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Analyzing the biggest contracts in Major League Baseball history

Cano and Kershaw are new additions to the top 10

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Analyzing the biggest contracts in Major League Baseball history
Keith Allison/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
Analyzing the biggest contracts in Major League Baseball history

Clayton Kershaw

(Updated May 2014)

Jay Z has 99 problems (seems a little high, doesn't it? I mean, the guy does everything well), but Robinson Cano isn't one. The Seattle Mariners are on his nice list, too.

The 2014 offseason has given us two new additions to the largest contracts in baseball history. Cano's 10-year, $240 million deal with the Mariners matched Albert Pujols dollar for dollar, and Clayton Kershaw joined the top six all-time by agreeing to a seven-year, $215 million extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Let's break down baseball's biggest contracts, while trying to avoid getting on Jay Z's bad side:

1. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 10 years, $275 million

  • Contract duration: 2008-17
  • How it's worked out: Um, not well. To be fair to A-Rod, he was productive in the first three years of his new deal, averaging 32 homers and 109 RBI from 2008 to 2010. In the last three years, Rodriguez has played in a combined 265 games and has 41 homers and 138 RBI. And unless he is part of a legal miracle, he'll miss the entire 2014 season because of his 162-game suspension.

2. Alex Rodriguez, Rangers: 10 years, $252 million

  • Contract duration: 2001-10
  • How it worked out: Rodriguez and the Yankees renegotiated this deal prior to the 2008 season. From 2001-07 (the first three years were spent in Texas), he earned every penny, winning three American League MVP Awards, earning seven All-Star nods and averaging 47 homers and 130 RBI.

3. (tie) Robinson Cano, Mariners: 10 years, $240 million

  • Contract duration: 2014-23
  • How it will work out: In the short term, you have to figure Cano will be a solid investment for the Mariners. He's a .309 career hitter who has played at least 159 games for seven consecutive seasons. He's averaged 29 homers and 107 RBI the last four years. A potential problem: The deal runs until he's approaching his 41st birthday on Oct. 22, 2023.

3. (tie) Albert Pujols, Angels: 10 years, $240 million

  • Contract duration: 2012-21
  • How it's worked out: It's almost unfathomable to think Pujols has played in only 235 games, batted .275 and averaged 24 homers and 85 RBI in his first two seasons with the Angels. In 11 years with the Cardinals, he won three National League MVPs, hit .328 with a 1.037 OPS and had norms of 41 homers and 121 RBI. Now, the Angels have to be shuddering at the thought of paying Pujols a combined $114 million from 2018-21, a span in which he will be age 38, 39, 40 and 41.

5. Joey Votto, Reds: 10 years, $225 million

  • Contract duration: 2014-23
  • How it will work out: Votto is a terrific hitter (.314 career) and is the best in the business at drawing walks (he's led the NL in each of the last three years). But if I'm the Reds, I'd like to see a little more power from a $225 million first baseman. In 2012 and '13, Votto averaged 19 homers and 65 RBI. The previous two years, he had norms of 33 homers and 108 RBI. Like Cano and Pujols, his monster contract will last until he hits the big 4-0 in 2023.

6. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: Seven years, $215 million

  • Contract duration: 2014-20
  • How it will work out: Kershaw will turn 26 prior to the start of the 2014 season, and he couldn't have picked a better time to win three consecutive NL ERA crowns. More than $30 million per year is incredibly steep for a pitcher who might not make as many starts as he makes millions in the next seven seasons, but the Dodgers are signing Kershaw for what should be the best years of his career. In 2013, he was 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA and 232 strikeouts.

7. Prince Fielder, Rangers: Nine years, $214 million

  • Contract duration: 2012-20
  • How it's worked out: Fielder was productive in two regular seasons for the Tigers, hitting .295 with averages of 28 homers and 107 RBI. But he has struggled mightily in the postseason (.194 with a .620 OPS in his career), and his home-run total was a sharp decline from his norm of 40 from 2007-11. On Nov. 20, the Tigers traded him to Texas for Ian Kinsler and agreed to pay $30 million of the $168 million that remains on Fielder's contract.

8. Derek Jeter, Yankees: 10 years, $189 million

  • Contract duration: 2001-10
  • How it worked out: Better than any other on this list, at least for now. During the decade in which he was making almost $19 million per season, Jeter hit .300 or better seven times, earned eight All-Star nods and won five Gold Gloves.

9. Joe Mauer, Twins: Eight years, $184 million

  • Contract duration: 2011-18
  • How it's worked out: Mauer, like Votto, is a sensational hitter. Votto, however, is Barry Bonds compared to Mauer when it comes to power. The latter batted .319 in 2012 and .324 last season, but has a combined 24 homers and 162 RBI the last three years. He will be 35 during the final season of his contract, and the Twins have transitioned him to part-time catcher, part-time first baseman/DH to ease the wear and tear.

10. (tie) Mark Teixeira, Yankees: Eight years, $184 million

  • Contract duration: 2009-16
  • How it's worked out: Teixeira hit .308 with 33 homers and 121 RBI for the Braves and Angels in 2008, and he was productive in his first three years in the Big Apple (averages of 157 games, 37 homers and 114 RBI). But he struggled in 2012, hitting .251 with 24 homers and 84 RBI, and he was limited to 53 at-bats by injury last season. He will be 36 during the final year of his contract.

10. (tie) Justin Verlander, Tigers: Seven years, $180 million

  • Contract duration: 2013-19
  • How it's worked out: Maybe 2013 was just a minor blip for Verlander, who had his worst ERA (3.46) and WHIP (1.32) since 2008. He will be 35 during the last year of his contract. In the short term, however, big things should still be expected from the 2011 AL MVP, who went a combined 41-13 with a 2.52 ERA and 489 Ks in 2011 and '12.

Honorable mention

The players ranked 12-15 on the biggest contract list:

  • 12. Felix Hernandez, Mariners: Seven years, $175 million; contract runs from 2013-19
  • 13. Buster Posey, Giants: Nine years, $167 million; contract runs from 2013-21
  • 14. CC Sabathia, Yankees: Seven years, $161 million; contract runs through 2015
  • 15. (tie) Matt Kemp, Dodgers: Eight years, $160 million; contract runs from 2012-19
  • 15. (tie) Manny Ramirez, Red Sox: Eight years, $160 million; unbelievably, that monster contract expired in 2008
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