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: Nov 28, 2007
Posted on: February 4, 2012 9:43 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

couldnt agree more. so much cap wasted on that bum. he doesnt deserve even a penny of that money. i mean correct me if im wrong but didnt they leave him off of the postseson roster when they won the series. I cannot wait till we drop this guy!

Since: Oct 24, 2011
Posted on: February 4, 2012 1:20 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

I'm usually not one to side with the players, but you can't blame Zito for signing a ridiculous contract. As long as people are willing to pay the cash we have to accept that there may be pitchers paid $2 million per win.

Since: Jul 20, 2010
Posted on: February 4, 2012 12:16 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Coming from a Giants fan, Barry Zito is the worst contract in the history of the world.

Since: Sep 7, 2006
Posted on: February 3, 2012 9:09 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

How can we forget Wilson Alvarez with the Devil Rays. He started there demise from the very begining. What a schmuck. He was too busy spending his millions, rather than rehabing his arm.....

Since: May 28, 2007
Posted on: February 3, 2012 8:55 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

mike hampton was a terrible contract,dreifort was worse because he never really did much to deserve the money anyway.

Since: Aug 28, 2011
Posted on: February 3, 2012 8:52 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Signing a pitcher to more than 4 years is going to be extremely risky. If there are added years at the club's option, I can see validating more years. However, there are some pitchers worth that risk especially with their delivery and repertoires. Teams should be able to identify pitchers with motions that put more stress on their elbow. There are a few worth going over based upon history and mechanics.

Detroit Tigers fan or not if there was one pitcher who I would sign for a Prince-esque amount of time and that is Justin Verlander. He has improved his intelligence each year. He has improved so many pitchups. He can hit 99-100 on one pitch and come back at 79. His mechanics are great for durability in a pitcher as is evident by his workhorse status since he arrived. This is a guy who I see throwing 200+ innings for the next decade. Every once in awhile, you see that pitcher who will pitch for along time and he is the pony to bet on for a long time.

Since: Dec 18, 2010
Posted on: February 3, 2012 8:25 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

When mentioning former players, don't forget about B.J Ryan...............50 mill for 5 years about 7 years ago...

Since: Dec 9, 2007
Posted on: February 3, 2012 7:27 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Anyone notice Papelbon 2011?  He's done, will not have any good years with Philly.

Since: Jan 19, 2012
Posted on: February 3, 2012 5:56 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

I was suprised not to see Bronson Arroyo mentioned. He was dreadful last year - led the league in earned runs and HRs allowed - while making $13 mil. He is due $25 mil over the next 2 years. ugghh

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:53 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Ricky Nolasco's 8 million with that high ERA is probably worse than Fausto Carmona.

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