Not every team has a bad contract. That's what I'm finding out with this series. So far we've looked at the AL West, the AL East, and the NL East, and for every Alex Rodriguez, there's a … Ryan Dempster? Shane Victorino? I'm not sure what the worst contract is on the Red Sox.
Today's contract do-over looks at the AL Central. If every AL Central team could get rid of one contract, which one would it be?
This is a trick question. In 2016, it will probably be Prince Fielder. In 2018, it might be Justin Verlander. They have some huuuuuge contracts over the next decade, and they'll probably re-sign Miguel Cabrera to an even bigger one. This question will have a different answer soon, and it will be the kind of contract that makes a feller think up a series like this in the first place.
For now, they're contending with all of these players, and they wouldn't think of getting rid of them to save a few dollars. Mike Ilitch has already made it clear that he's willing to spend. It's not like you get a tax write-off when you die, so there's no sense in some stupid charity getting it.* Here you go, Miggy.
But the contract to Victor Martinez kind of sticks out. He has about $20 million left on his deal, and he's been a shell of a player this year. Even if the Tigers are willing to spend, $20 million is still a nice down-payment on a good player. And if they could trade Martinez in for that player, they probably would, even if what the Tigers are really going to do is wait for Martinez to come around. He probably will. I wouldn't pay $20 million to find out if I had the choice, but he probably will.
* Kidding! Jokes!
Interesting choice here between a pitcher who has fought through some nasty shoulder problems (John Danks) and a player who has been among baseball's worst for the last two years (Adam Dunn). The former has just under $40 million left for the next three-plus seasons, while the latter has about $22 million left. Is that extra $18 million worth the gamble that Danks will be fine?
Yeah, probably. Danks has pitched seven strong innings in his last two outings, and looked like the pitcher who was the model of consistency for four seasons. In other words, there's a chance.
Dunn has looked like a one-tool player not worth the one tool. This isn't going to change. He's hit .190/.314/.407 since joining the White Sox. In other words, there's no chance. If the Sox had a choice, they'd almost certainly spend the money on the guy who has at least a chance to reclaim his past glories. Though it's not like Danks was rolling around in glory in the first place. Quiet effectiveness, then.
I couldn't find Hawk Harrelson's contract online, but I'm pretty sure he works for free and sleeps in the booth, otherwise he would have … actually, wait, maybe I'll change my answer. Because that's way too much. A whole booth?
Like the Tigers, this is a bit of a placeholder for some coming attractions. Nick Swisher's power is down, now that he's out of Yankee Stadium, and he's had his frustrating moments as an Indian. Michael Bourn isn't stealing as much, and when he is, he's getting thrown out more. Plus most of the defensive metrics have downgraded him from "magic" to "quite good," which isn't a trend that's likely to reverse itself with age.
But also like the Tigers, those two are helping the Indians win now, and they would prefer to keep them around and take the hit on the back side of the contract. Mike Aviles is due $4 million before the end of next season, which is pretty pricey for a struggling utility player. He's a candidate. But he's also under contract for next year, whereas Brett Myers, who will make about that much before the end of this season, isn't.
The answer will be different in 2016, but the Indians were prepared for some stinkers in the future to get some value in the present. That's how all free-agent contracts work, mostly. So it's Myers. Also, I've never liked Myers because of how gleeful he was in this video:
It was a creepy kind of gleeful. Oh, also, he took a swing at his wife in public. That's probably more important than his reaction to a prank when it comes to forming an opinion about a guy. Not that this has anything to do with contracts. But it's probably why I feel comfortable mind-shooting him into the sun.
I'm not sure if there's a way to measure this, but the Royals might lead the league in good contracts. Salvador Perez's deal might be my favorite contract in baseball, and even the players locked up long term who are having disappointing seasons, like Alcides Escobar and Wade Davis, aren't being paid that much.
Jeremy Guthrie has a moderately big deal, at least by Royals standards, but he was paid to give average innings, and that's exactly what he's done. Ervin Santana is apparently an ace now, which we all saw coming, so a likely candidate from March didn't pan out. Really, when you look at the current roster, nothing really stands out.
Ah, but that's the trick. Current roster. The Royals are still on the hook for $3 million of Jeff Francoeur's contract, and considering that they've already eaten that money, they'd be thrilled with a rebate. The worst contract on the team was a sunk cost, and it was sunk deep into the ocean. After that, the Royals are mostly in the black when it comes to good deals.
Now let's all sit back and wait for Dayton Moore to absorb Alfonso Soriano's entire deal and move him back to second base.
The most fascinating team comes last. The Twins have the best one-two prospect combo in baseball with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Both of them are a year or two away, but it's probably not realistic to expect them to be world-beaters for a couple of years yet.
Joe Mauer is one of the very best players in the game right now, but he's also a 30-year-old due about $125 million over the next five-plus seasons. That is an incredible sum. What kind of offense will he provide when Buxton and Sano are ready? Would it be worth the risk of picking a smaller contract, like the last $6 million of Justin Morneau's deal? Mike Pelfrey and Jamey Carroll each have a little over $2 million left, and at the very least, the savings from either contract would make for one heck of an office party.
There is almost no chance of Mauer being worth his deal in the later years. Almost no chance at all. But that's on the field. He'll still be a franchise icon and clubhouse presence, and while he probably isn't going to be $20 million of franchise icon and clubhouse presence, the Twins will put up with him being bad in the future in exchange for him being really good right now. So I'll guess that Morneau would be the one to go, because $6 million is still a lot of money.
If this question came up in 2011, though, the answer would certainly have been Mauer. Which makes me wonder exactly what's changed in the last two seasons. He reclaimed his batting stroke and he seems healthy. But, boy, that sure is a lot of clams they owe that guy.