The Worst Contract in Baseball

I was having a debate a few days ago across twitter with some folks and figured it worth bringing up here. Evan Longoria is likely the best contract in baseball. It’s just obscene, in a good way, for the Rays. But who is the worst? Not talking about ever, or worst at the time, just worst as it stands right now in January of 2010. Which player would you least like on your team going forward, or who do you think would be the most difficult to trade?

I would have nominated Carlos Silva, but apparently he wasn’t that difficult to trade, thank you Cubs, and it would have been more of a biased suggestion than a real one. It’s an awful contract, but it does only have two years left on it. No, I think in the debate for worst contract left in baseball, it comes down to three contenders.

Barry Zito has four guaranteed years left on his contract with a total payout of $76 million and then either an $18 million club option or a $7 million buyout for a minimum for $83 million left to be paid. He also comes with a full no-trade clause. Zito, as mentioned yesterday, has produced 5.3 WAR so far for San Francisco. At least he is sort of trending upwards?

Going back to the Cubs, Alfonso Soriano has five years, a full no-trade clause and $90 million left on his deal. He started off promising with a 5.6 win season in 2007 but fell to 3.1 wins in 2008 and then a horrendous -0.7 last year. The defense has taken about a 15-run hit each consecutive year and the offense has been trending downward as well.

Vernon Wells also has the benefit of a full no-trade clause and due to his protracted signing bonus, is actually owed a whopping $107 million over the remaining five years of his contract. Since his 5.8 win 2006 season, after which his extension was signed, Wells has been worth 0.9, 1.3 and -0.1 wins. His offense has always been sporadic, but his fielding has really taken a hit lately, being well below average the last two seasons.

So, weighing those, who is worst, Zito, Wells or Soriano? Or is there someone else that you think is even more of a dead weight?




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


121 Responses to “The Worst Contract in Baseball”

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  1. MPC says:

    Oliver Perez…?

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    • Kevin S. says:

      A guy with only two years left can’t really get into this stratosphere, can he?

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      • Evan_S says:

        Well here’s where these three differ from Perez, when Wells, Zito and Soriano were given their contracts, they were coming off of really good, even great years, or in the case of Zito, had a reputation of greatness. Oliver Perez got his 3 year, $12 million per year contract coming after a year where he had a 4.22 ERA, (I’m using old school stats cause Omar Minaya doesn’t know what FIP or tRA is) had only 10 wins and led the league in walks. His contract may not be worse, but it is far stupider when put into context.

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      • Sky Kalkman says:

        Barry Zito did not have a reputation of greatness. He had some good years, but his ERA was much better than his skills suggested in the year or two before signing with the Giants.

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      • Steve says:

        I get what you are saying, but if a pitcher had a better ERA than his underlying skills, couldn’t he still have an excellent reputation?

        The guy did win a Cy Young. I would imagine that many, many people still thought of Zito as an excellent pitcher when he signed that contract.

        Many of us knew better, but I don’t think that disproves the point.

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      • JoeR43 says:

        But Sky, Zito won a Cy Young. He had 3 AS games under his belt, too. I know it was far from unanimous, but there was still a large collection of people (I know many Red Sox fans around here are included) that perceived Zito as an ace thanks to “23 WINZ!!11ONE!!ONE!!!!11!!”. I don’t think there was mass awareness of the contract insanity outside of the SABRmetric world.

        It’s kind of ironic how people make a big stink about hitter strikeouts, but pitcher strikeouts seem to get unnoticed until you sign a 5 K/9 guy for $12 mil a year.

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      • B N says:

        I was definitely not online with SABR stats particularly when Zito was signed, but I was certain he got a crazy contract. Personally, I tend to feel that if you watch enough baseball consistently you can get a decent feel for pitchers that are truly dominant. (Twins-edition Santana, Sabathia, Health Harden, Boston Pedro, etc). Those kind of guys also usually have some outlandish peripherals, particularly in WHIP. Zito was clearly not one of those guys, but he got a contract like one of those guys (except longer).

        I don’t quite get the opinion that somehow people didn’t get that Zito was a horrible contract just because they weren’t looking at the stats on his pitch movement. Any fool off the street could see that he was walking a lot of guys and giving up a fair share of hits.

        Also, I totally take issue with Red Sox fans being portrayed as liking Zito :). I recall him primarily as the guy we crushed to advance in the playoffs in 2003. That sure wouldn’t inspire confidence in me for signing him, especially since he only got worse from there.

