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: Jan 29, 2008
Posted on: February 7, 2012 4:38 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Hasn't anyone noticed yet how great almost all pitchers are in Oakland then how they fall off the map when they leave there? Even mediocre pitchers have sub 4 era's there and get hammered once they leave. It is the ballpark. Huge foul grounds. So many foul balls get caught there that pitchers get free outs and batters get screwed on many at bats. Always put Oakland pitchers on your fantasy teams and stay away from the hitters if at all possible.
Last year the pitchers who led the league in their era being lower than their stats would suggest were mostly Oakland guys. When they project Ks vs BBs vs balls in play etc there is an expected ERA, and Oakland starters are typically about a full run lower, see Vin Mazzarro and what happened when he went to KC.

Since: Dec 13, 2006
Posted on: February 7, 2012 3:10 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Barry Zito is the worst contact of all time.  I am a Giants fan and live in the Bay Area and have heard him on the radio multiple times saying rediculous things like "I was Tim Lincecum at his age" and "I got paid for what I have done, thats how it works".  He likes to put on a front that he already earned his contract.  There is no way that he doesn't feel like he is not living up to the deal.  He has changed a lot since signing with the Giants.  Once he was a fun loving, quality ball player that was a fan favorite in Oakland...Now he is defensive, quiet and an embarassment.  The Giants just had their annual Fanfest and the highest paid player on the team wasnt asked to be there.  He has distanced himself from the fanbase and cannot get his game back on track.  If this guy could just pitch 185 innings of .500 baseball, we would accept that.  The problem is that the ship has sailed and Zito is over.  Too bad management wont just sign someone to a basic contract and cut ties with Zito.  Almost any pitcher in baseball would be better than Zito.

Since: Feb 6, 2012
Posted on: February 7, 2012 2:27 am
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Since: Feb 6, 2012
Posted on: February 7, 2012 12:56 am
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Since: Mar 16, 2008
Posted on: February 6, 2012 3:01 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

The A's losing Barry Zito to Free Agency might have been one of the greatest non-resignings by one of Oakland's greats in history. There are dozens of players the Athletics could not afford to resign in their franchise history and Zito is at the top of the list of good player to bust after leaving.  I think Zito fell due to the amount of pressure his contract brought him in SF. The National League figured out how to wait on his curveball and force him to throw his 86 mph "fastball".  You can see on Zito's face how nervous he is on the mound wondering if his next pitch will stay in the ballpark. 

A slow fastball or hanging curve away from giving up another run in the first 3 innings. Zito usually calms down innings 3-6 but gives up 2-4 runs in the first 3 innings way too easy and with the Giants lack of runs he is way too much of a liability. Zito knows he is a laughing stock in the MLB with how much he made on his contract and not living up to 70% of what he makes. He was a great pitcher in Oakland and won the Cy Young in 2002 and pitched great in the 2006 playoffs. He is such a premadonna now he threw a fit when he was not allowed to play himself in Moneyball. Oakland is so glad to be rid of Zito that he was not even mentioned in the movie once. Heck the guy won the Cy Young in that year and doesn't even have a bleep of him throwing on the mound. Sorry SF but definitely the worst current contract and maybe the worst in MLB history. Think of the hitters you could have signed in the last 5 years with that $$$. 

Since: Nov 24, 2009
Posted on: February 6, 2012 2:47 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Gotta the Ubaldo Jimenez trade..Too many good prospects for a team that didnt even finish .500..All Hail Ubaldo!

Since: Sep 19, 2011
Posted on: February 6, 2012 2:22 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

I am from the Bay Area and think ZITO deal was a circus. He is one of the true players who took the cash then decided he really did not care how the future played out. Surfing and kicking it became a priority over baseball success. Now as a REDSOX fan giving Lackey all that cash was outright stupid. I think THEO was cementing his legacy by sinking the franchise on the way out of town. Lackey will never be worth that contract. I think he should call the REDSOX and tell them he would like to add three more years to that deal for FREE. Then it would not be lopsided just alittle bit unbalanced.
I think that Zito was more about taken the cash, I think that Zito knew that he was on a decline so he made sure to get the biggest contract that he can before it was too late. Just look at the last 3 years in Oakland and compare it to his first 4 years with the team, I was hoping he sign with a team I don't like but he end up with the Giants.

I could understand why Theo sign Lackey to a big deal, Lackey played good for the Angels for the last 5 years with the team. But Lackey is just a disappointment with the Red Sox

We are talking about 2 Pitchers that played for 2 teams, they both play good for their first team but are a disappointment to the second team. Sometime player are given a contract for what they did in the past, while the new team hope that they do better for them in the future.

Since: Jan 18, 2012
Posted on: February 6, 2012 2:12 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

How is "Might" even part of the equation?  Flat out the worst signing/contract EVER!  That includes Hampton & Brown who too stole cash from the Rockies & Dodgers respectively.  Zito changed his mechanics during spring training a few months after he inked that stupid deal and has been a disaster ever since.  Even with Lincecum's new 2 year deal, Zito is still the highest paid Giant. 

Since: Oct 25, 2008
Posted on: February 6, 2012 12:57 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

When you take the full length of the contract into account, Johan Santan's deal is far worse than Barry Zito's is.  At least Zito has been able to take the mound and perform to a 5th SP's standards, and he should still be able to do that this season.  Santana's long term deal has become money down a rat hole going to a guy who probably will never be even capable of taking a MLB mound for the duration of his deal. 

Since: May 30, 2011
Posted on: February 6, 2012 12:10 pm

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers

Seriously, you wanna throw the names of Soriano and Lackey in the same sentence? Soriano may not have been a stud like he was in Tampa Bay, but he was still good, and better than a lot of other options on many teams.  Lackey is terrible.  Quite simply, as a Yankee fan, I didn't mind when the Yankees brought in Soriano, and I loved when Lackey was pitching!

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