Blog Entry

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Posted on: February 3, 2012 7:53 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 10:13 am

By Matt Snyder

As we conclude the short series on overpaid players, we'll take a look at the man on the hill: The pitcher.

The interesting thing I found about pitchers is that not too many "long-term" contracts stood out like a sore thumb as being bad in terms of what is left on the current deal. A lot of the honorable mention types are for just one year, maybe two. This, I believe, illustrates the caution the overwhelming majority of teams exercise when coughing up long-term deals for pitchers.

That doesn't mean there are no guys on the list, however. We have a couple really good fits.

As a reminder, we're only talking about the contracts from now until the conclusion of the deal. Any money already banked doesn't count in this exercise.

Right-handed starters

Worst: John Lackey
Remaining contract: 3 years, $47.85 million

Ignore that Lackey is injured now and will miss all of the 2012 season. In fact, that actually helps the Red Sox here if last season was any indication. Lackey was brutal in '11, putting together a 6.41 ERA, 1.62 WHIP while leading the majors in earned runs and wild pitches. He allowed a whopping 203 hits in his 160 innings pitched and posted a negative WAR (Wins Above Replacement player). And when he's healthy again, he'll be 34.

Honorable Mention

A.J. Burnett, Yankees: He helped the Yankees win the World Series title in 2009, but was he really integral? He was bad in the ALCS and was terrible in one of his World Series starts after leading the league in walks and wild pitches during the regular season. Since then, Burnett is 21-26 with a 5.20 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. He's now the Yankees' fifth starter and will make $33 million for the next two seasons.

"Fausto Carmona," Indians: He may miss the season after being caught for identity fraud (his name is actually Roberto Hernandez Heredia). He's due $7 million this season.

Jake Peavy, White Sox: It's hard to not appreciate the way Peavy is an absolute bulldog on the hill, but he was 7-7 with a 4.92 ERA last season as he battled back from a severe injury and he's set to make $17 million in 2012.

Jake Westbrook, Cardinals: Twelve starts in 2010 got Westbrook a two-year deal with the Cardinals. He's going to make $8.5 million this season after a pretty bad 2011 campaign.

Carlos Zambrano, Cubs/Marlins: He'll make $19 million this year, but the Cubs are paying most of it so Big Z can pitch for the Marlins.

Derek Lowe, Braves/Indians: He'll make $15 million this year, but the Braves are paying most of it so Lowe can pitch for the Indians.

Left-handed starters

Worst: Barry Zito
Remaining contract: 2 years, $39 million

Perhaps the worst news is there's actually a club option for 2014. Now, obviously the Giants won't pick that up, barring Zito becoming Tim Lincecum overnight, but there's a $7 million buyout if they don't pick up the option. So Zito will cost the Giants $47 million more, at the very least, before they can wash their hands of him. This actually has to be one of the worst contracts of all time. Zito is 43-61 with a 4.55 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and zero postseason innings pitched in his five seasons with the Giants.

Honorable Mention

Johan Santana, Mets: He was earning his deal pre-injury, so this one isn't really anyone's fault. Santana is due $49.5 million for the next two seasons, though, so that is rough.


Worst: Rafael Soriano
Remaining contract: 2 years, $25 million

Soriano wasn't even the Yankees' best setup man last season (David Robertson was way better). Soriano was a stud in Tampa Bay in '10, so it's possible he's a great closer for the Yankees in 2013, if Mariano Rivera retires. But even when Soriano had a good second half last season, his numbers weren't awesome. And, again, we're talking about a non-closer making eight figures per season.

Honorable Mention

Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies: It will be interesting to see how Papelbon performs throughout this contract. He could very well earn his $50 million over the course of the next four years, but I'm wondering what the Phillies' front office thought when they saw that the Reds signed 2011 Philly closer Ryan Madson to a one-year, $8.5 million deal. I also wonder how this deal will feel if the Phillies can't find a way to lock up Cole Hamels long-term (he's a free agent next offseason). So this one has less to do with Papelbon and more to do with what the deal might end up costing the Phillies, because $50 million is an awful lot to give to a closer.

Brandon Lyon, Astros: Lyon will make $5.5 million this season. His 2011 season was cut short due to an injury, but he had an 11.48 ERA with as many blown saves as actual saves (four).

Part I: Infielders and catchers
Part II: Outfielders and designated hitters

Source for all figures was Cot's Baseball Contracts

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Since: Jun 25, 2007
Posted on: February 6, 2012 1:33 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

I am from the Bay Area and think ZITO deal was a circus. He is one of the true players who took the cash then decided he really did not care how the future played out. Surfing and kicking it became a priority over baseball success. Now as a REDSOX fan giving Lackey all that cash was outright stupid. I think THEO was cementing his legacy by sinking the franchise on the way out of town. Lackey will never be worth that contract. I think he should call the REDSOX and tell them he would like to add three more years to that deal for FREE. Then it would not be lopsided just alittle bit unbalanced.

