(Baseball StL) -- Former St. Louis Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog had many ideas about baseball, not all of which were widely embraced.
One such was that all players should be on a one-year contract to ensure maximum effort. He correctly noted that players in the last year or “contract” year of a deal almost always perform better, evidence that a year-to-year deal would benefit the club.
He was not wrong.
Though players and their agents always seek them, long-term, big money baseball contracts end in tears for most clubs.
By avoiding a $200+ million contract for a fading Albert Pujols, the Cardinals have locked up Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Allen Craig and given themselves salary flexibility going forward.
Not all clubs are so lucky.
In 2007, the Chicago Cubs, for example, won a mega bidding war for Alfonso Soriano, a respectable player at the time but certainly not an elite one. Then-GM Jim Hendry signed Soriano to a 7-year, $136 million deal which management believed provided the key piece to the Cubs inevitable World Series team.
Soriano is a brutal fielder and only an average hitter and the Cubs are again rebuilding, as they have been since Roosevelt was president.
Other examples of ill-advised long-term deals are in abundance.
Boston Red Sox starter John Lackey scored an $82.5 million contract in December of 2009. In 2011 his ERA was 6.41 and he missed all of 2012 with Tommy John surgery. He was also part of the “fried chicken scandal” in which Red Sox players were drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse while Boston was blowing a 9-game lead on the field.
Even at nearly $16.5 million per year, Lackey may not be the worst Red Sox deal.
Carl Crawford created a huge buzz in Beantown when he signed for $142 in December 2010. His time in Boston was a litany of injuries and after undergoing Tommy John surgery, he was shipped across the country to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Julio Lugo, who eventually made his way to St. Louis, was signed by Boston for $36 million over four years. But Lugo was a leadoff hitter who didn’t get on base (once going 0-31 not long after they signed him) and made tons of errors.
Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Red Sox bid just over $51 million solely for the right to talk to the 26-year-old, nearly $20 million more than the losing bid and reportedly several times the entire payroll of Matsuzaka’s Japanese team. After a couple of good years, Matsuzaka proved why big deals end badly. After several periods on the DL, his ERA ballooned to over 8 and in his last three years, he won only 17 times, one fewer than his first year with the Red Sox.
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein had a history of big money signings, a trait he took with him to the Cubs. He signed journeyman pitcher and former St. Louis Cardinal Edwin Jackson to a $52 million contract over 4 years and Jackson rewarded his faith by starting the year 1-7 with an ERA of 6.11.
But, the best example of a big money contract gone bad goes to the New York Mets who gave Johann Santana nearly $100 million over four years, including $25 million this year, a season in which he will not throw one pitch. Santana’s salary equals about a third of the Mets payroll.
Interestingly, at $25 million a year, he makes $490,000 A WEEK, which is how much Pete Kozma and Shelby Miller each earn in a year.
Oh, and the Mets are still paying Jason Bay $18 million this year even though he does not play for them anymore. And they will pay him a $3 million buy-out next year.
To put it in better perspective, the $43 million the Mets are paying those two players for NOT playing would cover the salaries of Cardinals’ Edward Mujica, David Freese, Ty Wigginton, Allen Craig, Randy Choate, John Jay, Lance Lynn, Fernando Salas, Daniel Descalso, Matt Carpenter, Tony Cruz, Shane Robinson, Joe Kelley, Trevor Rosenthal, Kozma, Shelby Miller and Matt Adams.