Parasitism is a type of symbiotic relationship between organisms of different species where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the host.
In the context of baseball, the host would be an organization and the parasite would be a player who occupies a roster spot, is owed a large sum of money, and offers nothing in terms of production. Here is my objective definition of a parasitic contract:
– The player is occupying a spot on the 25-man roster (and, as such, the 40-man roster)
– The player is owed at least 5 million dollars.
– The player is projected at or below replacement level.
So, for example, while Barry Zito, Vernon Wells, and Alfonso Soriano all have “albatross” contracts, they don’t fit this definition because they are at least producing some wins above replacement. Kei Igawa doesn’t count despite being owed eight million dollars by the Yankees, as he is not on the 25-man roster.
Here are some examples of parasitic contracts currently in MLB.
2010-2011 Salary: $24M. Projected FIP: 5.19
This quote from an unnamed Mets’ player via the New York Post pretty much sums it up:
“At some point you have to cut bait,” he said. “You owe him a lot of money, but for what?”
Perez has been awful this year. His walk rate has remained above 7 per 9 innings and now his K/BB is below 1.00. His 6.08 xFIP echoes his xFIP from last season. His ZiPS (R) projected FIP of 5.19 appears generous, and is just above replacement level for starters, but certainly close enough to be included in this definition. The Mets owe him about 20 million dollars for the rest of this season and for 2011, and there is no sign of Perez regaining his limited productivity of 2008 (+1.3 wins).
2010 Salary: $12.5M. 2011 Buyout: $2M. Projected FIP: 5.07.
Suppan’s 4.84 FIP actually doesn’t look that bad, but he’s compiled it in 12 relief appearances against only two starts with Milwaukee this season. As such, Suppan has been slightly below replacement level this year. Once again, Suppan’s projected FIP is actually above replacement level, but that includes his performance as a reliever as well as time split between starting and relieving. Again, as with Perez, that’s close enough for me to include him in this definition. Brewers GM Doug Melvin has performed all sorts of general managerial gymnastics to keep Suppan on the active roster this season, including 60-day DL shuffling of Mat Gamel and David Riske.
2010-2011 Salary: 7.5M. Projected FIP: 4.53
Grabow has been an absolute bust in the Cubs’ bullpen. He showed some promise after coming over from Pittsburgh last season, posting a 3.24 ERA and 3.90 FIP in 25 innings. However, that masked a problem with fly balls and a 4.90 xFIP. The home runs have come in bunches this season, as Grabow has allowed five in only 20 innings, leading to a 9.45 ERA, 6.57 FIP, and an only slightly better 5.23 xFIP. He hasn’t even been effective against LHBs, walking 7 of the 37 he’s faced. The 4.53 projected FIP puts him as a slightly below replacement level pitcher.
2010 Salary: 12M. 2011 Buyout: 3M. Projected wOBA: .313
A .313 wOBA isn’t good, but it can be serviceable at some positions, including 3B, which Chavez used to man with expertise. However, Chavez has only even taken the field for five innings this season. He’s spent a majority of his time at the DH position, where a roughly average performance is needed to be above replacement level. Chavez’s injury problems have completely derailed his career. His line in 123 PAs – his most since 2007 – is a putrid .234/.276/.333 despite a BABIP of .301. Chavez compiled a respectable 32 WAR in his career, but his time as a MLB level player are over.
Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments.