Passan’s all-overpaid and all-underpaid teams
Take a bow, Carl Pavano. Just don’t hurt your back.
You, sir, are the kind of baseball player that makes the annual All-Overpaid team possible. Since you signed with the New York Yankees four years ago for $39.95 million – remember, you fired your agent because he didn’t get you $40 million! – you have made 19 starts, won five games and earned $359,282.51 for every inning you pitched. The Yankees expect you back in August. Yeah, just like they expect $1 gas.
Sadly, your contract expires this offseason, which means another lucky soul can be recognized for being grossly overpaid, even by baseball standards.
In the interest of fairness, we’ll take another shot at the All-Underpaid team, too. The same caveat applies this year as did last: no players who have yet to hit arbitration. Baseball rules artificially depress their salary, and the credit due to teams for signing them doesn’t apply. So that means no Josh Hamilton, even though, at $396,830, he is probably baseball’s biggest bargain. No Carlos Quentin ($400,000), Ryan Ludwick ($411,000), Nate McLouth ($425,000), Edinson Volquez ($382,000) or Tim Lincecum ($405,000), either.
Nevertheless, there are some mighty good contracts out there, with the numbers coming from a USA Today database. Though, let’s be real: The grisliest of the grisly are a whole lot more fun to peruse.
C: Ivan Rodriguez, Detroit, $12.38 million – From All-Star last season to platoon this year, Rodriguez’s bat has turned limp. He doesn’t get nearly the blame he deserves, because he’s 36 and catchers are supposed to age quickly, but that doesn’t explain: Why, exactly, did the Tigers pick up his ludicrous option instead of just buying him out for $3 million?
1B: Richie Sexson, Seattle, $15.5 million – With general manager Bill Bavasi fired Monday, the Mariners could finally cut ties with Sexson, the biggest mistake of Bavasi’s tenure. He’s been even worse than last season, striking out once every three at-bats, getting on base less than 30 percent of the time and slugging below .400. A disaster in every manner possible.
SS: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees, $21.6 million – He’s on pace for the worst year of his career by a long shot offensively, his defense is subpar even by his standards and he’s the third-highest-paid player in baseball. No amount of leadership can make that worth more than $20 million.
3B: Nomar Garciaparra, Los Angeles Dodgers, $9.52 million – Nope, he doesn’t take the cake, either, even though he’s had only 31 at-bats this season and more setbacks in rehab than Lindsay Lohan.
OF: Andruw Jones, Los Angeles Dodgers, $18.1 million – That honor goes to Jones, who came into camp looking like he’d spent his offseason interning in a Hostess factory and ended up on the disabled list, which protested because it was worried that it might break if he sat on it. Jones wouldn’t be the first to land on the All-Overpaid and All-Overweight teams simultaneously.
OF: The entire Los Angeles Angels outfield rotation, $54 million – For that much money, you figure Garret Anderson ($12.6 million), Gary Matthews Jr. ($9.4 million), Torii Hunter ($16.5 million) and Vladimir Guerrero ($15.5 million) can do better than the following rankings in left-field, center-field and right-field OPS; 23rd, 12th and 26th.
OF: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle, $17.1 million – Much like Jeter, Suzuki lands here because his persona made it such that his team overpaid to keep him. Mariners manager John McLaren hopes a move to right field will invigorate Suzuki, whose average is still below .300 and can’t even eclipse a .400 slugging percentage.
DH: Gary Sheffield, Detroit, $13.3 million – Another close escape for the $23.4 million man, Jason Giambi. Instead we’re here to celebrate Sheffield’s fragility and another senseless Detroit contract for players nearing the ends of their career. Sheffield’s power is gone, and he didn’t have much else anyway.
SP: Carl Pavano, New York Yankees, $11 million – King of Bad Contracts, we crown thee.
SP: Barry Zito, San Francisco, $14.5 million – Zito is the prince, and his reign isn’t far off. He could lose 20 games. Batters are hitting .320 off him. He hasn’t struck out as many as he has walked. Five years, $101.5 million left on his deal? Heaven help the Giants.
