All-Star selection, LCS MVP, post-season MVP, post-season All-Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger
  • 2014 club option becomes player option if Santana:
    • wins Cy Young award from 2008-13 and finishes second or third in the Cy Young vote in one other season
    • ranks second or third in Cy Young vote in any three seasons, 2008-13
    • is on the active roster for the final 30 days of 2013 season, and:
      • pitches 215 innings in 2013, or
      • pitches 420 innings in 2012-13, or
      • pitches 630 innings in 2011-13
  • the party holding the 2014 option must exercise it by Nov. 15, 2013
  • if 2014 option is Santana’s and he declines it, he receives no buyout
  • perks: hotel suite on road trips, 15-person suite for 2008 home games
  • Santana to donate $250M annually to Mets charity

When healthy, Johan is still one of the best in the game. His 2.98 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 2010 proved just that. But he hasn’t pitched more than 200 innings since 2008 and the Mets paid him $22.5mil this season to be a cheerleader, having missed the entire season with injuries. With three years/$74MM left on his contract, he could turn into Mike Hampton real quick. Also, is it considered “charity” when you are forced to donate money as part of your contract? Just sayin’.

13. Chone Figgins, Mariners — age 33

  • four years/$36MM (2010-13), plus 2014 option
  • signed by Seattle as a free agent 12/8/09
  • $2MM signing bonus
  • 10:$8MM, 11:$9MM, 12:$9MM, 13:$8MM, 14:$9MM vesting option
  • 2014 option guaranteed with 600 PAs in 2013

The Mariners don’t often partake in the big free agent market, but when they do, it often turns out catastrophic. Now, while Figgins may not turn into the major head cases Milton Bradley or Carlos Silva were, his offensive production has been, well, offensive this season. Hitting .188 with 11 SB and a laughable .484 OPS over 81 injury-riddled games, Figgy has earned about .75 cents of his $9MM this season. No one will want to pay that kind of money for an aging infielder who can’t hit or run anymore, so the Mariners will keep their legacy alive.

12. Carlos Zambrano, Cubs — age 30

  • five years/$91.5MM (2008-12), plus 2013 vesting option
  • signed extension with Cubs 8/17/07
  • $5MM signing bonus
  • 08:$15MM, 09:$17.75MM, 10:$17.875MM, 11:$17.875MM, 12:$18MM, 13:$19.25MM vesting player option
  • full no-trade clause
  • award bonus: $75M for All-Star selection
  • Zambrano receives 2013 player option if 1) he is first or second in 2011 Cy Young vote or if he finishes in top 4 in 2012 Cy Young vote and 2) he is healthy at end of 2012
  • suspended indefinitely by Cubs 6/25/10
  • placed on restricted list 6/29/10, reinstated 7/30/10

As a Cubs fan, I have already accepted the fact that, somehow, Zambrano is going to finish 4th in the Cy Young voting next year. By doing so, his 2013 vesting option will kick in and he will be handsomely rewarded $19.25MM for all of the great work he has done over the years. Beating up Michael Barrett and being asked to leave the team are two of my fondest memories. After going 8-0 with a 1.58 ERA in 14 games after the All-Star break last season, there was hope that he finally turned things around. A 4.82 ERA and 1.44 WHIP through 24 games this year, plus the dismissal from the team, Zambrano is the poster child for all things Cubs.

11. Alex Rios, White Sox — age 30

  • seven years/$69.835MM (2008-14), plus 2015 club option
  • signed extension with Toronto 4/4/08, re-working 2008 deal signed 2/5/08 ($3.5MM signing bonus remains, 2008 salary reduced from $1.335MM to $735M)
  • 08:$735M, 09:$5.9MM, 10:$9.7MM, 11:$12MM, 12:$12MM, 13:$12.5MM, 14:$12.5MM, 15:$13.5MM club option ($1MM buyout)
  • may block trades to six clubs beginning in 2009
  • if traded between beginning of 2011 season and spring training 2014, future salaries increase by $500M each
  • if traded during 2014 season, 2015 option increases to $14MM ($2MM buyout)
  • claimed by Chicago White Sox off waivers from Toronto 8/10/09

Rios is a classic example of a guy with so much talent who can’t seem to put it together for any stretch of time. After a banner 2010 in which he hit .284/21 HR/88 RBI/34 SB, Sox fans thought the 29-year-old, 6’-5″ former 1st-round pick had finally figured things out. Then he goes out and hits .224/12 HR/42 RBI/11 SB over 143 games this season and reminded everyone again the waste of talent he is.