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      • Joe R says:

        To be fair to us, most of us were the first ones screaming about the insanity of Zito winning the 2002 Cy Young over Pedro Martinez.

        For obvious biased reasons, but still.

        I am interested as to why bp’s WARP methodology has Zito and Martinez kind of close, but Fangraphs has Martinez crushing him. Fangraphs weighs peripherals higher?

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Zito has always had a far lower ERA than FIP.

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    • JayCee says:

      I agree- while one can note only 2 years remaining, the fact he wouldn’t even get in shape to pitch in MLB the past year, or go to the minors when asked, has to still sting enough to warrant a mention.

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  2. Johnny says:

    That Vernon Wells deal is just atrocious. J.P. should have been let go a lot sooner than he was.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      Check Wells’ numbers before he signed the deal. He averaged 3.6 WAR per season, and was coming off of a 5.8 WAR season. He was also right in his prime. It was an overpay at the time, to be sure, but lets not act like it was such a terrible deal at the time.

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      • seattlecougar says:

        Unless I’m confused, the post isn’t about what was the worst contract at the time, but what’s the worst contract now. Without money changing hands, who’s the least tradable player in baseball?? Has to be Wells.

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      • Steven Ellingson says:

        Cougar,

        He was replying to Johnny’s comment that J.P. should have been let go sooner than he was. That may be true, but, like VEP said, the deal didn’t look THAT bad at the time… it looked like Holliday’s deal.

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      • Joe R says:

        A 5.8 WAR season, even though he was a 3-4 marginal win guy coming into that season.

        And of course, it was backloaded so the Jays could pay $23MM to 32 year old Wells, and $21MM to 33-35 year old Wells.

        Oh yeah, and it’s Canada. They’re at an economic disadvantage right there (no offense to any Canadians here, I know the Canadian $ is up to 95.2% the value of the American dollar, so don’t yell at me for saying it).

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      • Paul Thomas says:

        Re: SeattleCougar’s point, at one stage in the middle of last season, Fangraphs did a piece which suggested that if a team was offered “Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay, and the entire Blue Jays farm system”, as a package deal, with NOTHING going back to Toronto, they should pass on the offer.

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    • And of course he signed a deal to replace Steve Phillips on ESPN. The circle of life at work

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    • B N says:

      I second Vernon Wells.

      I honestly don’t know how anybody could chose a player other than Zito or Wells. They’re both playing like replacement level players but at superstar salaries, for the next forever (4/5 years). I had to choose Wells simply because his contract is a year longer and a full 24 million more sunk cost.

      Additionally, I could care less how Wells was playing prior to his contract. For a guy his age, in his position, signing anybody to that length of contract was completely irresponsible. I think this shows that overpaying in annual salary can be a lot better than overpaying in years, as giving too many years can be downright catastrophic.

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      • don says:

        Zito isn’t replacement level. He’s averaged ~2 WAR his last 4 seasons and it’s probably safe to say that FIP understates him a little bit since he’s at this point got 2000 innings of a .275 BABIP under his belt.

        He’s certainly hugely overpaid for an average player, but he’s not totally just taking up space.

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      • Joe R says:

        I agree, Don, but his BABIP the last two years has been at a more normal level, so I think league average performance is what we can expect from Zito from this point forward.

        Definite value, but it’s still definitely a good $9-$11MM loss a year in value.

        Same time, though, nowhere near Wells, who will soon be “worth” about $4MM and paid almost $20MM more than that.

        I digress, Zito is nowhere near a replacement level player. He’s a decent player. Just not $18MM / year worth of player.

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      • merizobeach says:

        Zito was much better last year than his first two in SF, and there are identifiable reasons. When Zito pitched to Molina, his OPS allowed was almost a hundred points higher than when he pitched to Whiteside. With the Giants resigning Molina, we can expect Zito to throw more fastballs and get smacked around a bit more than we were previously anticipating.

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      • JoeR43 says:

        Sandoval’s catcher OPS-against was .680. Molina’s was .756.

        Obvious conclusion: Sandoval should just play every position in the field for SF. At the same time. The Giants would be better off.

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  3. jetsfansam says:

    I think Wells is worst because he plays for a team that can least afford such a bad deal

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    • joser says:

      That’s a good point — how are we defining “worst”? This obviously is part of the discussion about Perez above also. Does “worst” mean “most money for least value over the life of the contract” ie minimum (or most negative) ?WAR/$? Does it mean “largest percentage of team payroll devoted to an unperforming asset (which would be something like ?WAR * [?player$/?team$] )?