SP: Jason Schmidt, Los Angeles Dodgers, $15.2 million – While the Dodgers’ deals aren’t as damaging long-term as others because the contracts are for shorter length, it only makes the egregious misses stand out more. Soreness crept back into Schmidt’s shoulder during his latest comeback attempt, and it stands to reason we’re not going to see him again this year – or, perhaps, period.
SP: Matt Morris, Pittsburgh, $10.03 million – What a retirement present.
SP: Mike Hampton, Atlanta, $15.98 million – This is the farewell to Hampton, whose eight-year, $121 million contract expires after this season (with the requisite $6 million buyout). In his honor, we present a poem:
Hamstring, elbow, Tommy John
Disabled list you’re always on
Mr. Hampton, you’re the best
Working on three years’ rest
RP: Eric Gagne, Milwaukee, $10 million – Ineffective first and injured now, Gagne is among the great casualties of steroid testing. No longer is he an intimidating figure with a terrifying fastball and changeup. No, with glasses and unkempt hair, he actually looks more like a geek.
RP: Danys Baez, Baltimore, $6.17 million – Of all the Orioles’ ill-fated relief signings two years ago – sorry, Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford are not worth multi-year deals, either – Baez stands out. He won’t pitch an inning this season.
RP: Derrick Turnbow, Milwaukee, $3.37 million – The Brewers should have just designated him for assignment before the season. Instead, they got 25 baserunners in 6 1/3 innings before they sent him to Triple-A, where he’s now trying to become a starter. He has walked 30 in 11 1/3 innings.
RP: Mark Prior, San Diego, $1 million – And to think, other teams wanted to offer him more. Seeing as this exceeds the minimum Prior was eligible to receive by about half a million dollars, it doesn’t make him overpaid, per se. At this point, though, signing Prior is like throwing away money, which is one of the sad stories of this era.
C: Miguel Olivo, Kansas City, $2.05 million – In a lineup bereft of power, Olivo has provided jolts and could play more DH than any catcher in years. He has eight home runs in 161 at-bats, is slugging .503 and has thrown out seven of 13 runners when behind the plate.
1B: Kevin Youkilis, Boston, $3 million – Tantrums and tortoise-like speed aside, Youkilis is a model player: Gold Glove-caliber defense at first, ability to spray the ball across the field and burgeoning power. The question is, can he do it in both halves after faltering post-All-Star break last season?
2B: Ian Kinsler, Texas, $700,000 – There is Chase Utley at $7.79 million and Brian Roberts at $6.3 million and Orlando Hudson at $6.25 million, all bargains for sure. None provides quite the bang for buck as Kinsler, whose combination of power and speed is matched at the position only by Brandon Phillips. Kinsler was caught stealing for the first time in 18 tries Sunday and his 10 home runs rank fourth at the position – though his defense could stand to improve. Kinsler’s 14 errors are tied for the most in the major leagues, regardless of position.
SS: Jose Reyes, New York Mets, $4.38 million – The one thing Omar Minaya can say he did right was sign David Wright and Reyes to club-friendly deals. Sure, Reyes hasn’t turned into the machine many hoped (and figured) he would. His stolen bases are down, and his on-base percentage seems to have plateaued around .350. Still, he is dangerous, exciting and, for less than $5 million this year, a steal.
3B: Jorge Cantu, Florida, $500,000 – The Marlins always operate on the margins, and this year’s scrap-heap find was one of the AL’s best young players three years ago. Somewhere between his 117-RBI season as a 23-year-old and this year, Cantu lost his stroke. And somewhere since, he has found it with 14 home runs and a .506 slugging percentage that offset his 14 errors, .918 fielding percentage and range of a water pistol.
OF: Grady Sizemore, Cleveland, $3.17 million – Sizemore should be an annual participant on this list, with his contract calling for salaries no higher than $8.5 million through the 2012 season. He’s the Indians’ lone salvation this season, a home-run-hitting, base-stealing, outfield-ground-covering menace.
