As Barry Zito takes the mound tonight in Pittsburgh, it will bring to end his tenure in the Giants bullpen. This stint totaled exactly zero appearances and one missed start. The fall from grace for Mr. Zito has been astronomical. He was the 9th overall pick of the Oakland A’s out of USC in 1999. He was in the majors the very next year, starting 14 games for the A’s, compiling a record of 7-4 with a 2.72 ERA. In 2002, he went 23-5 with and 2.75 ERA and 183 strikeouts, narrowly winning the Cy Young over Pedro Martinez. It looked like Zito would become one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball for a very long time. Then, after a few more okay years in Oakland, Zito signed a 7 year, $126 million dollar contract with the San Francisco Giants.
Since moving across the Bay, Zito has put together an 11-19 record with an ERA over 5.00 and since that Cy Young year his record has fallen to a very mediocre 66-65, including a dreadful 0-6 start with a 7.53 ERA this year. That’s when the Giants demoted him for a few days. I guess they decided that an 18 million dollar per year long reliever wasn’t worth it.
Back when Zito signed the contract I mentioned that it was an awful deal and that the Giants were tying their own hands for a long time. I didn’t figure it would be this bad. This got me wondering what the worst contracts in Major League history were, because I think Zito’s will top them all when it’s finished.
After going back through some pretty bad contracts, I came up with my Top 5 Worst Contracts in Baseball History.
5. Albert Belle – 5 years, 65 million, Baltimore Orioles. Belle had 49 homers and 152 RBI the year before for the White Sox. He had a history of behavioral problems and a bad attitude, which didn’t change any for the O’s. He did have two productive years before being forced to retire because of a degenerative hip.
4. Chan Ho Park– 5 years, 65 million, Texas Rangers. Park had some productive years with the Dodgers before cashing in big with Texas in 2002. Once he got to Arlington, Park went 22-23 with an ERA around 6.00 in three and a half years. Then, he was shipped to the Padres for fellow disappointment Phil Nevin in 2005. Park’s 22 wins for the Rangers averaged out to be about $2.2 million per win.
3. Carl Pavano – 4 years, 40 million, New York Yankees. Pavano was coming off a career year where he went 18-8 with the Florida Marlins. He was only 28 years old and had been showing flashes of brilliance throughout his time in South Florida. Pavano’s career in New York was marred by injury, bizarre love triangles, and great fictional blogs, and he left the Yankees having started 19 only games with a 5-6 record and a 4.77 ERA. This equals roughly $8 million per win making him the third worst contract in baseball.
2. Barry Zito – 7 years, 126 million, San Francisco Giants. As we discussed earlier, Zito has apparently lost all ability to pitch. Even though we’re only 2 years into it, this contract has potential to top the #1 contract, which is…
1. Mike Hampton – 8 years,121 million, Colorado Rockies. As if giving a pitcher an eight year contract in Colorado weren’t crazy enough, giving a pitcher an eight year contract in Colorado with one good year in his career is even worse. Hampton saw exactly two years of this deal with the Rockies where he went 21-28 with an ERA around 5.75. In 2002, Hampton was traded to the Marlins and then to Braves along with several million dollars in cash. When healthy, Hampton hasn’t been too terrible for the Braves, but he has not pitched for them in over two years, all while collecting around 28 million dollars from both the Marlins and Braves. Since signing the contract in 2000, Hampton has gone 53-48, meaning each one of his wins has cost these three teams around 2.3 million dollars.