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

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

Since: Jun 17, 2008
Posted on: February 3, 2012 11:28 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

That's nice to know but you do realize the yankees have one the best if not the best bp in baseball right amd if you wanted to debate the best 7th, 8th, and 9th trio you could have put three pitcher and not a duo. Also thje yankees lost Joba last year early on so they definatly have the best pen. I'm not sure why it would matter if Soriano is getting closer money to not close are the last three outs really more valuable than any other 3 outs?

Since: Mar 9, 2007
Posted on: February 3, 2012 10:59 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

I'm not saying other teams didn't perform well. I thought the Padres had the best bullpen in baseball before they traded Bell and Adams. The Giants always have a solid bullpen along with the Braves as you mentioned. With the emergance of David Robertson last season though, I feel like the Yankees moved up the ladder to the top spot now.

If the Yankees look to flip Robertson for an outfield prospect like they have been shopping for, I'd move them back down the ladder a bit. Although Joba isn't a half bad reliever either.

Since: Sep 28, 2010
Posted on: February 3, 2012 10:15 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

"With Rivera/Robertson/Soriano the Yankees have the best 7th/8th/9th inning combo in baseball" - You will find a few other teams that performed just as well, but while spending  27 million dollars less. Perhaps, the Venters/Kimbrel duo in Atlanta. There are other teams playing baseball other than the Yanks you know.

Since: Oct 7, 2010
Posted on: February 3, 2012 9:30 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Burnett shut down the Phillies and their lineup of awesome and healthy left handed bats in game two of the 2009 World Series.  He is terrible, don't get me wrong, but give respect where respect is do.  He was an integral part of that World Series team. 

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: February 3, 2012 9:03 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Well the two worse contracts in the list are Zito (who had one great year in his career) and Zambrano (who had none). Lowe is up there too, how that guy is getting $15M is highway robbery.

Since: Mar 9, 2007
Posted on: February 3, 2012 9:03 am

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

"Fausto Carmona," LOL

I have no doubt the Yankees overpaid pretty drastically for Soriano, but he hasn't been a bust in my mind. In comparison to the Titanic A-Rod and Burnett deals, this one doesn't feel like a total waste. A bigger waste would be Pedro Feliciano signing for two years 8 million and will likely not throw a single pitch throughout the contract.

With Rivera/Robertson/Soriano the Yankees have the best 7th/8th/9th inning combo in baseball.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or