The toughest question for the general manager of any baseball team is whether to pull the trigger and offer a player coming off a big year a huge contract. No matter what fans think there’s no way to tell for sure if a player will continue at the top of his game after re-signing. The World Series features two teams, the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants, who eschewed off-season splurges and relied on smaller contracts and young, untested, players — particularly the Royals.
For every Derek Jeter who plays well until the end of his career, there are tales of those who fall off the career cliff after hitting the big payday. Maybe it’s the pressure of the big contract. Sometimes injuries hamper performance.
Whatever the case, teams are left on the hook for big salaries that can’t be used to pay players who can produce. Few teams have the budget to overcome such a situation.
With that in mind we decided to look at the Top 10 Worst Baseball Contracts. There was no shortage of candidates. For instance, some would argue that Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, who has been plagued by a long suspension and a bad thumb, should make the Top 10. And he’s not the only one we considered.
Although there are plenty of bad contracts to mull over, one player from that earlier list managed to make this one. Click through to find out how we ranked the worst contracts and who managed to stay on our list.
10. Dan Uggla
Money: $39 million
Duration: 3 seasons (2012-2014)
Team on the Hook: Atlanta Braves
Uggla would be higher on our list but his salary of just $13 million per year for two seasons makes him somewhat of a bargain among the worst contracts. The second baseman never hit for a high average, but he had three seasons with more than 30 home runs and hit a career high .287 in 2010 for the Florida Marlins. His 36 homers in 2011 were enough for the Braves to sign him to a three-year deal (the team had acquired Uggla in a trade). A .179 average and 22 homers in 2012 were just the start of his woes at the plate. Uggla hit just .149 the following season and was cut this past season with his average at .162. Amazingly, the San Francisco Giants gave him a shot, but that lasted just four games and 12 plate appearances.
9. Mark Teixeira
Money: $180 million
Duration: 8 years (2009-2017)
Team on the Hook: New York Yankees
The Gold Glove first baseman was riding high when he became a free agent. He had regularly hit more than 30 home runs and driven in more than 100 with the Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels. His left-handed stroke seemed perfect for the reconstituted House that Ruth Built. His stint as the Yanks first baseman started out well, with three seasons of more than 30 homers and 100 RBI, though with a declining batting average. But injuries have taken their toll, along with teams employing a defensive shift, and Teixeira’s numbers have plummeted. He hit just .216 in 2014 with 22 homers. With three more seasons left on the deal, Yankee management and fans can only hope he gets things turned around.
8. Josh Hamilton
Money: $125 million
Duration: 5 years, (2013-2017)
Team on the Hook: Los Angeles Angels
Hamilton was touted as a can’t miss prospect with the Cincinnati Reds until a well-documented struggle with drug and alcohol addiction derailed his career. Overcoming those problems gave him a new chance with the Texas Rangers and he made the most it, parlaying it into a big contract with the Angels. Alas, his batting average has plummeted (.250 and .263 the last two seasons) and he has hit just 31 home runs total with the Halos. Injuries hampered him this season. Does he have another comeback in him?
7. Joe Mauer
Money: $185 million
Duration: 8 years (2010-2017)
Team on the Hook: Minnesota Twins
Hometown boy makes good is such a time-honored cliché in the sports world. For the St. Paul, Minnesota, native the cliché came true as he rose to stardom as the Minnesota Twins catcher. And with success came a big contract meant to lock Mauer up for the rest of his career. As with many great plans, reality did not quite match the blueprint. Though he has hit well for the first three years of his new contract, Mauer has suffered a series of concussions that decreased his productivity in 2014. He was moved to the less stressful position of first base to try to extend his career.
6. B.J. Upton
Money: $75.25 million
Duration: 5 years (2013-2017)
Team on the Hook: Atlanta Braves