10. Jason Bay, Mets — age 33

  • four years/$66MM (2010-13), plus 2014 option
  • signed by NY Mets as a free agent 1/5/10
  • $8.5MM signing bonus
  • 10:$6.5MM, 11:$16MM, 12:$16MM, 13:$16MM, 14:$17MM club option ($3MM buyout)
  • 2014 option guaranteed with 600 PAs in 2013 or 500 PAs in both 2012, 2013
  • full no-trade clause

Bay hit 45 HR/156 RBI/.915 OPS in 200 games with the Red Sox over a year and a half. So why did they let him go and sign with the Mets? They had their eye on Carl Crawford, of course (more on that later). During his 217 games with the Mets, he has 18 HR/104 RBI/.722 OPS. Some will say that Citi Field is a terrible place for hitters but Bay is hitting .279 at home as opposed to .228 on the road. So the only conclusion to his poor play is that he just isn’t very good at baseball anymore.

We're all scratching our heads, too, Barry. How did you pull if off? (AP/Ben Margot)

9. Barry Zito, Giants — age 33

  • seven years/$126MM (2007-13), plus 2014 club option
  • signed by San Francisco as a free agent 12/06 (largest-ever pitcher contract at signing)
  • 07:$10MM, 08:$14.5MM, 09:$18.5MM, 10:$18.5MM, 11:$18.5MM, 12:$19MM, 13:$20MM, 14:$18MM club option ($7MM buyout)
  • option vests with 200 IP in 2013 or 400 IP in 2012-13 or 600 IP 2011-13
  • if 2014 option vests, Zito may opt out & receive $3.5MM buyout
  • full no-trade clause
  • award bonuses:
    • Cy Young award: $500M for winning once, $750M for second time, $1MM each for three or more ($200M for placing second in vote, $150M for third, $100M for fourth, $50M for fifth)
    • MVP: $250M for winning, $150M for second place in vote, $100M for third, $75M for fourth, $50M for fifth
    • $200M for WS MVP
    • $100M each for Gold Glove, All-Star selection, LCS MVP
  • perks: suite on road trips

Giants GM Brian Sabean made Zito the highest paid pitcher ever when he inked him to a seven year, $126MM contract back in 2006. He has made Sabean proud by going 43-61 with a 4.53 ERA and 1.40 WHIP since. They were so thrilled with his efforts last season that they left him off the playoff roster completely. Zito has averaged 211 innings over his last 10 seasons, but how much do you want to bet he will finish at 199 in 2013?

8. John Lackey, Red Sox — age 32

  • five years/$82.5MM (2010-14), plus conditional 2015 option
  • signed by Boston as a free agent 12/16/09
  • $3.5MM signing bonus
  • 10:$18MM, 11:$15.25MM, 12:$15.25MM, 13:$15.25MM, 14:$15.25MM
  • 2015 club option at Major League minimum salary if Lackey misses significant time with surgery for pre-existing elbow injury in 2010-14
  • $500M assignment bonus if traded
  • award bonuses: $500M for MVP ($100M for 2nd-5th in vote); $100M for WS MVP; $75M for LCS MVP; $50M each for All-Star, Gold Glove
  • perks: suite on road, right to buy six premium seats for home games

When you pitch for a consistently winning team, flaws can be hidden quite well. Lackey has a winning record (26-23) during his two seasons with the Red Sox. But his 5.27 ERA and 1.51 WHIP over 60 starts has to piss off Felix Hernandez. He has averaged 201 innings over the past eight seasons, but so has Livan Hernandez, and he is making $1MM this year, and having a better season.

