Remember the good old days, when Kevin Brown’s 7/$105M deal with the Dodgers seemed like the worst contract in history?  Brown was baseball’s first $100M man; and the deal included twelve chartered flights from Georgia for Brown’s family.  A year later the Angels, not to be outdone, gave Mo Vaughn 6/$80M.  GMs from around the league clutched their pearls and warned of the end of the world.  GMs today would give anything for a bad $13-$15M deal.

With the baseball season two weeks old, and teams beginning to take shape, it seems like the right time to evaluate who is holding this year’s “Kevin Brown Bag” or who has the “Mo Worse Blues”.  Here are the leading contenders:

Even with the offset paid by the Rangers, the Angels are giving Josh Hamilton about $21M to play for a division rival.  “Play” is a relative term, as Hamilton is currently on the DL with no return date set.  Here’s to hoping that the Angels share some of the insurance money.

Unfortunately, there is no insurance for the Albert Pujols deal.  The Angels are paying him a mere $24M this season . . . and will have to for another four years.

Maybe the Mets are in the worst position.  Their franchise player has spinal stenosis and cannot swing the bat, field a grounder, or throw the ball like he used to.  And yet, David Wright will take home $20M this season, and is signed for another 4/$67M.

The Mets can take solace in the fact that their cross-town rivals have three massive albatrosses weighing down the books (and this doesn’t even count Mark Teixeira).  The Yanks will pay Jacoby Ellsbury $21M this season to play mediocre centerfield (see: http://m.mlb.com/video/v594676183/seanyy-ketel-marte-goes-first-to-home-on-a-single/?game_pk=447034) and hit .213.  The good news is that Ellsbury is on the field and not on the DL.   The bad news is that he is signed for four more years.

The Yankees are paying A-Rod $21M this season, and next.  What some may not know is that he is currently batting 6th, hitting .118, and doesn’t even bring a glove to the ballpark.

But the Bombers biggest dead weight may be C.C. Sabathia.  C.C. will get $25M this season (and next), barely made the starting rotation, is averaging 5 IP, and has an 5+ ERA.

The Rangers are paying Shin Choo Soo $20M this year (and still have another $82M to go).  His biggest contribution this season: getting hurt so Nomar Mazara could take his place in the lineup.

But if the Soo deal isn’t bad enough, the Rangers are paying Prince Fielder $18M this season (the Tigers are kicking in another $6M), and will do so until 2020.  Through two weeks, he is hitting .167, with one extra base hit.

And maybe not as egregious, Elvis Andrus gets $15M this season – and potentially for seven more.  To date, he has one extra base hit.

People may think Guggenheim has unlimited money, but paying Carl Crawford $21M this year (and next) to, once-again, be on the DL, doesn’t seem like good business.

And the Dodgers also get to throw in $3.5M this year – and for three more years – for Matt Kemp to play for a division rival.  The Padres are paying $18M for a guy who is only a shell of his former self.

Although he is still one of the best hitters in baseball (and in the conversation for best right-handed hitters of all time), the Tigers paying Miguel Cabrera $28M this year, and then at least that much for the next seven years, is absurd.  That is a lot of Little Caesars pizza.

The end is near on the Ryan Howard deal.  But, the Phillies still must pay him $25M this season to be a platoon first baseman, and another $10M at the end of the year to make him go away.

The end isn’t quite so near on the Joe Mauer deal.  The mid-market Twins are committed to $23M this year, and two more years, to have Mauer be a light-hitting first baseman with blurry vision and potentially serious concussion issues.

The Rockies inherited the Jose Reyes deal, which will require them to shell out $22M this year and next – just to watch him languish on the DL.  The Rockies best hope is that Rob Manfred throws the book at Reyes for his domestic violence incident, and he gets suspended without pay.

In a brass move, the Red Sox sent Rusney Castillo to Pawtucket, even though they are paying him $10M this season, and have him under contract for four more years – with escalators.

Robinson Cano may end up being worth $24M this season, so he doesn’t really belong on this list.  But he will at some point between now and 2023.

The same goes for Zack Greinke, who is getting $34M this year.  So far, he is 0-2 with 6.75 ERA.  To put that in perspective, Greinke would have to give up 1 run/game over his next 30 starts to match last season’s career year.  The next five years may be painful for Arizona’s bottom line.

