|Point-Counterpoint: Worst Active Major League Contract||| Print |||Send|
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on March 11, 2009
Now that Mike Hampton's contract has run out, the title "worst active major league contract" is up for grabs. Tony Meale, Daniel Paulling and Jonathan Leshanski debate who should get the crown. Their propositions: The highest paid pitcher in the history of the game, a center fielder who forgot how to hit after he signed a hefty extension and a lefty with a high leg kick who lost all his mo-jo.
CC Sabathia Takes the Cake
Only I don’t know why
Granted, his stretch with Milwaukee was ridiculously good. In 17 games and 130.2 innings with the Brew Crew, Sabathia went 11-2, had an ERA of 1.65, a WHIP of 1.00 and gave up just six home runs. Those numbers are worth $161 million.
But compare those numbers to his 18 games and 122.1 innings with Cleveland in 2008: a 6-8 record, a 3.83 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and 13 home runs allowed.
This is a problem.
Needless to say, Sabathia – like almost any pitcher – greatly benefited from the AL-NL switch. For example, in his seven full seasons in the AL, Sabathia’s ERA was a 4.03 or above four times. In 2006 and 2007, his ERA was a solid 3.22 and 3.21, respectively, but there’s a big difference between 3.21 and 1.65. Plus, his 3.83-line in the first half of 2008 has to raise some eyebrows.
Let’s not forget that when Sabathia hit the free agent market in the offseason, he made two things abundantly clear: he wanted to stay in the NL and he wanted to pitch on the West Coast. Well, the Yankees are not in the NL, and New York is not on the West Coast. Sure, $161 million may change your mind, but can it change your heart? One has to wonder how much Sabathia truly wants to be in New York, especially when he turned down a six-year, $140-million deal from the Yankees in November. And if he doesn’t really want to be there, it’d be crazy to think his performance wouldn’t suffer as a result.
Let’s not forget two other important pieces of information regarding Sabathia: his age and his health. CC is only 28, but do you honestly think he’ll be worth $23 million when he’s 34 or 35, especially considering that he weighs nearly 300 pounds? Sabathia has durability issues written all over him.
In truth, Sabathia won’t be bad – or even mediocre – with the Yankees. He’ll have a great lineup and a great bullpen. He’ll be good. But largest-pitching-contract-in-history good? Not a chance.
All’s Not Well with Vernon
By Daniel Paulling
Vernon Wells isn’t performing. The Blue Jays signed Wells to a seven year, $126 million contract in 2006. That’s an average of $18 million a season for someone who hit, over his career, .283/.332/.480. In other words, he’s Torii Hunter with a tad more power and less defense. (To be fair, Wells isn’t bad in the outfield.)
I am conservative when it comes to lavishing players with big money. The only players worth the large paychecks are those who are consistently successful and a top-notch player. Wells fails on both of those accounts.
When he signed his mega-contract -- at the time, it was the sixth-largest in MLB history -- Wells had had only two good seasons: 2003 (.317/.359/.550/33/117) and 2006 (.303/.357/.542/32/106). He looked like a complementary player, not a centerpiece, in his other seasons.
Now, Wells is entering his third year in the deal and already on the wrong side of 30. He’s playing 81 games at Rogers Centre, a turf field that can destroy one’s knees. Wells missed 54 games last season with neck and knee injuries already. He hasn’t played more than 156 games since 2003.
Willis has Lost Everything
By Jonathan Leshanski
The worst active contract in baseball? That’s easy, the three year deal the Tigers signed with Dontrelle Willis just after acquiring him in a trade in December of 2007. By baseball standards the money isn’t extreme, $29 million over three years, but for $10 million dollars a year you should be able to pitch at the Major League level, even if you are nothing more than a fifth starter.
Willis can’t make that claim. To his credit, he did manage to keep his ERA under 10 last season (9.38) thanks to a second half (8.53) which was considerably better than his early starts (10.32). Basically he cost a million dollars per run of ERA. The sad thing is that the Tigers should have seen this coming -- his trends since his 2005 Cy Young winning campaign had all been very much in the wrong direction with increasing walk rates, lower K rates and an ERA that kept ballooning by more than a run every season since 2005.
The truth is that Willis wouldn’t even have been invited to camp this preseason if the Tigers didn’t owe him $19 million dollars over the next two seasons. His mechanics have broken down, he has a bad knee (which may have been what screwed up his mechanics) and his stuff, even in his heyday, was average at best.
Willis got by on a funky delivery which deceived opponents. Now he’s not deceiving anyone, not hitters, not fans and least of all Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski, all of whom realize that Willis has lost that special something that he had.
Odds are it isn’t coming back.
This isn’t just the worst active contract in baseball; it might be the worst in the history of the game -- and it still has two years to run.