7. Joe Mauer, Twins — age 28

  • eight years/$184MM (2011-18)
  • signed extension with Minnesota 3/22/10 (largest-ever deal for a catcher and fourth-largest contract in history at signing)
  • 11-18: $23MM annually
  • full no-trade protection
  • award bonuses: $100M for MVP ($75M for second in vote, $50M for third, $25M for fourth-sixth), $100M for WS MVP; $50M for LCS MVP; $25M each for Gold Glove, All-Star selection

Mauer is a three-time batting champ, MVP winner, in the prime of his career and one of the best at his position defensively. So why is he on this list? 251 missed games over his last seven years, including 74 and counting this year. That’s why. Catching is the most grueling position to play in baseball, and if the Twins don’t move him to the outfield, they will continue to pay $23MM a year for ¾ of a season. The power he showed in 2009 when he hit 28 HR and 96 RBI over 138 games appears to have been an anomaly as he has hit 12 HR with 105 RBI in 219 games since.

Anyone want to guess what happened on the previous pitch to Adam ".162" Dunn? If you guessed K, you win a prize. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

6. Adam Dunn, White Sox — age 31

  • four years/$56MM (2011-14)
  • signed by Chicago White Sox as a free agent 12/3/10
  • 11:$12MM, 12:$14MM, 13:$15MM, 14:$15MM

Holy hell Dunn has had a terrible season. Hitting .162 (66-407) over 119 games with 11 HR, 42 RBI and a pathetic .575 OPS, ‘The Big Donkey’ has officially entered Andruw Jones’ world of forgetting how to hit a baseball. Jones’ 2008 season in which he hit .158 with 3 HR 14 RBI over 75 games at the age of 31, had the misfortune of occurring in a contract season. He made $14.2MM that year. Over the last three years, he has played for three different teams, making $3MM total. Dunn, also 31, is guaranteed $45MM over the next three years. Timing people, timing.

5. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs — age 35

  • eight years/$136MM (2007-14)
  • signed by Cubs as a free agent 11/06
  • $8MM signing bonus
  • 07:$9MM, 08:$13MM, 09:$16MM, 10-14:$18MM annually
  • full no-trade clause
  • award bonuses: $250M for top vote-getter in All-Star balloting, $350M for World Series MVP, $250M for LCS MVP, $300M for MVP, $75M for Gold Glove
  • perks: suite on road trips, six premium tickets for each home game (spring training through postseason) and All-Star Game (if Soriano is selected)
  • Soriano to donate $25M annually to both United Way & Cubs Care

Jim Hendry is no longer calling the shots, and Soriano is his shining example of why. After hitting .276 with 46 HR, 95 RBI and 41 SB for the Nationals in 2006, Hendry decided to give a leadoff hitter with a career .323 OBP $136MM over seven years. Since then, he has missed 160 games, played some of the worst outfield defense my eyes have seen, has averaged 11 SB a year and maintained his sterling career OBP by sporting a .319 clip over the past five seasons. But hey, only three more years people…

4. Vernon Wells, Angels — age 32

  • seven years/$126MM (2008-14)
  • signed extension with Toronto 12/06
  • $25.5MM signing bonus ($8.5MM payment each March 1, 2008-10)
  • 08:$0.5MM, 09:$1.5MM, 10:$12.5MM,
  • 11:$23MM, 12:$21MM, 13:$21MM, 14:$21MM
  • full no-trade clause (waived 1/11)
  • Wells may opt out of contract after 2011
  • award bonuses: $25oM for MVP, $2ooM for WS MVP, $150M for LCS MVP, $100M for most All-Star votes in league
  • Wells to donate $143M annually to Blue Jays charity
  • acquired by LA Angels in trade from Toronto 1/21/11 (Jays paid Angels $5MM in deal)

So who is the second-highest paid position player behind A-Rod? A guy hitting .223 with 24 HR, 65 RBI and a .673 OPS, that’s who. After hitting .273/31 HR/88 RBI/.847 OPS with the Blue Jays in 2010, the Angels decided to reward the three-time Gold Glove outfielder with $126MM over seven years. Another guy who is forced to donate money to charity as part of his contract, Wells can opt out of his contract after this season. The world is also ending on May 21 2011.