      It’s easy to do the WAR lists but then you have to go look at Cot’s or something to feed the payroll data in. If anybody wants to volunteer….

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  4. Andy says:

    How about A-Rod’s $30mil contract til the age of 42.

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    • AJP says:

      At least ARod can give you good production, where as the rest of the other guys not so much.

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      • Justin says:

        That contract goes down in yearly value, as well, doesn’t it? He’ll be earning under 25 from 2014 onwards, no? And in 2017 it’s down to 20 million. On top of that, this is the Yankees, they can afford that contract relatively easier than the other teams.

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      • pounded clown says:

        And that production also comes with, if the rumors are true, a portrait of himself as a centaur.

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      • scatterbrian says:

        10:$32M, 11:$31M, 12:$29M, 13:$28M, 14:$25M, 15:$21M, 16:$20M, 17:$20M

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      • cpebbles says:

        The fact that it’s front-loaded just means that it has a higher present-day value than it would. If Cashman actually wanted it that way for the sake of keeping his salary in line with his production, he needs to be fired immediately and mandated to take a freshman-level economics course. More likely, it was something the player insisted on.

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    • A Rods a 5+ win player annually.

      I’m sure the Yanks make up plenty of the “overpaid slack” in T-Shirt sales

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      • Paul B says:

        Aren’t the Rangers still paying a portion of his contract?

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      • joser says:

        The Rangers were paying a portion of his old contract. Not his new one. He famously voided it, then resigned with the Yankees, remember? (There was a stink because he, or Boras, was creating a distraction during the postseason).

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  5. exxrox says:

    Wells’ contract may very well be on the owner; that was the season of big spending (Burnett, Ryan, Glaus, Overbay, Molina) and they were trying to reshape the franchise…fans definitely got the impression that ownership said “trade Miguel Batista and get a fan-favorite closer,” and similarly, “sign Vernon Wells to a megadeal to ensure he is the face of the franchise after losing Delgado”.

    I remember around that time was when other CFs were getting massive contracts…Soriano, Beltran, GMJ, etc…Wells got a better deal than all of them thoguh

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    • Matt B. says:

      True, nobody could have predicted the market crash (among MLB salaries) when Manny, Beltran, Wells were signing. I think the Jays were hedging their bets on the assumption the market would have continued its near straight line upward movement at the time.

      Wells is by far the worst of this group if for nothing else he has forgotten how to shag flies, he looks rough out there man, no jump in his step.

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  6. quincy0191 says:

    Easily Wells. The guy has Zito’s contract, but is a position player (pitching is much harder to find, so a big contract is more justifiable for a pitcher), and has done pretty much nothing. Wells and Rios were the reason the Jays could neither contend nor rebuild; too much of their money was tied up in paying a couple non-productive players. Now that Rios is gone, they have the cash to do something, but without Wells’ contract I imagine they’d be doing a lot more.

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    • Brandon says:

      I disagree, while pitching might be tougher to find, the injury risk associated with a pitcher makes it worse. Consider who is more likely to play out the remainder of his contract from the field, and who is more likely to play it out sitting on his rear.

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      • Alon says:

        Yes, but Wells is actively hurting his team while playing. Zito is not.

        Therefore,even if Zito was hurt and provided 0 WAR for the remainder of his contract, he still comes out ahead of Vernon Wells

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  7. NBarnes says:

    I think Zito’s more likely to continue to provide a win or two above replacement, where Soriano and Wells might well just continue to be worthless. On the one hand, Wells plays a more premium position. On the other hand, his defense seems to be falling faster and harder.

    I voted Wells based on the bigger contract. But the Soriano contract is also pretty silly.

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  8. pounded clown says:

    If Soriano hadn’t been troubled with hamstring problems the last two seasons, I’d might say him …. I don’t know Wells’ injury history but if he’s been healthy then he would take the prize. Coming back to down to earth is one thing like with a parachute but Wells fall from grace ended with a Wiley E. Coyete boulder face plant.

