In the MLB, the word ‘overpaid’ brings up some not-so-good memories for certain fan bases. Alex Rodriguez for both the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, Chris Davis for the Baltimore Orioles, Bobby Bonilla and the New York Mets, and Jason Heyward and the Chicago Cubs.
While these players are all currently or have been signed to much too large deals in the past, they all earned much more money than they should have, and that the respective teams that signed them made big-time mistakes that took up a large chunk of their salary sheet while pigeonholing the team for the longevity of their respective deals.
This article will dive into the five most overpaid players currently in the MLB, but will not include the likes of Davis and Heyward, as they are most commonly brought up in this conversation. The point of this is to dig up a few players not commonly talked about, shed light on their albatross contracts and try to get into the mindset of the team that fatefully inked them to these deals.
Jordan Zimmerman – SP, Detroit Tigers
Starting the trend of an American League dominated list, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate Jordan Zimmerman is one of the longest-tenured players on the Tigers team currently, mostly due to no team wanting to take on his deal.
Signed to a five year, $110 million deal by Detroit in the 2015 offseason, Zimmerman has never reached his potential from his days in the nation’s capital for the Washington Nationals. His best season in a Tigers uniform was 2018, going 7-8 with a 4.52 ERA across 25 starts and 131.1 innings.
In his seven-year career as a National, his worst season resulted in a 4.94 ERA, but that was only across seven starts and 31 innings.
A great veteran in the clubhouse and an overall good guy, Zimmerman’s days as a Tiger may be dwindling, as his deal expires after the 2020 season. Provided his modified 10-team trade clause does not get in the way, Zimmerman could even be out before his contract is up.
For a starting pitcher to earn $25 million and pitch to barely under a 5.00 ERA, something just does not add up. Zimmerman is set for life after this payday, but his numbers never lived up to his deal in Detroit.
Current deal: 5 years, $110 million (expires in 2020)
Jacoby Ellsbury – CF, New York Yankees
A constant stream of disdain and disappointment seems to follow Jacoby Ellsbury around, as his stay in the Bronx has not been a positive one. Once viewed as a great steal from division rivals, the centerfielder now is taking up a spot on the active roster with too much money tied to his name to get rid of.
Ellsbury’s current deal of seven years, $153 million, signed in Dec. of 2013, is the exact deal that screams Yankees. A deal that makes sense up front but costs way too much and ends up not working out is exactly what the Yankees front office can hang its hat on after the Ellsbury disaster.
Forced to play him because of injuries, Ellsbury’s production has hit a brick wall. In 2019, he hit to a tune of a .264 average, seven home runs and 39 RBIs across 93 starts and 112 total games. Handcuffing the Yankees financially is a favorite pastime of fans across the league, but this deal surely takes the cake.
Current deal: 7 years, $153 million (expires in 2022, $5 million buyout in 2021)
Shin-Soo Choo – OF/DH, Texas Rangers
Yet another disappointing big-contract player who resides in the AL, Shin-Soo Choo has been a decently-solid player for the entirety of his career. Playing for the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds and now the Rangers, Choo has etched himself into the history of each of those franchises, for good and for bad.
Currently signed with Texas through the 2020 season, Choo is a 36-year old designated hitter who earned his big contract in the prime of his career and now can coast off into the sunset once he either finishes his current deal or is released.
The Rangers have had issues competing lately, and Choo can be looked at as one of those top reasons, sucking out valuable money that could have been used to bring in talent to help jumpstart the franchise. Choo never really had that big statistical year that should have led to his big contract, but here we sit.
Current deal: 7 years, $130 million (expires in 2021)
Wei-Yin Chen – SP, Miami Marlins
The lone National League entrant on this list, Wei-Yin Chen marks yet another poor move made by the Miami Marlins in an act to contend. While not having an absolutely horrid career by any means, Chen’s deal is not something that the Marlins are proud of nowadays, but what are they truly proud of anyways?
Chen signed with the Marlins in 2016 after four solid seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, three of which resulted in 31+ starts. Never posting high strikeout totals, Chen is more of a finesse pitcher, but with age (currently, he is 33) comes a downtick in production, something that Chen seems to be running into a bit.
Adding to the list of bad moves made by the Marlins, the deal that Chen is on pales in comparison to what Derek Jeter and company have done in tearing the once-promising franchise down to the ground just to fail at building it back up again. Chen should be able to bide his time in Miami for the remainder of his current deal and see if he wants to continue pitching after.
Current deal: 4 years, $75.8 million (expires in 2022, provided 2021 performance bonuses are vested, otherwise would have 2021 year canceled and become a free agent in 2020)
Side note: After originally signing a five year, $80 million deal in Miami in 2016, Chen exercised a 4 year, $75.8 million player option instead, guaranteeing himself more money.
Khris Davis – OF/DH, Oakland Athletics
A player with NL ties after being traded by the Milwaukee Brewers during their 2016 rebuild, Khris Davis has made a name for himself as one of the league’s best designated hitters. Someone who was relegated to right field or the bench due to his below-average throwing arm while in Milwaukee, Davis was shipped out and immediately plugged into the DH role at the Coliseum.
In one of the most impressive career feats, Davis has hit for a .247 average for the last four seasons IN A ROW, dating back to his final season in Milwaukee, 2015. A remarkably-steady feat for the slugger, Davis is a masher, having belted 42+ long balls the past three seasons, combined with 102+ runs driven in.
His strikeout numbers are quite atrocious though, having struck out 175, 195 and 166 times the past three seasons, high numbers for someone whose only role in the game is to hit and not play the field.
Paying DHs position player money is becoming the norm in the league, and Davis is no exception, being paid $16.5 million on a one-year deal that helped him avoid arbitration.
Probably the most deserving player on the list of his current deal, Davis earns more money annually than Jose Abreu, Chris Sale (his new deal kicks in next year) and Kris Bryant. Something about that seems wrong but good for Davis and the other players on this list for getting their own and securing the bag.
Current deal: 1 year, $16.5 million