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: Dec 30, 2006
Posted on: February 5, 2012 4:05 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

The person that brought up Wayne Garland hit the nail on the head. In that time frame add Dave Goltz and Don Stanhouse. There are hits and misses in getting a free agent, they all can't get Randy Johnson, Barry Bonds or Pedro Guerrero. You are taking a risk and Barry Zito didn't seem like a pitcher that could not throw anymore.

Since: Mar 4, 2008
Posted on: February 5, 2012 12:44 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

All these guys are on this list due to legit post signing stats that pretty explicitly make the case. Except Papelbon. Wonder what he did to piss the author of this piece off?

Since: Dec 19, 2010
Posted on: February 4, 2012 7:38 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Well Del Norte, I copied and pasted simply because not everyone is at your "level" of expertise, so for purposes of the lesser informed I added the info from wiki.

You might have considered the same thing for Chan Ho Park, which I also agree was one of the worst, at least in the top 3.

Since: Aug 31, 2011
Posted on: February 4, 2012 7:33 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

they forgot 

Jason Schmidt!!!!!!!!

Since: Jul 3, 2007
Posted on: February 4, 2012 6:10 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Well idk about copy/pasting 5000 words from wikipedia, but it's still Chan Ho Park for my money. In terms of franchises in recent memory, you could look at the Tigers' combined 10 years 78-million for Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Dontrelle, out of which they got like a combined 15 wins.

Since: Dec 1, 2009
Posted on: February 4, 2012 4:28 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Zito got over bigger than any athlete in living memory. It's not just the $46 million yet to be paid, nor even the millions already banked. If Alyssa Milano is to be believed, he tapped that on credit and left the bill unpaid. From humble origins, the man did alright for himself.

Since: Oct 16, 2006
Posted on: February 4, 2012 4:01 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

How quickly they forget ... two words: Wayne Garland.

Since: Dec 19, 2010
Posted on: February 4, 2012 11:44 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Baseball's all time worst pitcher contract has to be Mike Hampton, who has Zito beat by a mile.

From Wikipedia:

Mike Hampton was drafted by the in the sixth round of the . He first broke into the major leagues in , but had a disappointing start. After the season, he found himself traded to the with for .

Hampton became a starter for Houston in , and kept his ERA under 4.00 for every season he was with the Astros. In , Hampton had his best year. He broke through with a 22–4 record, best in the , and a 2.90 ERA. He picked up his first of five Awards and narrowly finished second in voting to .

Entering the final year of his contract, Hampton was dealt to the in the wake of his big season. He went 15–10 with a 3.12 ERA and helped the Mets greatly in the postseason. With two wins and no earned runs in two starts, Hampton was named the MVP of the . Hampton received a loss in his only appearance.

The signed Hampton to an expensive, long-term contract on December 9, 2000. It was the largest contract in sports history at the time. The contract is currently the . (Hampton once claimed that he had chosen to move to Colorado because of "the school system", a statement that is often derisively referenced by sportswriters.) The Rockies hoped Hampton, who had been one of the best pitchers in the league over the past few seasons, would be able to succeed in the tough pitching conditions of .

Hampton went a disappointing 14–13 with a 5.12 ERA in , his pitching clearly affected by Coors Field. Like his predecessor , Hampton succumbed to control problems. The next season was even more of a disaster for the highly-paid Hampton, as he went 7–15 with his ERA climbing to 6.15.

In November , Hampton was traded to the , then to the . Hampton won 14 games and got his ERA back down to 3.84 in . He overcame a slow start in by winning 10 of his last 11 decisions and helping to propel the Braves to another division championship.

Hampton did not contribute nearly as much in as he was limited heavily by injuries. He went 5–3 in twelve starts, but was lost for the rest of the season with an elbow injury on August 19, 2005. Hampton had on September 25, 2005 and missed the entire season rehabbing.

The Braves were hoping for Hampton to be ready to rejoin the rotation in time for the start of the season. The rehab was on schedule until Hampton tore his oblique muscle on March 7, 2007, which was to sideline him until at least May. Soon after, the Braves signed to be a left-handed starting pitcher for them in case Hampton was not able to return to action soon. After Hampton threw a bullpen session on April 8, the Braves shut Hampton down due to recurring elbow pain and said that he would see Dr. David Altchek, who had performed his Tommy John surgery in 2005.<sup>  </sup>The next day, it was announced after having another left elbow procedure, that Hampton would miss the entire 2007 season.

Hampton began a rehab assignment on November 22, 2007 for of the Mexican Winter League. In the first inning, he attempted to make a play on a comebacker and left during warmups before the second inning, feeling discomfort in his hamstring. The rest of his rehab was left in doubt.

However, Hampton reported to "Camp Roger" on time in late January. He threw off the mound for and , both of whom were impressed with Hampton's steady progress.<sup class="Template-Fact" style="white-space: nowrap;">  </sup> Hampton arrived a day before pitchers and catchers were due to report at Lake Buena Vista. He ran sprints and played catch with teammates, and continued to pitch off the mound, and threw to live batters: , , and .

On April 3, 2008, Hampton was scheduled to make his long-anticipated return to the Braves rotation in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. While warming up, however, Hampton strained his left pectoral muscle, and was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

On July 26, 2008, Hampton made his first major league start since August 2005 against the Philadelphia Phillies. However, he was soon injured again, and finished the season with only 13 appearances. His final 2008 stats included a 3-4 record and a 4.85 ERA.

Hampton's last year in Atlanta marked the last year of an 8 year, $121 million dollar contract originally signed with the Colorado Rockies. Due to Hampton's mediocre numbers and inability to stay healthy this contract is widely regarded as one of the worst free-agent signings in MLB history.

After short stints with bouth Houston and Arizona, on March 26th, 2011, Hampton stopped the bleeding and announced his retirement from baseball.

Since: Jun 17, 2008
Posted on: February 4, 2012 10:57 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

About the Zito contract --
Perhaps the worst news is there's actually a club option for 2014.... 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.
Serious reporting errors there.

There is a club option. But it vests only if Zito pitches 400 innings in 2012 & 2013. Or if he pitches 200 innings in 2013. If Zito pitches 200 innings, the Giants would be happy to resign him.

But the fact is, if you think he is going to pitch 200 innings, you're smoking wacky weed. And that means the $7 million club buyout won't vest. Which means the Giants won't owe Zito the $7 million.

Even without the $7 million buyout, it's probably among the top ten all time bad contracts for pitchers. But the $7 million buyout? A red herring that should be understood by any cub sports reporter.

Since: Feb 23, 2011
Posted on: February 4, 2012 10:29 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

I would never give a pitcher a long term deal (more than 4 years).  It is so rare that they actually work out to be good deals for the organization.  Sabathia and Halladay are names that come to mind that I would consider, but given the risk of injury is so much higher for pitchers it is just so tough to invest in them 6-8 years down the road.  Johan is a perfect example. 

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