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  9. Ryan M says:

    People keep bringing up Soriano in these conversations, but I don’t see it… yet. He’s been overpaid, obviously, and he will probably be overpaid no matter what he does next year, but it’s almost as if there’s this expectation that he’s never going to perform at the level he performed at in 2007. I would put the likelihood that he returns to that level and ages reasonably gracefully around 1/3 or even 2/5. Maybe he is done as a minor star or even an effective regular, but that possibility is more than you can say for either Wells or Zito.

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    • He’s a 3 win player; Cant say the same about Wells

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      • B N says:

        I agree with that analysis. Soriano’s performance/contract doesn’t scream “untradable albatross.” He might have a bit of negative net value over the remainder, but I could imagine a number of clubs who would trade serious prospects for him if the Cubs were willing to eat a portion of his salary.

        Plus, while Soriano can be an adventure in the field, he still has value with his bat annually. Even if his speed continues to deteriorate, he could still have some AL trade value as a DH/part-time OF. That’s a far cry from Wells, who would have trouble making more than a few million in a 1 year make-good deal if he were a FA right now, even as a big name guy.

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      • Steve says:

        how much would the Cubs have to eat to get back “serious prospects”? i’d guess about $45M. that’s basically the definition of “albatross”.

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  10. Ashraf D. says:

    Given the Giants offensive woes, Aaron Rowand playing a replacement level CF at $12 million a season through 2012 might not be a worse contract than Zito’s, but it is pretty close.

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  11. asi1230a says:

    is it too soon to vote for Brandon Lyon?

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  12. crix says:

    I had to vote for Vernon Wells because I can’t see anyone to be dumb enough to pay even half his contract, especially with how bad his CF defense has been the last three seasons.

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  13. parrothead8 says:

    If you want to start talking about a bad contract defined by whether or not a team can afford it, then I’d like to enter Travis Hafner into the conversation. Hafner is the highest paid player on the Indians, and probably will be for the next three years. In 2009, Hafner made $11.5M and constituted almost 15% of the Indians’ total payroll. From 2010-12, they owe him another $37.5M.

    His position? Designated Hitter. He’s so godawful in the field that they can’t even try to recoup some value from him there. And when his club option for 2013, they’ll have to pay him another $2.75M to leave.

    I’m not willing to speculate that, without this Hafner money on the payroll, the Indians could have afforded to keep some of the stars they’ve recently traded away, but I will say that I bet they sure are glad Hafner’s contract runs out the year Grady Sizemore becomes a free agent.

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  14. mrmojo says:

    How about Kei Igawa? For a posting fee of $26,000,194 and $20,000,000 in salary,the Yankees have gotten 2 wins from him so far.That would be $23,000,097 per win.

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  15. Will says:

    Wells is extremely overpaid, but I’d take his on-field performance over Sorianos for the next few years without hesitation.

    Soriano=worst

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    • B N says:

      Seriously? Because Soriano has had one bad, injury plagued year, while Wells has been awful for 3 years running now. Even given the age difference, I’d make that swap.

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    • The A Team says:

      Cubs fan?

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    • Joe R says:

      Soriano, CHONE WAR projection, 2010: 1.8
      Wells, CHONE WAR projection, 2010: 1.5

      Soriano also is being docked for being injured, he’s probably going to be on the other side of 2. So still a bad contract, but Wells’s contract is just disgusting.

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      • SteveM says:

        I get the sense that there is a better chance that Wells will be semi-productive this year than Soriano… really just a gut instinct (how old school).
        With regard to the Zito – Perez question, if you left the contracts out, which one would you pick for your rotation? Zito is at least useful. Perez would not be in the major leagues were it not for his obscene (albeit shorter) contract. He has ZERO chance of being a consistently productive major league player. ZERO. He’s not batting practice, he’s walking practice. Zito is competitive, and without question a major league player.

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      • JoeyO says:

        “Soriano also is being docked for being injured, he’s probably going to be on the other side of 2”

        Wells was docked for his injuries just the same, but it seems much more likely that Wells will overcome a wrist issue and hamstring problem then Soriano will overcome three seasons of serious knee/leg issues and off major surgery.

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  16. Josh says:

    In an era where teams are making strides now to solidify defense, it’s ridiculous that the Jays are still planning on playing Wells in center.

    Obviously he’s going to be overpaid no matter what, unless he finds his way back to his 2006 numbers. But seeing as he’s an impossible-to-move sunk cost, they should at least move him to a corner. Stick him in right-field and he’ll be an average to slightly above average fielder. You can get away with a .260/.311/.400 hitter there. And you could probably expect those numbers to go up a bit because he would likely stay healthier.

