In Major League Baseball, it's common practice to pay players based on previous accomplishments. Take, for example, slugging first baseman Prince Fielder (230 career home runs through 2011), who signed a nine-year, $214 million contract with the Detroit Tigers prior to the 2012 season. However, the 28-year-old Fielder has a few more years of top-level production left in his bat before his contract drags down the Tigers. The same can't be said for these five grossly overpaid and underproductive players.
Alex Rodriguez (3B), New York Yankees -- Rodriguez currently is the highest-paid player in the game with a 2012 salary of $30,000,000, which actually is about $2M less than what he made last year. A-Rod's contract is obscene, but he used to be able to justify it as the best player in baseball. But his skills have declined and he's no longer even the best player at his position. He's signed through 2017.
A.J. Burnett (SP), Pittsburgh Pirates -- Thank the Yankees for this abomination of a contract, too. They signed Burnett in 2008 to a five-year, $82.5 million deal. Now with the Pirates, he has two years left on the deal at $16,500,000 per season. It's not just the amount of money that makes this a bad contract. As of May 24, Burnett has a record of 36-37 with a 4.79 earned run average since signing it.
Alfonso Soriano (OF), Chicago Cubs -- Ironically, Soriano was traded for Rodriguez in 2004. In terms of return on investment, his contract nearly is as bad as A-Rod's. Soriano, who signed a long-term deal with the Cubs before the 2007 season, is owed $18,000,000 this season and the next one. In the previous three seasons, he has batted .248 and averaged 23 home runs and 74 RBI.
Barry Zito (SP), San Francisco Giants -- Zito was one of the best pitchers in baseball in the early 2000s. He parlayed that success into a monster contract with the San Francisco Giants, who foolishly inked him to a seven-year, $126 million contract in 2006. The lefty, who has a record of 46-63 with the Giants (as of May 24), is set to make $19,000,000 this year (he made $240,000 in 2001).
Vernon Wells (OF), Los Angeles Angels -- Wells stands to pocket about $21,000,0000 this season, as well as in 2013 and 2014, and he's not even playing right now! On May 20, the non-productive Wells landed on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his right thumb and will be out for eight to 10 weeks. Blame the Blue Jays for this disaster of a contract. They signed him to a back-loaded deal in 2006.
Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer who roots for the New York Mets (and any team that is playing the New York Yankees). An avid fantasy baseball player and fan of Major League Baseball, his games of choice growing up were Strat-O-Matic and MicroLeague Baseball.