As Bryce Harper and Manny Machado get set to break the bank, here are the five worst contracts in MLB right now.
Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are the top prizes in this year’s MLB free agent class, and they may be nearing decisions on where they will sign. Both are looking at deals worth $25-$30 million per year, over 7-10 years.
The fallacy of such long contracts has been shown over time, but Harper and Machado are both 26 with plenty of peak years theoretically left to fulfill a deal that goes beyond say, five years with high level production.
But there are plenty of bad contracts that are an albatross on the payroll of that player’s team, even without a salary cap in MLB, with diminishing results (related to age or injury) and multiple years of significant commitment left.
With that in mind, here are the five worst contracts in MLB right now, though a deal for Harper or Machado could be on a list like this in a few years.
5. OF Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees
A hip injury sidelined Ellsbury for all of last season, and the Yankees paid him $21.1 million for his inactivity. Over four mostly healthy seasons in New York he has only hit .264 with a .386 slugging percentage, so no team in their right mind is willing to take even part of Ellsbury’s contract off New York’s hands on the idea he’d be productive if or when he’s healthy.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said after last season that Ellsbury is “supposed” to be ready for the start of the 2019 season. Retirement seems possible if he can’t get on track by somewhere around Opening Day, but Ellsbury’s on the books for over $21 million in each of the next two seasons with a $21 million club option for 2021 ($5 million buyout).
It seems the Yankees didn’t see the two years of decline (13 home runs combined in 2012 and 2013) that followed Ellsbury’s 32-homer power surge for the Red Sox in 2011. They didn’t weaken their chief rival and they’ve gotten nothing from him, which are two defining points of a bad contract.