    I was very surprised they weren’t players for Mike Cameron. He could have shored up the defense in centerfield, and they could have played Wells over the marginal Jose Bautista in right. Cameron alone would decimate center and probably even allow Snider and Wells to post positive UZRs.

    Then again, they didn’t non-tender butcher Edwin Encarnacion, so they may not even know anything about defense. But then it’s real tough to explain Alex Gonzalez.

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    • Matt B. says:

      Might not know anything about defense? The Jays were one of the first teams to show an increased focus on defense and have been one of the best defensive teams of the past 5-6 years (last year not so much).

      Sticking Wells in RF does not make him more valuable, it makes him less. Stick him in the gym, get his legs back and hope he recovers his glove at the very least, hitting be damned.

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  17. John says:

    Gotta be Vernon. Hes getting paid 17 million more than Soriano over the same amount of time, and he’s in a much tougher division and on a smaller payroll.

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    • JoeyO says:

      Tougher division doesnt really mean anything, it solely creates an excuse for Wells numbers being lower. Smaller payroll is correct, but the Jays are able to sustain hefty salary marks themselves if they feel it warranted.

      Wells will be paid 98.5 MM over the next five years for his age 31-35 seasons
      Soriano will be paid 90 MM over the next five years for his age 34-38 seasons

      A difference of only 8.5 Million, or 1.7 MM each season

      The last three years
      415 Games for 138 Average – Wells
      361 Games for 120 Average – Soriano

      So player wise, salaries are within striking distance of eachother but age and injury history are on the side of Wells in a major way.

      Soriano’s contract is just as bad, if not worse, then Wells.

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  18. exxrox says:

    Alex Gonzalez is tough to explain because John freakin McDonald is making 1.5 mil I think

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  19. HarbingerOfMonotony says:

    While a strong case can be made for all of the above mentioned, it will be clear within the next three to five years that the Soriano deal is far and away the worst of all current active Major Leaguers.

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  20. Jeremy says:

    the only reason i voted for barry zito over vernon wells is because the blue jays wouldnt be winning if they didnt have that contract hanging over them. the giants would. the jays have the rays, red sox, and yankees dominating baseballs best division. the giants were in on the wildcard till some time in mid september before the rockies clinched it. they havent really improved. dodgers havent really improved. giants couldve done a lot with that cash

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  21. William says:

    TEASER: I will “defend” Silva in what follows…

    I guess I’m out of the loop, but of the choices, I go with Zito (and with a write-in for a juiced Manny who had his worst wRC+ in 13 yrs, which would have been worse had he been caught at the start of the year since his pre-suspension 1.133 OPS became an overall .949 at the end of the year. This included a massive shift — to the worse — in HR%, GB/FB%, ability to hit the pitches he saw most, etc.)

    Yes, Zito “provides” some wins, but what a stupid, stupid signing! (Ok, rethinking now: the issue is worst contract NOW, not then, so ok, maybe not worst. I guess giving the very average Wells a very un-average contract = worst).

    Btt Zito has been below average for a while now, and should have been predicted to be as much: the year leading to his deal gave him his worst career K/BB ever, and was massaged by 78.5 LOB% (plus added a third straight below average FIP result) to boot. His superhuman durabilty should have been taken with a grain of [he will age seven years] salt, and what do you know: 2002-2006 avg. IP = 225 vs. ’07-’09’s 196, 180, and 192. Also, that ’06 season included his lowest LD% BY FAR. And yet, his WAR fell and fell and fell.

    Finally, consider the prior “largest contracts for a pitcher”: Hampton and Brown. Zito kinda fits, right?

    Now, poor Silva: prior to his much-lambasted contract (don’t get me wrong, it was stupid, I just want to play devil’s advocate… btw, what a delicious phrase): compared to Zito, and for far cheaper than both he and Wells, Silva was around league average, and his bad ’06 (sandwhiched by a good ’05 and avg. ’07) could have been read as bad luck due to a very low LOB% and high BABIP (though the inverse is true of ’05 … he should be a case study for the predictive factor of these stats). What’s more, he had an > avg. K/BB in each and every year from ’04-’07.

    But here’s the clincher (and why I suppose Manny isn’t such a huge deal): 2 years, 25 million vs. Zito at 4 years, 83 million … twice as long, more than twice as much EACH year.

    So maybe cut Silva (and his contract) some slack insofar as he fits with the very very very worst?

