Starting pitcher Kevin Brown made history at the 1998 winter meetings, becoming the first player in MLB to sign a $100 million contract when he inked a seven-year, $105 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers…
Jason HeywardPaul Beaty/Associated Press
These contracts had some positive moments, but the players did not live up to their lofty salaries:
- Barry Zito, SF7 years, $126 million (0.3 WAR per season)
- Prince Fielder, DET9 years, $214 million (0.8 WAR per season)
- Alfonso Soriano, CHC8 years, $136 million (1.1 WAR per season)
- Shin-Soo Choo, TEX7 years, $130 million (1.2 WAR per season)
- Jayson Werth, WAS7 years, $126 million (1.3 WAR per season)
- Carlos Lee, HOU6 years, $100 million (1.4 WAR per season)
- Albert Pujols, LAA10 years, $240 million (1.6 WAR per season)
- Jason Heyward, CHC8 years, $184 million (1.7 WAR per season)
- Johnny Cueto, SF6 years, $130 million (1.8 WAR per season)
- Alex Rodriguez, NYY10 years, $275 million (2.3 WAR per season)
- Robinson Cano, SEA10 years, $240 million (3.5 WAR per season)
Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols posted a 123 OPS+ while averaging 29 home runs and 98 RBI in the first five years of his contract. If the Angels had won a title, it would have been money well spent. Instead, they have made the postseason just once in nine years, and Pujols is now a shell of the player he was.
Set to serve his second PED suspension, and part of a trade that has a chance to turn into one of the most lopsided deals in recent memory, Robinson Cano belongs in this category despite solid production.
Alex Rodriguez posted a 137 OPS+ while averaging 32 home runs, 109 RBI and 5.0 WAR over the first three seasons of his second contract with the Yankees. However, things went south quickly and he posted just 8.0 WAR the rest of the way amid injuries and a PED suspension.
Injuries derailed the careers of Prince Fielder and Johnny Cueto after strong starts to their contracts. Fielder suffered a career-ending neck injury in 2016, while Cueto made just 13 starts in 2018 and 2019.
Barry Zito averaged 163 innings per season in his seven years with the San Francisco Giants, and he played a part in the team’s 2012 World Series title, but his 4.62 ERA and 87 ERA+ over the life of the deal didn’t live up to what was the largest contract ever given to a left-handed pitcher.
Jason Heyward is in a similar position with three years left on his contract. He played a key role for the 2016 World Series winner, and he remains a stellar defender in right field, but he has not played as hoped.
Alfonso Soriano, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Lee and Jayson Werth made four All-Star appearances in 28 years worth of contracts, producing but failing to live up to their salaries.