OF: David DeJesus, Kansas City, $2.5 million – Teams call the Royals almost every day asking about DeJesus’ availability, not just because of the reasonable contract that goes through 2011. The doubles DeJesus has hit in the past are turning into home runs – seven in 214 at-bats this year after seven in 605 last year – and his ability to play all three outfielder positions well is a plus.
OF: Eric Hinske, Tampa Bay, $800,000 – Last year it was Carlos Peña. This year, the Rays recycled another player off the scrap heap, Hinske, to great results. Another four home runs and he’ll have his best power output since winning Rookie of the Year in 2002. And though he’s not exactly a gazelle in the outfield, Hinske hasn’t made an error this season, which counts for something.
DH: Milton Bradley, Texas, $5.25 million – Never has Bradley played more than 141 games in a season. So to count on him for this level of production the rest of the year – leading the AL in on-base and slugging percentages – would be unrealistic. Still, the Rangers’ decision to sign Bradley is paying dividends, so long as he hits the ball and not a broadcaster.
SP: Aaron Cook, Colorado, $5.13 million – His sinker is back to sinking, and Cook’s 2.26-to-1 groundball-to-flyball ratio is fourth among starters with at least 80 innings. Cook has 10 of the Rockies’ 28 wins, and his 3.29 earned-run average comes with six of his starts at Coors Field – where Cook’s ERA is actually more than a run and a quarter better than it is on the road.
SP: Dan Haren and Brandon Webb, Arizona, $4.05 million and $5.5 million – The Diamondbacks can afford Randy Johnson at more than $15 million because their Nos. 1 and 2 starters make less than $10 million combined. Part of the reason the Diamondbacks were willing to give up so much for Haren was the financial peace his contract provides.
SP: Justin Duchscherer, Oakland, $1.2 million – Duchscherer hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in any of his 10 starts this season. The transition from reliever has gone seamlessly, and though Rich Harden gets the ink, Joe Blanton the interest and Greg Smith and Dana Eveland the notoriety from the Haren deal, Duchscherer has been the best of them all.
SP: Todd Wellemeyer, St. Louis, $1 million – Now in his fourth organization, Wellemeyer has found a pitching coach he appreciates and a team that appreciates him. All of which was great until his elbow starting screaming. For now, until the disabled list comes calling, he’s a huge bargain.
SP: Jake Peavy, San Diego, $6 million – He’s got two more years on this list, with a $17 million-plus-a-year contract extension kicking in during the 2010 season. Despite a stint on the DL, Peavy is putting up nearly the same numbers he did last season when he won the NL Cy Young.
RP: Brad Lidge, Philadelphia, $6.35 million – Granted, more than $6 million for a pitcher who won’t exceed 75 innings is a hefty sum. But Lidge has been his old self this year, the best closer in the game, holding hitters to a .158 batting average – and, even more impressive, a .178 slugging percentage. In 87 at-bats, Lidge has allowed just two extra-base hits.
RP: Kerry Wood, Chicago Cubs, $4.2 million – Early-season troubles have yielded to an impressive roll as the Cubs closer. Wood, in his first full season as a reliever, has a 5.5.-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and has converted 14 of his last 15 save chances. Since then, his ERA has dropped from 4.50 to 2.65
RP: Doug Brocail and Geoff Geary, Houston, $2.5 million and $1.13 million – Same bullpen. Same ERA of 2.55. And same amount of notoriety: none. Brocail and Geary, middle relievers for the Astros, have helped anchor a good bullpen that gets tested by a rotation that sports a 4.77 ERA.
RP: Troy Percival, Tampa Bay, $3.9 million – Plenty of candidates for this one, too, from the closer (Takashi Saito and Brandon Lyon) and middle-relief (Keiichi Yabu) divisions. Percival’s pinpoint control and his presence around the clubhouse makes him a clear winner, with the Rays finally needing a closer worth his salt to finish out victories.