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    • ADB says:

      One small tweak: Manny is 2/45 IIRC, not 2/25.

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      • Joe R says:

        Manny’s pay:

        2010: $10 MM
        2011-13: $8.33 MM

        And CHONE has him at 2.8 Marginal Wins in 2010.

        So I’ll use a 5% discount factor on the 2011-13 salary and get $32.7 MM in 2010 salary. That’s nearly $11.7 MM per marginal win.

        The length of Wells and Zito still make those worse, and the spot on the marginal win curve for LA probably dictates an overpay, but 3x market value is ouch.

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  22. Brandon says:

    I went with Wells, although it was a tough call.

    Living near Toronto, and not being a Jays fan, I understand the extension that was given to Wells. The Jays had gotten heat for not being able to sign any big name free agents and losing players they had developed. Management HAD to sign Wells in order to keep fans happy.

    Sadly, this contract was at the worst time, two years before the market fell apart.

    I think, today, contextually, Valverde is one of the worst contracts in baseball.

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  23. gary says:

    WTF? You mean it ain’t Brandon Lyon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  24. Brad Fullmer Fan says:

    I blame Paul Godfrey.

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  25. hk says:

    Since the question is which player (actually contract) would be hardest to trade, the answer has to be Wells. If the Cubs offered Soriano for Wells or the Giants offered Zito for Wells, Toronto would accept in a heartbeat. In fact, there’s no player in baseball that Toronto would reject if offered one-for-one for Wells.

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  26. JayCee says:

    Wells.

    Rumor was, the Yanks could have had the package of Wells + Halladay for free.

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    • Steve says:

      i believe it. the salary relief would be worth way more than the value of the prospects they got for Halladay. they could have signed Chapman and STILL had about $80M left over (counting Halladay’s cash too).

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    • SteveM says:

      If this is true, the Yankees’ pick is clear.

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  27. Mark S says:

    Do the Mariners have a bad contract on their books right now?

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    • LoydKristmis says:

      They are still paying part of Silva’s deal in the Bradley/Silva bad contract swap.

      While Bradley at least has a chance to perform to his contract, I doubt that Jack Z would have given him a 2/22 contract on the open market. The M’s made the best of a bad situation, but it is still technically a bad contract.

      Also, Griffey is unlikely to provide $2.35 mil production, but he is filling the cheerleading and social organizer roles. So that counts for something, right?

      Still paying Betancourt 1mil/year to play for KC, but they are probably getting good return on that by not having his negative WAR on the roster.

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      • gnomez says:

        The 1 mil for Betancourt would have been better-spent if they dropped him in their own division and could play against him.

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  28. Steve says:

    The answer is Wells, and it’s not really close. By far the worst contract in baseball. The amount of money still owed it is staggering.

    Let’s play a game, how much would the Jays have to eat to trade him? I’ll say $77M is the starting point. A team *might* be enticed at $6M/year to move him to a corner and see if he can still hit, and I’m not even sure about that.

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  29. Cosmo says:

    At this point, if Soriano’s power doesn’t come back after a couple of “injury plagued” seasons, then his bat isn’t even an asset anymore. Last season, he was a thrilling combination of Carlos Gomez’s on base percentage, Jacoby Ellisbury’s slugging, and Adam Dunn’s defense (note: all exaggerations insanely minor). At least Vernon Wells could provide potentially adequate defense in a corner outfield spot. Also, how is Soriano’s recent spat of injuries a positive sign? A (wink wink) 34 year old corner outfielder who has missed 100 games the last two seasons is supposed to rebound and age gracefully? Say whaaaa? The only positive I see in Soriano over Wells is that at least Soriano’s injuries will get him off the field enough for the Cubs to bite the bullet and replace him altogether. Which means swallowing $90 million and getting nothing. Worst contract in sports.

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    • Steve says:

      Soriano’s age was already corrected in 2004, right after he was traded to Texas (the Rangers knew the truth before the trade). I don’t think there is any reason to doubt his age at this point.

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  30. NEPP says:

    I could conceivably see Soriano out of baseball within 2 years…Wells might at least be a replacement level OF for the rest of his contract. Soriano is 34 and he looks/plays like he’s 50. I doubt the nagging injuries are gonna go away as he ages. Its only gonna get worse.

    However, he will always have the claim to fame of being probably the worst defender in baseball during his career (at 2 separate positions no less). He’s like the anti-Craig Biggio in that respect.

