Baumann: The 25 worst contracts in baseball

From SABR member Michael Baumann at The Ringer on December 15, 2016:

They say it’s impolite to talk about money, but when we do, we often talk about it in normative terms — right and wrong, black and white. In sports, that means talking about “bad” contracts — players who are overpaid relative to their production. As a fan, this line of thinking is understandable in a league with a salary cap: If the Dallas Mavericks are paying Erick Dampier like he invented Facebook, and Erick Dampier’s scoring six points a game, they can’t spend that money on better players. Even in baseball — which doesn’t have a hard salary cap, but where spending is constrained by teams’ desire to turn a profit and then constrained even further in some cases by the luxury tax — the concept applies. Albert Pujols is on a bad contract. Miguel Cabrera is on a bad contract. Ryan Howard was on a bad contract until his bad contract burst out of its horcrux and consumed his soul, at which point Howard ceased to be a man and became a bad contract.

But what if I told you that bad contracts were [removes sunglasses to reveal a second, cooler pair of sunglasses] actually good?

Think about it — baseball players work for less than minimum wage until they make the big leagues, at which point they get paid on a scale that’s explicitly below market value until they’ve been in the majors six years, by which point many players’ best years are already behind them. Why should we blame Pujols or Cabrera for cashing in big during their decline phase when that’s exactly how the system is supposed to work?

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Originally published: December 15, 2016. Last Updated: December 15, 2016.