Just last week, the NHL stepped in and decided to void the brand-new contract the Devils gave Illya Kovalchuk. The league is also investigating several other deals across the league — including Bruins center Marc Savard — in attempt to determine whether or not teams are front-loading deals to circumvent the salary cap.
The Mets are also reportedly trying to find a way out of their contract with Francisco Rodriguez, who is out for the year after sustaining an injury … while fighting his father-in-law.
While these teams are hoping these contracts will stand, there are plenty of pro sports teams that are envious of these NHL teams. Every offseason, regardless of the sport, there seems to be at least one contract signed that ends up being just terrible for the team who signs it.
Awful contracts are a part of today’s sports landscape. Look no further than the deals of players like Chan Ho Park. The Korean pitcher signed a six-year, $65 million deal with the Rangers in 2002. In just his first two years of his contract, Park went 10-11 with a 6.06 ERA while only making 32 starts over the two seasons.
Not much bang for your buck if you’re the Rangers.
That contract has since passed and Park is now making just over $1 million to pitch for the Pirates. There are plenty of teams in each sport, though, who would love to be able to void regrettable contracts.
Here are the Top 10 contracts that teams wish they could void.
Oh, Danny Boy
Danny Briere, widely considered at one point as one of the NHL’s best young talents, broke out in his final year with the Sabres. The young forward racked up a career-high 95 points with a plus-17 rating, all while playing in 81 games.
That impressive performance came at the perfect time (a trend on this list) and earned Briere an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Flyers. Since signing that deal, Briere has only averaged a little more than 50 points per season after only playing 29 games in 2008-09.
A 50-point average isn’t terrible, but when you’re paying that kind of money on a player, it’s likely you’ll want more.
Thumbs Down for Fonz
Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano had a historic 2006 season. He became only the fourth member of the “40-40 Club” by hitting 46 home runs and stealing 41 bases. Since then, things haven’t gone very well for Soriano.
The following offseason, Soriano signed with the Chicago Cubs for an incredible eight years and $136 million. Since then, it’s been all downhill.
In Soriano’s defense, he’s struggled to stay healthy (playing no more than 117 games since 2008), but that was supposed to be part of the package. In fact, in his time with the Yankees, Rangers and Nationals, Soriano never played in fewer than 145 games. The most he’s played since joining going to the Windy City: 135 games. Not exactly a great return on investment.
A Barry Bad Contract
Barry Zito showed signs early this year of the pitcher he was in Oakland, but other than that, his time in San Francisco has been abysmal. Despite that, he’s still getting paid as one of the best pitchers in baseball.
When Zito signed his deal, he was one of the best in the bigs.
The 2002 Cy Young winner was an All-Star in his final year with the A’s, going 16-10 with a 3.83 ERA. That was Zito’s last good year.
He stayed in the Bay Area, but signed with the Giants instead. And boy, did he get paid. Zito signed with the Giants for seven years and $126 million. His ERA since joining the Giants? it’s 4.32. And he’s 10 games under .500 (39-49). But, he is averaging 30 starts a year, so at least he’s been dependably bad.
If you were Elton Brand, you’d be making a hair under $16 million this year. Also, if you were Elton Brand, you’d probably underachieve greatly.
The 76ers practically stole Brand from the Clippers, inking the forward to a five-year deal worth just under $80 million. The Clippers weren’t thrilled at the time, but they’ve got to be feeling a little better about things now. In his first season with the Sixers, Brand played in only 29 games. In his second season last year, he averaged 13 points and six rebounds. Not quite the type of production you’d expect from someone making roughly $195,000 per game — if he played in all 82 games.
Carlos Lee played in all 162 games for the Astros in 2007 while hitting 32 home runs and driving in 119. Since then, it’s been a slow regression for the outfielder.
Lee signed a six-year, $100 million deal before the 2007 season after a career year in 2006.
His numbers have slid every year since he got to Houston, but his pay continues to increase. He made no more than $12.5 million for the first couple of years with the Astros, but 2009 marked the start of three straight years in which the big guy will be paid $19 million before he sees a slight pay decrease and makes only $18.5 million in 2011 and 2012 — the last two years of the deal.
“For my next trick, this contract will disappear … “
Who was the second-highest paid player in the NBA last year? LeBron James? Kobe Bryant? Carmelo Anthony? No, no and no. It was Magic forward Rashard Lewis. No, seriously.
Last year, Lewis made $20.5 million. Apparently $20 million doesn’t get you what it used to. Lewis averaged 14 points and four rebounds. Granted, he’s competing for rebounds with world-class rebounder Dwight Howard, but still — four?
Lewis is 6-foot-10, by the way.
His numbers got even worse in the playoffs, especially in the conference finals against the Celtics. He averaged eight points and six rebounds. Even worse news for the Magic? They’ve got Lewis locked up through 2013.
That’s a whole lot of gym memberships …
Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has a reputation for throwing money at free agents. He, unfortunately, also has a reputation for throwing money at free agents that don’t pan out. One of the “biggest” examples of that has to be defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.
A lot has been made about Haynesworth’s inability to pass his mandatory fitness test to be able to practice. However, Haynesworth’s problems in D.C. started before that. After signing a deal that guaranteed Haynesworth an NFL-record $41 million in guaranteed money, the big defensive tackle came out and registered only 30 tackles and a measly four sacks. By contrast, in his final year in Tennessee, he had 41 tackles and 8 1/2 sacks.
Throw in his bickering about a change in defensive schemes, and you’ve got the makings of an ugly contract situation.
There’s no questioning Gilbert Arenas‘ talent on the basketball court. When he’s playing, he’s one of the better guards in the league, a real dynamic force. However, when you bring guns to the locker room and pull them out, regardless of the reason, you’re going to miss some time on the court.
That, of course, happened to Arenas last year, and rumors surfaced shortly thereafter that the Wizards were trying to get out from under the deal with Arenas, who is still owed $80 million over the next four years.
When you have that much money invested in an employee, and that employee brings a gun to work, it’s probably a safe bet you might look into voiding that contract, no matter how good they are at what they do.
Pronk is Pretty Pricey
In 2005 and 2006, Indians first baseman Travis Hafner exploded as one of the game’s elite power hitters. In those two seasons, he averaged 38 home runs and 112 RBIs, all while putting together an OPS of 1.049. Hafner, quite frankly, deserved to be paid like one of the game’s best big boppers.
In the middle of the 2007 season, the Tribe paid up. Ever since then, it’s a decision they likely regret. Hafner has been hampered with injuries since. In 2008 he played in only 57 games. In 2009, only 94.
His power numbers are slowly creeping back up (16 homers, 49 RBIs) this year, but the Indians owe him the rest of his $11.5 million salary this year, and then a whopping $13 million per year from 2011-14. Ouch.
Is that $126 million before or after the exchange rate?
Vernon Wells was supposed to be the face of the restoration project that was the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays, struggling to stay in contention in the vicious AL East, invested a lot of time and lot of the future into Wells, who had blossomed into of the game’s best center fielders.
So before the 2007 season the Jays inked Wells to a seven-year, $126 million contract. Since then, Wells has underperformed. Since he signed the contract, he’s averaging only 18 home runs and 71 RBIs. Injuries have played a part, but not nearly enough to justify those numbers.
The most disheartening number? $25 million. That’s what the Jays owe Wells per year for the next four years, starting in 2011. His numbers have rebounded some this year, but unless he gets back to his 2003 form (33 home runs, 117 RBIs) that’s one contract the Jays are going to wish they could void in a heartbeat.