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    • parrothead8 says:

      Looks/plays like he’s 50? C’mon…that’s kind of an exaggeration. How many guys could put up 20 HR and 9 SB in 117 games at age 50? If he plays 150 games, we’re talking about another 30-hr season, and probably 15 SBs.

      Ok, ok…I’m willing to concede that 150 games probably isn’t a reality for Soriano. But isn’t it funny that we’re all talking about what a horrible fielder he was in 2009? What a difference a year or two can make! In 2008 he was a pretty decent fielder, and in 2007 he was (statistically speaking) one of the best left-fielders in baseball.

      That being said, I think we’re unfairly linking these contracts with the players. These contracts should be linked to the GMs that gave them: the Ricciardi/Wells contract, the Hendry/Soriano contract, the Sabean/Zito contract, for instance. I don’t blame a player for taking this kind of money. If someone offered me an insane amount of money to play a game I love, and I knew I wasn’t worth the money, I wouldn’t be able to sign on the dotted line fast enough.

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      • Newcomer says:

        I was actually quite astonished to see that Soriano posted an above-average UZR in 2008. I’m a White Sox fan, so I hear a lot of Cubs talk, and I specifically remember everyone complaining about Soriano’s defense in 2008. I mean everyone. I wasn’t aware of fun places like Fangraphs yet, but it sounded like he was among the worst corner outfielders. This talk started before but climaxed with Soriano’s injury sustained while hopping to make a catch. Conversely, I didn’t really hear much talk about his defense at all this past season, which checked in with an ugly UZR. I wonder what the Fans’ Scouting Report says…

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    • JayCee says:

      Your statement about his OF defense being the worst in baseball is absurd. And as much as I love Biggio, being a lifelong Astros fan, your suggestion he was an exemplary LF is equally absurd.

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      • NEPP says:

        Couple points:

        1. the “looks like 50″ was of course an exaggeration stated to make a point.

        2. The example of him versus Biggio was to make a point that Biggio was at one time a good defender at a couple positions whereas Soriano has always been one of the worst defenders throughout his career. He was terrible as a 2B and he’s been brutal even in LF. He might have had good range when he transitioned but he makes terrible decisions and takes terrible routes.

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  31. Russ99 says:

    What the big issue with the Brandon Lyon deal?it’s only $5m a year and many closers and setup men are being paid much more…

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  32. Alon says:

    What about Jose Guillen? The contract size isn’t quite up there but the return on investment for a 3/36 contract has been staggeringly bad. I think negative 2.2 WAR over the life of the contract so far?

    Contextually, the Royals are in a relatively winnable division with a couple of pretty decent young players, and a true ace.

    Also, there’s the distinct likelihood that Dayton Moore will sign him again for another contract (I wouldn’t, you wouldn’t, but hell this guy signed the worst starting SS in the league. And then he traded legitimate prospects for the 2nd worst one. Dayton Moore is capable of anything in my opinion) which start this round of bad contract bingo all over again.

    Jose Guillen is near tops for me.

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    • geo says:

      Sure, he’s been an awful signing, but at least the Royals are out from under Guillen after this season. At this point they would be better off just cutting him – and I actually think they might.

      Moore will not re-sign him. I know everybody thinks it’s cute to assume that if it’s stupid Moore will do it. But he’s not THAT stupid.

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    • hk says:

      It’s pretty simple. Would Kansas City trade Guillen for Wells straight up right now? Of course not. Therefore, Guillen is out and not really even close to Wells or Soriano for that matter.

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  33. Bill says:

    Even though Zito has a horrible contract, it’s the contract itself that’s the albatross, not the player. Zito can still pitch, and it’s not having him in the rotation that’s the problem.

    Wells and Soriano are legitimately making their teams worse because they don’t want to replace them (due to paying them millions of dollars). The Giants don’t mind pitching Barry Zito as a #3 starter, they just mind paying him as a #1 starter.

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  34. potcircle says:

    i saw 7 or 8 of zito’s starts last year – he’s not a bad pitcher under a better contract. not totally sucking counts for something, so it’s down to soriano vs. wells.

    and isn’t soriano a general pain in the ass? i know he fought moving from 2b to the of, and even when he belonged lower in the order, he liked to bat leadoff. and soriano is coming off knee surgery.

    wells looks less completely finished, albeit way fatter. seriously, 6-1, 230? damn. been working the kfc buffet since he won those gold gloves… but wells’ natural regression should be a little better, since he’s better with the strikezone. (assuming he doesn’t go diabetic from fatness.)

    so i guess i’d rather have wells – maybe he can suit up as the mascot – the mr. met outfit would work.

    that makes soriano’s the worst player contract.

    but the real worst contracts in baseball belong to brian sabean, omar minaya and dayton moore. those idiots should be kicked in the balls until every dime they’ve ever been paid comes back out through their mouth.