3. Carl Crawford, Red Sox — age 30

  • seven years/$142MM (2011-17)
  • signed by Boston as a free agent 12/11/10
  • $6MM signing bonus (paid in $1MM increments 1/10, 5/1, 6/1, 7/1, 8/1, 9/1)
  • 11:$14MM, 12:$19.5MM, 13:$20MM, 14:$20.25MM, 15:$20.5MM, 16:$20.75MM, 17:$21MM
  • no-trade protection
  • Crawford may block deals to two clubs
  • if traded, club acquiring Crawford may not subsequently trade him to the New York Yankees
  • award bonuses: $50M for All-Star; $75M for ALCS MVP; $100M each for Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, WS MVP; $200M for MVP ($125M for second in vote, $100M for third, $75M for fourth, $50M for fifth)

Like Demi Moore, Crawford’s greatest assets are his legs. Coming into this season, he had averaged 50 SB over the past eight years, and at 30, was thought to still be in the prime of his career. He struggled out of the gate hitting .155 in April and was never able to catch up. His 18 SB on the year are a sign that the legs may be going, and with six more years on the contract, the Red Sox are going to be paying top-shelf prices for rail drinks. My favorite part of the contract is that if a team acquires Crawford, they are not allowed to trade him to the Yankees. That hatred is unmatched people.

2. Jayson Werth, Nationals — age 32

  • seven years/$126MM (2011-17)
  • signed by Washington as a free agent 12/6/10
  • $4MM signing bonus (paid January 2011-2012)
  • 11:$10MM, 12:$13MM, 13:$16MM, 14:$20MM, 15:$21MM, 16:$21MM, 17:$21MM
  • full no-trade clause

Somehow, everyone not named Mike Rizzo saw this coming. The Nationals GM made a great decision by letting Adam Dunn go, but a horrible one in giving a 31-year-old, who had been a full-time player for three years, $126MM over seven years. Werth is hitting .230/19 HR/61 RBI/16 SB/.716 OPS over 144 games this season. With Stephen Strasburg, and possibly Bryce Harper, joining the team next season, maybe Werth will play better with the spotlight off his enormous contract. Or maybe Strasburg gets hurt again, Harper struggles and the spotlight will be even brighter and angrier.

1. Alex Rodriguez– Yankees Age-36

  • 10 years/$275MM (2008-17)
  • re-signed by Yankees as a free agent 12/13/07
  • $10M signing bonus ($2MM paid upon approval, $1MM paid each Jan. 15, 2009-2013, $3MM paid Jan. 15, 2014)
  • 08:$27MM, 09:$32MM, 10:$32MM, 11:$31MM, 12:$29MM, 13:$28MM, 14:$25MM, 15:$21MM, 16:$20MM, 17:$20MM
  • $30M marketing agreement based on home run milestones ($6MM each for reaching 660, 714, 755 and tying and breaking major league HR record)
  • no-trade protection
  • perks: may purchase four best available season tickets for 2008, four Legends Suite or comparable season tickets for 2009-17
  • Texas obligated to fund $9MM as part of deferred compensation provision in previous contract (to be paid with interest in $3MM increments in 2008, 2009 & 2010)

Rodriguez will be getting paid $20MM when he is a fat, 42-year-old DH, hitting .240 with 15 HR for the Yankees. The active leader in runs, HR, RBI and total bases has missed 144 games the past four years, and his streak of 13 seasons with at least 100 RBI will come to an end this year. At 36, and having logged 2399 games at two demanding positions, the body just ain’t what it used to be. A combined .840 OPS over the last two seasons shows the steroids ain’t what they used to be either.

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