As contracts continue to grow exponentially, teams continue to risk big dollars on the hottest free agents on the market. The Nationals just gave 30-year-old Max Scherzer a seven-year, $210 million contract. While the move right now should be celebrated — as he is one of the best pitchers in the game — when he gets in his mid-thirties, I have a feeling that contract won’t be so great.
With spring training around the corner, here are the five worst contracts that teams have to deal with:
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
Forty-year-old Alex Rodriguez is owed $61 million for the next three years. This contract is beyond awful. Rodriguez is coming off a season-long ban for PED use, he has a bad hip, and who knows where he is physically. The Yankees have made it clear that they have no plans on making him the starting third baseman for the 2015 season, as the team re-signed Chase Headley. Rodriguez has a base salary of $21 million this season, and he is just going to be a bench player. Oh, by the way, he is owed a $6 million bonus if he hits six more home runs, which would tie him with Willie Mays’ 660 career home runs. His horrendous deal also most-likely scared the team off from re-signing second baseman Robinson Cano this past off-season.
B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves
Upton is one of the worst full-time players in baseball. He has been a major bust for Atlanta — and he’s owed $46.4 million for the next three years. Upton, for the past two seasons, has averaged a .198 batting average, has 21 combined home runs, 61 RBI, 324 strikeouts in 910 at-bats. If he wasn’t paid so much, Upton would be a sparsely-used fourth or fifth outfielder, perhaps even an unsigned free agent. The Braves parted with overpaid Dan Uggla last season in the middle of the year, and with Atlanta in rebuild mode, Upton may find himself in a similar situation.
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Howard was finally healthy last season and played 153 games, but his production has fallen off tremendously. Last season, he led the league with 190 strikeouts and hit .223. He also had a career-worst .380 slugging percentage. It’s clear that Howard has nothing in the tank anymore. Playing in the National League doesn’t help, either. At this point in his career, Howard is, at best, a role player. Philadelphia stupidly extended Howard’s contract two years before he hit free agency and is still owed $60 million over the next two seasons.
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers are quick to defend Justin Verlander’s worth to the team. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski recently told a reporter that Verlander is as prime a pitcher as anyone in the league. But his numbers tell a different story and are very concerning. According to Brooks Baseball, Verlander has lost two miles per hour on his fastball since the 2012 season, which happens to be the last time he was one of those “prime pitchers” Dombrowski was referring to. Last season, Verlander posted a 4.54 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. The Tigers pitcher is owed $140 million for the next five years. Yikes.
Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers
Fielder missed the majority of the 2014 season because of a neck injury. But he played in 42 games. In those 42 games, Fielder only hit 3 HR and drove in 16 RBI at the Ballpark at Arlington, which is one of the friendliest stadiums for hitters. For a guy who can’t run or field well, those numbers are horrible. Before Detroit traded him, he showed glimmers of his sliding production. In 2013, Fielder only hit .279 with 25 HR, which was the lowest total for his career. With a serious neck injury, it’s unclear if the slugger will ever be what he was with the Brewers, but reportedly he is pain-free and ready to go for spring training. He is owed $144 million for the next six years.