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.

Relievers

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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Comments

Since: Dec 23, 2008
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:29 pm
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

You mixed up the top two righties... Burnett is nothing! I'm a Yankee fan who would rather have Lackey then Burnett.



Since: Feb 17, 2008
Posted on: February 3, 2012 3:48 pm
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

t's too bad this only applies to current players and their remaining contracts. I'd love to read more about Jason Schmidt, Kevin Brown, Darren Dreifort, Chan Ho Park and others who are now retired with their millions.

Ever hear of Carl Pavano?  Pitched for the Yankees.  Or at least his agent made a pitch to them.  Four years, $40 million, 4 wins/year.



Since: Aug 20, 2010
Posted on: February 3, 2012 2:59 pm
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

It's too bad this only applies to current players and their remaining contracts. I'd love to read more about Jason Schmidt, Kevin Brown, Darren Dreifort, Chan Ho Park and others who are now retired with their millions.



Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: February 3, 2012 2:54 pm
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Frankly, given the frequency of arm issues among pitchers today, an interesting topic of discussion for a bigger space than this, anyone going more than four years on a pitcher has to be aware there is likely going to be some expensive down time involved in the proposition.

Very accurate analysis. But the teams will keep signing these pitchers because it makes them look like geniuses.

Cliff Lee comes along as often as Eric Milton.

How many MLB pitchers have actually had the "TJ surgery" or something like it?
Probably more than we realize.







Since: Feb 25, 2009
Posted on: February 3, 2012 2:38 pm
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Atlanta trio is definitely not bad, on the other hand, you may be too harsh in your opinion on Tigers late guns. Dotel seems to find consistency, Valverde might have been bit lucky (remember the AJ perfect throw home to save the game by double play for him) but he still has intimidating stuff and he is definitely feared pitcher. And biggest key might be Benoit. He was bad to start his Tigers career, but got to the form he had for Tampa and if that is the norm for him, he is totally lights out. Hope Al Al gets back before playoffs, he is fun to watch, too.



Since: Jan 17, 2009
Posted on: February 3, 2012 2:17 pm
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Anyone notice how the Rangers have absolutely zero "bad signings" on their roster?? Now, take a second look at Darvish...



Since: Mar 21, 2010
Posted on: February 3, 2012 2:16 pm
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

I pretty much agree with this whole article. As a Phillies fan, I too question the choice to let Madson leave. Look at the outcome so far...all Madson got was a one-year deal rather than being locked in for a few years (dang Boras). It'll be interesting to see how the Paplebon deal plays out...hoping for the best.



Since: Mar 9, 2007
Posted on: February 3, 2012 2:15 pm
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

With the new CBA and its stiff penalties for exceeding its payroll cap force the Yankees to pass on both Wilson and Darvish because of Cashman expensive blunder with A.J. Burnett.
Burnett was a mistake, but people don't remember in 2008 he absolutely murdered the Yankees for the Blue Jays. I remember that season Burnett looked like Kevin Brown with the bite on his curve.

Quickly looking at the boxes Burnett pitched 38.1 innings against the Yankees that season giving up 7 runs with 43 strikeouts. His numbers were similar against Boston that season too. Cashman saw the best of Burnett each time out against the Yankees and started falling for him, leading to where we are today.



Since: Aug 16, 2011
Posted on: February 3, 2012 1:30 pm
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

The biggest groin punch of all is that $7MM buyout of Zito's 2014 option.  So awful.  Giants may have at least been able to afford a bat if and put out some offense if Barry wasn't making Vegas stripper money...



Since: Jan 18, 2012
Posted on: February 3, 2012 1:04 pm
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Let’s remember that no one in baseball was offering AJ Burnett either the length or amount that Brian Cashman finally signed him. What
makes his contract so bad is that having him on the books for the next two years cost the Yankees big this offseason. 

With the new CBA and its stiff penalties for exceeding its payroll cap force the Yankees to pass on both Wilson and Darvish because of Cashman
expensive blunder with AJ Burnett. Instead they were force to trade Montero probably the best hitting prospect to come along since Miguel Cabrera for another young pitcher with both potential and a ton of questions surrounding him..

 

Regarding the Soriano signing this still could work out for the Yankees

First if he is healthy he could give them a total lock down bull pen

Second if father time starts to catch up with Mo he could slide in and close for them

Therefore I think the jury is still out on whether this is a bad signing. 



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