Every October since 1994, playoff hungry Toronto baseball fans have had to sit back and reflect on the season that was and what moves can be made in the off-season to ensure October dominance for decades to come.
This October has been no different – Josh Hamilton, BJ Upton, Ryan Dempster, Jake Peavy would all be huge additions for Toronto Blue Jays fans desperate for any type of playoff appearance.
Slight problem… Roughly two thirds of the league is currently in the same mindset. Thus owners often find themselves in an all-out bidding war in the fall to bring the biggest stars possible to their rabid fan basses come spring. The issue here is that 9 times out of 10 the club is paying for past accomplishments rather than perceived future production. This tradition of rewarding players for past numbers on past teams has often come back to haunt owners.
So before the playoffs end, free agency kicks off and I write Alex Anthopoulos a list of demands I can’t take back come April – Let’s take a look at the top 5 contracts currently haunting the top brass of MLB clubs.
#5 – Ryan Howard : Philadelphia Phillies
4 years $105 Million left on deal.
It’s easy to assume that Ryan Howard’s best baseball is behind him, he turns 33 this winter and is still trying to get back to form after tearing his ACL in the final game of the 2011 NLDS. Howard missed more than half of this season and posted career low numbers hitting a .219 average and a .718 OPS. After shutting down the remainder of his 2012 season with broken bones in his feet, it will be interesting to see if Howard can return in 2013 to his old dependable ways. If not, the Phillies have a big issue with both money and age heading into next season.
#4 – Albert Pujols : Los Angeles Angels
9 years $228 Million left on deal.
A collective groan was heard throughout the baseball world when the Angels signed the 32 year old first basemen to a 10 year deal this past winter. Despite Pujols finishing the season with strong numbers .285 average 30 HRs and 105 RIBs , a dreadfully slow start to the season set the tone for an underachieving Angels squad that all around should have been better. Most disappointing for Angels owner Arte Moreno is missing the playoffs during Pojlos’s cheapest year – the money paid to King Albert only balloons over the next 8 years.
#3 – Carl Crawford : Los Angeles Dodgers
5 years $106.8 Million left on deal.
The grass at Fenway Park was not as green as Carl Crawford had anticipated. After 8 outstanding seasons in Tampa the speedy outfielder decided to test the free agent waters and landed in Boston with a 7 year $142 million deal. In his first season with the Red Sox Crawford hit a career low .255 batting average with only 11 HRs and a dismal .289 on base percentage. Things didn’t get any better for either Crawford or the Sox as both struggled in 2012. Before the 2012 could even start Crawford hurt his wrist and was also suffering discomfort in his elbow and ended up undergoing surgery, he would start the season on the 60 day DL. Crawford made his 2012 debut in July before ultimately undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery. Somehow the Red Sox were able to convince the LA Dodgers to take this contract off their hands – but had to give up Adrian Gonzalez in the process. Maybe Crawford can rediscover the magic he once produced, until then – his contract stands as one of MLB’s worst.
#2 – Alex Rodriguez : New York Yankees
5 years $119 Million + $30 million for home-run milestones left on deal.
First ballot hall of famer? You betchyea’! Yet, some Yankees fans might want A-Rod to consider going into the hall well before his current deal ends with the Yankees. At one time Rodriguez was considered by most as the best player in all of baseball. However, over the last two seasons A-Rod has only averaged 110 games played, a .274 batting average, 17 HRs and 60 RIBs. Compare those numbers to Arizona third baseman Chris Johnson, who at $495k a season did this – 136 Games played .276 Batting average, 15 HRs and 76 RIBs – And it becomes hard to justify paying that kind of cash for a player well past his prime. (Related: A-rod sets MLB Record with 4 Playoff Game Ending Strikeouts!)
#1 – Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels
2 Years $42 Million Left on deal.
Jay’s fans should still be bowing down to Alex Anthopoulos for being able to dump this deal. Once known as the reason your Rogers cable bill was getting more expensive by the month. In 2006 Vernon Wells’ Seven year $126 million deal was seen as bench mark signing and an apparent commitment to winning from new Jays ownership group Rogers Blue Jays Baseball Partnership. Despite 2010 being Wells’ best season as a Blue Jay – souring relationships with both ownership and the fan base made his departure from Toronto easier on all parties. The Jays received back Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera (Both were later moved for prospects) while the Angels thought they were getting an all-star center fielder, what showed up in Anaheim was more along the lines of an $84 million bench warmer. In 2011 Wells hit a career low .218 – just above the dreaded Mendoza Line. He followed that up in 2012 by watching second year sensation Mike Trout explode on both offense and defense while riding the pine – Ouch. The Angels unable to move Wells, were stuck paying him $20 Million to watch Mike Trout at $475k take the league by storm – Double ouch.