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    • SteveM says:

      Minaya’s contract would be the worst in sports if he was working for free. Subtraction by addition.
      Does that ball-kicking/money – out – of – mouth thing work?

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  35. JayT says:

    The thing about Wells versus Soriano is that Soriano has at least given some production in his contract. Soriano’s WAR in his first year with the Cubs is possibly more then Wells will have over the entire length of his contract.

    Wells’ contract is more expensive, and he has given less value then Soriano. Soriano still has a chance to get healthy and produce again. Wells has just lost his ability to play baseball.

    Soriano’s contract is bad, but it’s nowhere close to Wells’ albatross.

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  36. Thunderbird says:

    I think we need to settle on a definition of “worst” contract, so I’ll propose one. As several people have suggested above, I think it makes sense to think of contractual “badness” in terms of net negative value. I’d define net negative value as the difference between what the team is paying player X vs. what he would be worth to other teams. What he’s worth to other teams is presumably determined by what they could get a comparable player for on the open market.

    So, let’s do a hypothetical exercise. What would a team be willing to pay Vernon Wells for the next 5 years (the number of years left on his contract) on the open market? I’ll throw out there maybe $15 million. So, the net negative value of Wells’ contract would be $92 million.

    Anyone care to speculate on the net negative value for other players we’ve been discussion (such as Zito, Soriano, etc.)?

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    • SteveM says:

      Good approach, T’bird.

      I’ve got Zito at about $7M a year x 4 years = $28M – $83M = ($55M)

      Soriano would be hard pressed to get $2M a year x 5 years = $10M – $90M = ($80M)

      Wells could get $5M x 5 years = $25M – $107M = ($82M)

      Zito’s a pitcher, and his deal is a year shorter; he’s not even in the running. It’s a two horse race.

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  37. T says:

    I have a head start for the 2011 season’s worst contract.

    Bobby Bonilla will receive 25 equal payments of $1,193,248.20M each July 1 from 2011 to 2035 A total of $29,831,205M

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    • Joe R says:

      Totally forgot about that bad boy. That’s about $20MM present value (about a 3.4% inflation rate).

      Bonilla’s either very smart, had a smart agent, or both.

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  38. Jessi in the D says:

    DONTRELLE WILLIS has to get some mention here!! Come on people! As if the dying auto industry isn’t killing Detroit badly enough, we’ve still got Dontrelle hanging on by a (purse) string….. ugggghhhh

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  39. Bobo says:

    I wrote in other: Omar Minaya

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  40. Dan says:

    Jeff Suppan’s really bad, too. 4 yrs, $42M = yuck. Unlike some others on this list, too, I’d say that deal looked obviously terrible at the time it was signed. I know it’s not the point of the exercise, but at the time I would have done the Wells and Soriano deals before I offered Suppan that kind of money.

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  41. hk says:

    People, please re-read Matthew’s qualifications at end of the first paragraph. He wrote, “…not talking about ever, or worst at the time, just worst as it stands right now in January of 2010. Which player would you least like on your team going forward, or who do you think would be the most difficult to trade?”

    Guys like Jose Guillen, Omar Perez, Jeff Suppan, etc. were all bad deals when they were signed and will likely remain so until they end. However, none of them compares right now to the Wells contract, which has 5 years and $107M remaining on it.

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  42. JEFF says:

    atleast all these guys atleast play. My boy D. Willis got $31 million and has only played like 4 games!!!!!

    Dontrel Willis is the worst contract in baseball… He was coming off a HORRIBLE YEAR and was givin his contract before he even threw a pitch for the Tigers. to be fair though he was signed only to try and increase the amount of African American fans attending games in Detroit.

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  43. TBone says:

    Gary Matthew Jr.

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  44. Chang Bena says:

    if ur into domestic femdom and especially fiction on the topic, definitely the Mark Twain in the genre is James Pendergrass (www.jamespendergrass.com) I’d also love to know if you have heard of any similar authors!

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