Worst Contracts in the NL Central | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

On Wednesday I posted my list of the five best contracts in the division because I, like Dwayne Johnson, like my dessert first. But now, inevitably, it’s time for the veggies. Here are the five worst contracts in the division (in descending order).

THE BOTTOM FIVE

5. Bronson Arroyo, SP, Reds

Arroyo is entering the final year of a two-year $23.5 million contract. This isn’t a terrible deal. Arroyo eats innings, but the Reds gave him this deal when he was coming off a horrible 2011 campaign, when he was below replacement level. There’s always the risk that he could be that bad again this year (especially with someone like Arroyo who relies on the ball being put in play), and if that happens and he’s allowed to continue to eat innings, then he’s doing much more harm than good.

4. Jonathan Broxton, RP, Reds

Broxton is signed to a three-year, $21 million deal that begins this year, a deal that looks farworse with the Reds’ and Aroldis Chapman’s lack of fortitude with regards to making the Cuban Missile a starting pitcher. Now you have Chapman, who on certain days could (or at least should) pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen, Sean Marshall, who I would bet on having a better 2013 than Broxton, and Jose Arredondo, not a terrible option as a seventh inning guy. Would this team look much different without Broxton?

The Reds paid for past production here, and a couple really solid seasons pitching out of the bullpen in Dodger Stadium (a couple years ago, mind you) does not equate to several projectable stud seasons out of the ‘pen in Cincinnati, and that’s what they are paying for. Even if Broxton is solid (I can’t picture him being great) throughout the length of this deal, they’re still paying $21 million to an eighth inning guy, a position most smart teams just pull from the farm system.

3. Carlos Marmol, RP, Cubs

Marmol will receive $9.8 million in 2013 — the final year of the three-year $20 million deal that former Cubs GM Jim Hendry was able to secure before his dismissal later that year. If Marmol was just a middling or slightly below-average starter, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal that he was getting overpaid. But in the first two years of the contract, the Cubs received 129.1 total innings of just slightly above replacement level production for around $10 million. His K-rate has been on the decline since 2010, and his HR-rate has been climbing over that stretch. If he continues to struggle in 2013, he will become untradable, but at least this will be the last year the Cubs faithful will have to watch the erratic Marmol.

2. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds

There is just too much risk that this deal will somehow turn out to be terrible. Thirteen years for $263 million, it just makes one wonder what the thinking was. I love Joey Votto, but he’s guaranteed to make $25 million in each of his age-37, 38 and 39 seasons. Has a contract like this ever worked out? It just seems that if the Reds could hit the reset button on that deal, they almost certainly would.

He could easily earn every penny of this deal through his age-35 season, but inevitably his defense will begin to slip, and it’s hard to see his big frame remaining healthy throughout the deal. He’s not injury-prone, but he’s also not in the Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols class of first basemen who you can typically bank on 145-plus games from. I also look at first base, and it’s not the ideal position to have all that money tied up in over such a long contract. First base is always a great place to put a prospect with no position, or a player who can no longer hack it at their old position. Look at the Cardinals with Allen Craig (no position) or the Brewers with Corey Hart (too many outfielders and an open position at 1B), you lose some roster flexibility, especially in the National League.

1. Alfonso Soriano, LF, Cubs

In 2007, Soriano posted a +6.6 WAR (FanGraphs version), so this infamous eight-year, $136 million deal wasn’t always terrible, it was only one of the worst contracts in baseball for five of the first six years of the deal.

It has to be a very infuriating deal to reflect upon for Cubs fans, because in Soriano’s six full years at the big-league level prior to signing the deal with Chicago, there was only one season (2006) where he didn’t cost his team runs in the field (according to DRS). The Cubs shouldn’t have put much stock in the 2006 campaign either (his first in left field), unless they were dead set on becoming the first team ever to look at a guy who couldn’t hack it at second base and swoon over how he played the field in left. Left field defensive metrics can be pretty funky, given some of the stiffs that play the position, but other than UZRs of 32 and 16.4 in 2007 and 2008 respectively, Soriano, by most measures, has been a poor fielder since then.

It’s hard to say whether Soriano hit rock bottom for the Cubs in 2009 or 2011. On the one hand, he posted an incredible -0.2 WAR while earning $17 million in 2009. But then again, his .289 OBP in 2011 has to count for something, right? To be fair, he did have a bit of a renaissance year in 2012, blasting 32 home runs, while stepping up his defense a little, but even after that season, Chicago has been unable to move Soriano because of the remaining two years and $36 million left on his deal. Well, that’s not entirely true, the Cubs did somehow line up a deal to send Soriano to San Francisco last season after Melky Cabrera was suspended, but Soriano vetoed the move, citing the weather (because April in Chicago is always 70 degrees and sunny) and that he had never played on the West Coast. So there you go, Cub fans, even if Soriano stinks it up over the next two seasons, while getting paid more than Ryan Braun, at least Hendry inked a colossal deal with the one player who would rather play for this Cubs team than the eventual World Series-champion Giants.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Bob says: March 28, 2013

    I look forward to those big Reds contracts coming back to haunt them in the not-so-distant future.

  2. Nicholas Zettel says: March 28, 2013

    Soriano’s deal is quite interesting — one almost has to feel bad for the guy, given that he was good, but not necessarily great or elite prior to the deal. He produced 624 R and 560 RBI, largely as an infielder, in 4218 PA prior to the deal (115 OPS+); in 3313 PA since the deal, he’s produced 422 R / 475 RBI (112 OPS+), which is kind of impressive and surprising given that each of those 3313 PA occurred from age 31 onward.

    Are contracts like Soriano’s truly bad for clubs? He was a free agent, capitalizing on a great season, and during the contract he produced at largely the same level as his previous performances. Granted, there are a whole lot of other factors with Soriano (such as defense, and perhaps the weight of failed pennant hopes, too), but I think his type of deal is not the worst of the extended type.

    • Chris says: March 28, 2013

      He’s getting paid $18 million a year and in the last four years, he’s never hit above .262, never had an OPS above .821, all while playing terrible defense and posting a negative WAR twice. And there are still two more years to go.

      He’s not hitting at even a good level, not playing defense at even an okay level. How can you possibly say it’s not a terrible contract?

    • Nicholas Zettel says: March 29, 2013

      I would say it’s not a terrible contract because he’s produced largely at the level of his previous seasons. If you look at it from the perspective of a 7-year+ service player signing a free agency deal, the Cubs simply paid for his service time; but, there’s not necessarily any reason to expect Soriano to perform at a great level simply because of his contract.

      Given the number of contracts players sign without ever matching their previous value, the fact that Soriano produced runs in the Cubs’ line up at a rate that compares strongly to his previous production makes the deal better than it seems.

      (I think this is the MLB we’re going to have to get used to, too, with the new CBA: if teams sign free agents, and those free agents produce at levels that are similar to their previous performance — or, they don’t decline greatly — that’s largely a successful contract in this labor era).

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