Since: Aug 8, 2009
Posted on: February 6, 2012 12:31 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

How can you not mention Carl Pavano? The Yankees could have used that $40 million to make a bonfire to boil hotdogs to sell at the stadium and they would have gotten more value for their money. He is a world class stiff.

Since: Aug 14, 2011
Posted on: February 6, 2012 12:04 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Yes, the bad signings of Soriano and Lackey will definitely slow down the Yankees and Sox from making any more ridiculous offers in FA. It doesn't mean one iota if they overspend for a player or not. That's life in major league baseball. Teams like these can afford to make bad mistakes like these. It will continue this way for a very long time unfortunately.

Since: Jun 4, 2008
Posted on: February 5, 2012 10:50 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

First there waw the Merkle boner which cost the Giants the 1908 pennant, although to this day no one knows if the game ball was used to force at second or if some other ball was produced. The second boner was Sabean giving Zito that long term big contract. I don't care if he has the second coming of Bob Gibson's 1968 year this year, there will be no way he will have earned that kind of $! I can only imagine who the Giants could have picked up through the years with the dough they spent on woeful Barry. I'm hoping that this year he can have something of a resemblence of an earlier Barry Zito and help the Giants win the pennant and somewhat atone for his play.

Since: Nov 16, 2006
Posted on: February 5, 2012 10:33 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Protip: 39+7 = 46

Maths is hard

Since: Dec 30, 2007
Posted on: February 5, 2012 7:08 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

I thoroughly agree with MrMedia. WAYNE GARLAND

One of the worst contracts ever, in ANY sport. After a 20-7 record (25 starts with 13 relief appearances) with the Orioles as a 25 year-old, Wayne Garland signed an unheard of TEN year guranteed contract with the Cleveland Indians for $2.3 million, an unbelievably rich and lengthy contract in 1976. It was in the beginning of modern free agency. 

In its day, Garland's contract was a more outsized contract than A-Rod's Texas contract and more egregious than Zito's Giants contract. At least Zito was a Cy Young winner and put together several good years in Oakland. (Sabean didn't seem to notice that Zito was in steep decline for several years though!)  In short, Garland parlayed a SINGLE great season into a stunning contract for its day. Before 1976, he was primarily a reliever and spot starter for the Orioles.

Garland lost 19 games for Cleveland in 1977. He was waived and out of baseball after his 5th season of the Cleveland contract with a 28-48 record for the Indians. His best season ERA in the last four years he pitched was 4.61 with a WHIP of 1.46.

Ugly contract for its day and an even uglier result. The Wayne Garland fiasco probably hurt pitcher salaries and contract lengths for another 10 years.

Since: Mar 14, 2007
Posted on: February 5, 2012 6:30 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

First off Im a Giants fan and seeing Zito's name as one of the worst contract signings was hilarious the guys a first rate loser and should be cut no matter what the Giants have to pay him just get rid of "Beato" Zito and go with someone out of the farm system. The Chances of Zito becoming anywhere near the type of pitcher Lincecum or even Cain areM is extremely thin before his contracts is up but The Giants resigning Zito would rank right up there with any team signing Manny Ramirez to a contract period anywhere for any amount IMHO. I would seriously swear off of baseball all together if the Giants even concider Zito after 2013!!!

Since: Jan 22, 2008
Posted on: February 5, 2012 5:59 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

I despise Zito with a passion. Not on world series roster huff said. You didn't earn that ring maggot. I was in Detroit for the Giants vs Tigers matchup. Zito isolates himself from his team and is a loner, loser. Furthermore, He claims that the ptching staff in Oakland he was on was better than Sfs current rotation. Hey Barry, you suck douchebag. Your ws ring as been revoked, by the fans.

Since: May 22, 2007
Posted on: February 5, 2012 4:24 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

When you talk about MLB and contracts, there's only two words you need to remember....fiscal irresponsibility. MLB is out of control and if there were a salary cap, these kinds of contracts would never happen. Certainly Red Sox contract for John Lackey and the Giants contract for Barry Zito stand out more than most...they are dreadful. And of course, must have the Yankees Rafael Soriano's contract which in itself, is almost worse.

Wake up guys, the money will be gone some day...maybe sooner than you think.

Since: Sep 2, 2006
Posted on: February 5, 2012 4:18 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Matsusaka??? LOL

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