Baseball's worst contracts: Starting pitchers

Lackey and Wilson take top 'honors' for bad contracts among starters. (US Presswire)

After having already examined all the position players/designated hitters in our bad contract series, it's time to move on to the pitchers. This installment is the starting pitchers.

As I noted the past two days, we're only looking at contracts moving forward, not the contract as a whole. Also, to reiterate, baseball teams these days in many different markets can afford to pay pretty huge salaries, so my definition of what is a "bad" contract is pretty conservative. In fact, in scrolling through the salaries of each major-league starting pitcher, I didn't even think about including more than 15 guys here.

Let's get to it.

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Right-handed starters

Winner: John Lackey, Red Sox
Remaining salary: Two years, $30.5M

In 2011, Lackey led the majors in two categories: earned runs allowed and hit batsmen. He posted a 6.41 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. He missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Runner-up: Josh Beckett, Dodgers (two years, $31.5M left). I have more faith in Beckett bouncing back than Lackey, but I'm not overly optimistic. In all, Beckett went 7-14 with a 4.65 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and diminished fastball velocity. Do note that Beckett had a 2.93 ERA in a small sample of seven starts with the Dodgers after the trade. So a good 2013 season isn't out of the question.

Also considered

Jeremy Guthrie, Royals (three years, $25M). The Royals desperately need starting pitching, so it's not shocking they'd go the route of overspending, but Guthrie is pretty well established in terms of what he can do. He turns 34 next month and sports a 4.31 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in the past five seasons.

Tim Lincecum, Giants (one year, $22M left). If the Giants get the Lincecum they got last regular season, $22 million is an absurdly steep price. If they get Lincecum from pretty much any other time, he's well worth it. Even if the Giants lose some money on his production in 2013, I'm guessing they're OK with all that he has done for them, too. So I really have no huge issue with this one (remember, I'm only saying I "considered" him).

Left-handed starters

Winner: C.J. Wilson, Angels
Remaining salary: Four years, $65M

He regressed pretty much across the board in 2012, as his strikeout rate went down, his home run rate went up and his walk rate went up pretty significantly. This caused a raise in ERA by almost a full run to 3.83 with a 1.34 WHIP. With a back-loaded contract, Wilson is set to make $20 million in 2016 as a 35-year-old. He wasn't worth even half that in 2012 at age 31.

Runner-up: John Danks, White Sox (four years, $57M left). Danks' season was cut short in 2012 with shoulder surgery. He was 3-4 with a 5.70 ERA and 1.49 WHIP before the injury. Even if we want to discount that, here is Danks' average full season (figured as 162 team games) as a major-leaguer: 13-13, 4.12 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 160 K, 70 BB, 208 IP. He'll be 28 next year, so there's hope. But so far, this contract looks more like hope than realism.

Also considered

Mark BuehrleBlue Jays  (three years, $48M left). I cannot overstate how important Buehrle's durability is, and that's why I don't especially think this is a terrible contract. For 12 straight years, he has gone over 30 starts and 200 innings. It's just that the Marlins so severely back-loaded the contract and Buehrle will be making $19 million when he's 36.

Johan Santana, Mets (one year, $25.5M left). It's difficult to root against Johan after all his health issues, but we can't let that factor in here. Look at the salary, and compare it to his numbers -- 6-9, 4.85 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 111 K in 117 IP last season.

Barry Zito, Giants (one year, $20M left). Much like what I mentioned about Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano, Zito's contract has long been mentioned among the worst in baseball. With both players, there's no question the individual did not live up the total amount of the contract -- Zito's big NLCS and World Series starts this past October notwithstanding. I'm pretty sure, however, if you told the Giants and their fans that Zito would leave with two World Series rings when he signed the deal, there wouldn't have been any complaints.

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CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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