Every offseason, there’s a team that was on the fringe of making it all the way, or just missing the playoffs and they vow to make it up to their fans by making a splash in the offseason. How big of a splash? Does it matter? These teams have a lot of money and want to deliver. General Manager’s jobs are on the line if they don’t win. So they’ll spend top dollar on talent, even if the player is already in decline. Does it work out? Sometimes, but sometimes not. Let’s take a look at two of the worst contracts teams are wishing they didn’t pull the trigger on.
Albert Pujols – 1B Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Following the 2011 season in which Pujols hit .299 with 37 HRs and 99 RBIs, Albert was looking to cash in. At the time, he was one of the most feared hitters in baseball. A consistent .300+ hitter to go with a guaranteed 30+ HRs and 100+ RBIs, everyone lined up for the then 32 year old Pujols. The Angels opened the check book and gave him a guaranteed 10 year $240 million deal. What the Angels paid for and what they got are two different things. Pujols hit .285 with 30 HRs and 105 RBIs in his first season. He was hurt the following year and posted career lows across the board with .258 17 HRs and 64 RBIs. This past season, Pujols hit .272 28 HRs and 105 RBIs. Good numbers, but not exactly the most feared hitter in baseball. The Angels have plenty years left of Pujols deal and he’s only getting older.
CC Sabathia – P New York Yankees
Sabathia was smart about his deal. After signing his initial $100 million dollar deal with the Yankees, he added an opt-out clause so he could opt out and re-up his $100 million deal and make it last well into his latter 30’s. The Yankees, who were in a tough spot at the time, had to bring back Sabathia, and with starting pitching always at a premium, they gave him 5 years $122 million which essentially added another year and $30 million to his old deal. With all this happening at the age of 31, you figured Sabathia would deliver early on and towards the end he would decline. Well the decline has set in earlier than expected. Following the 2012 season in which Sabathia posted a 15-6 record with a 3.38 ERA the wheels fell off for CC in the playoffs. CC was shelled by the Tigers in the ALCS and the Yankees were eliminated. The following season, CC posted a below mediocre 4.78 ERA to go with a 14-13 mark, not exactly top dollar numbers. The Yankees did not reach post season play. 2014 was not any better as Sabathia posted a 5.28 ERA in just 8 starts while going 3-4. The velocity wasn’t there and nor was his dominance. CC’s best days may be behind him but he’ll receive a rich paycheck from the Yankees for a few more years.
With these two examples, maybe it isn’t best to shell out all this money with no regard to age. Many teams are turning their focus to the farm system and want to develop players internally. While it is ok to grab a necessary free agent, teams are beginning to be more wary of potential blockbuster busts.