Baseball's 20 Most Expensive Busts In 2010

alex rodriguez baseball arod yankees

Yesterday we looked at the biggest bargains in Major League Baseball for the 2010 season. These are the players that allow the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds of the world to compete with the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies.

Now let’s take a look at the other end of the spectrum. We will call these guys the “roster killers.” Of course, that is a bit of an exaggeration. Some of these guys are actually good players, but their production doesn’t even come close to matching their monthly paycheck. So while these players are still productive, in many cases their salaries keep their respective teams from adding other needed players.

To do this we will compare a player’s on-field value (WAR Dollars) to their 2010 salary. Here are the top 20 biggest busts in baseball for the 2010 season…

MLB's Biggest Busts

According to WAR*, Carlos Lee was the biggest bust in baseball this season. His production was worth -$3.0 million, which was $21.5 million below his $18.5 million salary. Negative production suggests that the Astros would have been better off releasing Lee and signing a minor league free agent. Rounding out the top five are Alex Rodriguez (Yankees), Todd Helton (Rockies) and a pair of Mets, Carlos Beltran and Oliver Perez.

As we look at the list, a few things stick out…

  • 13 of the players on the list had negative WAR values. These players actually performed worse this season than your typical replacement-level player off the street.
  • Like the Best Bargains list, only five players on this list are pitchers. This suggests that teams have gotten smarter about handing out big contracts to risky pitchers.
  • Both the Yankees (Rodriguez, Javier Vazquez, Derek Jeter) and Mets (Perez, Beltran, Gary Matthews Jr) have three players on the list. Although to be fair, most of Matthews’ 2010 salary was paid by the Angels. No other team has more than one player on the list.

It is easy to see why teams like the Mets, Astros and Cubs have struggled despite large payrolls. Meanwhile, we see other teams like the Yankees and Phillies are still successful despite overpaying for productive players.

*Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a way to calculate how many wins a player is worth to their team. WAR is nice because it allows us to compare all players (pitchers and hitters) on one scale and it includes all aspects of a player’s abilities (hitting, pitching, fielding). It is not perfect. For example, catchers are undervalued because it is still difficult to measure a catcher’s defensive abilities. These wins can then be translated into a dollar value (~$4M per win).

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