MLB Sports

MLB’s Weirdest 2017 Contracts


With the MLB winter meetings approaching, and free agency in full swing, everyone’s teams are doling out contracts, getting ready to dole out contracts or make big trades. These contracts are usually met with fanfare and with lofty goals attached to them, but sometimes they end up a footnote at the bottom of the payroll years on. With non-guaranteed contracts in the NFL and an inability to defer money in the NBA (except for the stretch provision), these weird contracts are almost solely the purview of Major League Baseball.

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Everyone knows the grand-daddy of all hilarious contracts, and that is the annual $1.19 million the Mets deposit in Bobby Bonilla’s bank account from now until 2035, despite the fact that Bobby Bonilla hasn’t donned a Mets uniform since Bill Clinton was president.

While none match the hilarity of Bobby Bonilla Day (every July 1), there are a handful of quirky contract obligations out there in MLB, and here are five of the quirkiest for 2017 (contract details are from spotrac.com). Please note: none of the players on this list even play for the team paying them their cash this year.

Cincinnati Reds – Ken Griffey, Jr: $3.59 million (annually, through 2024)

Like Bonilla, the Reds’ contract obligation to Ken Griffey, Jr. is due to the Reds signing Griffey to a deferred contract. Griffey’s was only half-deferred, with Griffey set to get $3.59 million annually from 2009 until 2024.  Griffey played for two more teams after Cincy, and he hasn’t picked up a bat since 2010. Sitting at home for $3.59 million a year until you turn 55 isn’t a bad gig if you can get it.

NOTE: The Reds also owe Bronson Arroyo $1.36 million, annually, until 2021.

Detroit Tigers – Texas Rangers, $6 million (through 2020)

That’s not a typo. Despite Prince Fielder retiring last season, the Rangers, and by extension, the Tigers, still owe for his contract. While insurance picks up part of the deal, a term of the Kinsler-Fielder swap dictates that the Tigers owe $6 million a season to the Rangers for their part of the deal. In reality, they’re paying Fielder, but the accounting makes this one better.

Oakland Athletics – Billy Butler, $11.66 million

“Country Breakfast” was about as massive a free agent Billy Beane allows himself to splurge on, and he fell on his face. Better known for his propensity for grounding into double plays and for getting zero support after Danny Valencia punched him in the face, Country Breakfast finds himself an eight-figure free agent after being released. The rub? He currently makes $4 million more than any Athletic still on the roster.

 San Diego Padres – The Regret Pupu Platter, $34.46 million
Specifically: Melvin Upton, James Shields, Hector Olivera, Matt Kemp, Jedd Gyorko and Alexei Ramirez

Upton, Shields and Kemp were all acquired before the 2015 season in a push to win the offseason. Gyorko was moved for Jon Jay in a move the Padres regret (Jay recently left to join the Cubs, and Gyorko had a career year).

Olivera was obtained specifically to cut him (they price they had to pay to get out from under Matt Kemp), and Alexei Ramirez didn’t even make it all the way through 2016 after signing as a free agent last year. The Padres made a big push, and it didn’t even come close to working out, and now they have almost $35 million on the books for their troubles after they tore it all back down again.

Upton, Shields, and Kemp were all acquired before the 2015 season in a push to win the offseason. Gyorko was moved for Jon Jay in a move the Padres regret (Jay recently left to join the Cubs, and Gyorko had a career year). Olivera was obtained specifically to cut him (they price they had to pay to get out from under Matt Kemp), and Alexei Ramirez didn’t even make it all the way through 2016 after signing as a free agent last year.The Padres made a big push, and it didn’t even come close to working out, and now they have almost $35 million on the books for their troubles after they tore it all back down again.

The Padres made a big push, and it didn’t even come close to working out, and now they have almost $35 million on the books for their troubles after they tore it all back down again.

Boston Red Sox – Manny Ramirez, $2 million (through 2026)
Much like Bonilla and Griffey, Manny is still owed money from his playing days. He is getting the remains of his eight-year, $160 million contract. Starting in 2010, per the terms of a restructuring/buyout, Manny will get the last $32 million of his contract from the Red Sox for sixteen years, $2 million at a time.He’s up for election in the Hall of Fame this year, and he’ll have the scratch to make it to the ceremony if he’s elected. Manny being Manny indeed.

He’s up for election in the Hall of Fame this year, and he’ll have the scratch to make it to the ceremony if he’s elected. Manny being Manny indeed.


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