But this article would not be complete without mentioning the Big-Two, the bookends of the Red Sox infield.  Pablo Sandoval found himself on the bench, and then on the DL, while cashing $17.6M worth of checks this season, and at least that much over the next three years.  And Hanley Ramirez has potentially reinvented himself as a first baseman – and he better – because he is taking $22M/year from now until 2018.

Somewhere Kevin Malone and Bill Bavasi are having a beer and laughing at what were once believed to be “bad” deals.

One last note: the Blue Jays are paying R.A. Dickey $12M this season – not too bad.  But to think he was traded for Noah Syndergaard (and others), who may be the best pitcher in baseball right now, and who is making $535K this season and won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2018.

This list should be Exhibit #1 for the owners when they sit down to negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement.












Dan Freedman

Senior Vice President | Business & Legal Affairs

9777 Wilshire Boulevard | Suite 400

Beverly Hills | California | 90212

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According to FanGraphs, A.J. Pollock tied for second in wins above replacement (WAR) among outfielders last season; and he was fourth overall in WAR in the National League. His unique combination of speed and power (20 HRs/39 SBs) make him a must-have for any fantasy team. And, when paired with Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke, he helped make the Diamondbacks a force to be reckoned with in the NL West. That is, until the final weekend of Spring Training. That is when Pollock dove home and fractured his elbow – which occurred either as he stopped his dive or as he pushed himself up.

But regardless of what actually caused the break, it seems that this injury could have been avoided in the most simplistic of ways: don’t slide into a base – especially home plate, where the catcher, his equipment, a loose bat, and even the umpire, are all obstacles that present potential for severe injury – head first.

Which begs the question: Why do players insist on diving into any base? The common argument is ‘that is how we have always played, so we can’t change now’. Unfortunately for today’s players, that argument doesn’t hold water.  Little League doesn’t allow head first slides, and various leagues have outlawed the practice at first base and home plate. The fact is, players could – if they so choose – slide feet first.

But this issue is more important than just old-school vs. new-school, or player preferences. This is a true bottom line issue – players are getting injured sliding head first, and it is costing teams millions of dollars in lost time (not to mention the medical care/rehab costs attendant to such injuries).

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What is set forth below is by no means a comprehensive list – rather just a representative list – of players who have been injured over the past few years sliding head first, how many games they missed, and the total salary cost of that missed time (based on their salary in the given season):

  • Josh Hamilton (2014, home plate): $154K/game x 48 games = $7.4M
  • Rafael Furcal (2011, third base): $80K/game x 75 games = $6M
  • Ryan Zimmerman (2011, third base): $55K/game x 44 games = $2.45M
  • Ian Kinsler (2013, third base): $80K/game x 25 games = $2M
  • Melky Cabrera (first base): $49K/game x 22 games (season-ending injury) = $1M
  • Ryan Ludwick (2013, third base): $12K/game x 116 games = $1.4M
  • Michael Bourn (2013, first base): $43K/game x 20 games = $864K
  • Bryce Harper (2014, third base): $13K/game x 57 games = $756.5K
  • Ben Zobrist (2014, second base): $43K/game x 13 games = $561.7K
  • Nolan Arenado (2014, second base): $3K/game x 37 games = $111K
  • Alex Gordon (2010, second base): $7K/game x 9 games (missed Opening Day) = $63K

And those are just a handful of the quantifiable injuries. There are many others, like Dustin Pedroia, who tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb on Opening Day in 2013 diving into first base. Pedroia played the entire season with the injury (he had surgery in the off-season), but suffered his lowest homerun output in six seasons, a then-career-worst slugging percentage, and a then-career-worst OBP. Pedroia was paid $10M for this injury-caused below-average season.

As of today, we don’t know how many games A.J. Pollock will miss, but it may be the whole season. He is due $3.5M, regardless.

Of course, insurance offsets some of the lost amounts set forth above, but teams are not paying these players huge salaries to have them sit on the bench or the trainer’s table or in the operating room.  They pay them to play – and play well.  And one easy way to at least protect against a stupid injury is for players to use their head, and then use their feet.