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5 MLB stars who aren’t living up to their contract

Matt Johnson
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As front offices across MLB look for ways to trim budgets and maximize value, the days of numerous jaw-dropping contracts being given out are dwindling. When you look at how poorly things have worked out for teams that handed out huge deals to some of the game’s biggest names, it’s not hard to blame teams for cutting costs.

We all know about the laughable contracts like Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. However, the examples of stars not living up to their salaries go beyond the players bordering on retirement. They can also be found among recent stars.

Here are MLB’s five biggest stars that aren’t living up to their massive contracts.

Buster Posey, catcher, San Francisco Giants ($22.2M)

When San Francisco signed Posey to an eight-year, $153 million extension in 2013, he just won his second World Series ring and first batting title. The Giants enjoyed five more great seasons from the face of their organization, but now the contract is a significant problem.

Posey’s contract is back-loaded, so most of the money is paid out at a time when he has hit seven home runs with a .387 slugging percentage in 585 plate appearances since 2018. Concussions and persistent injuries are becoming greater problems and his .718 OPS this season is the worst since he became a starting catcher in 2010.

A move to first base is looming and since he’s owed a combined $45.8 million in 2020 and ’21, including the team’s $3M buyout for ’22, this albatross of a contract with declining production will be stuck in San Francisco for quite some time.

Yu Darvish, starting pitcher, Chicago Cubs ($20M)

After striking gold with the contract it awarded to Lester, Chicago’s luck evaporated with Darvish. He signed a six-year, $126 million contract during the 2018 offseason and everything since has largely been a disaster.

The 32-year-old only made eight starts in 2018 before being sidelined and this season hasn’t been much better with a 5.06 ERA in 10 starts. Unless he experiences a massive and unexpected turnaround this season, he’ll likely opt-in and take the remaining $81 million owed over the remaining four seasons of the contract.

Joey Votto, first base, Cincinnati Reds ($25M)

It’s impossible to not love Votto’s personality, but his play on the diamond is tough to watch for any baseball fan. After seeing his home run total drop from 36 in 2017 to 12 last year, the full regression is hitting him hard this season.

Votto’s .208/.318/.333 slash line is by far the worst mark in his career. His OBP has dropped .100 points from 2018 and he is almost becoming an automatic out in the lineup. Cincinnati still owes him $25 million over each of the next five seasons and it’s easy to see his play getting even worse, despite his growing frustration, after his Age-35 season.

Rick Porcello, starting pitcher, Boston Red Sox ($21.1M)

It seems impossible that this same pitcher won the AL Cy Young award in 2016. Ever since that wild season, everything has gone downhill for Porcello. The 30-year-old righty carries a 4.47 ERA since 2017 and things aren’t improving for him in 2019. Porcello’s 4.45 ERA and 1.31 WHIP are below average and his 0.5 Wins Above Replacement is among of peers that include Andrew Cashner, Mike Fiers and Aaron Sanchez.

Fortunately for Boston, its relationship with Porcello can end after this season. It should not explore an extension, as the time to move on from the declining starter is this offseason.

Yadier Molina, catcher, St. Louis Cardinals ($20M)

Molina is beloved in the city and many love to defend the aging catcher as one of the best in baseball. Realistically, the signs of decline are obvious for Molina and it’s becoming even more apparent in his Age-36 season.

Among catchers with 100-plus plate appearances, he ranks 18th in OBP (.297), WAR (0.3), 15th in OPS (.709) and 12th in home runs (four). Behind the plate, Molina ranks 14th in Defensive Runs Saved (-3) and ranks 12th in pitch framing (-1.2), according to FanGraphs.

He’s the second-highest paid catcher in MLB and is outperformed by catchers making less a quarter of his salary. Molina will be owed an additional $20 million in 2020 and it seems St. Louis is paying him only for his reputation these days.