Barry Zito contract almost expired and it might have been worth the 126 million
I'm embarrassed to admit that I remember exactly where I was when I found out that the Giants signed Barry Zito before the 2007 season. Needless to say, the seven-year, $126 million contract hasn't worked out exactly as planned and Giants fans have known it was a mistake for, oh, the last six years or so.
They say you can't really judge a contract until it ends, however. So now, with probably just weeks left in his Giants career, I think we're free to start making some definitive statements about Zito's time in black and orange.
Seven years, $126 million. It's on every single internet top-10 list of worst contracts in sports and rightfully so. Compared to other disgusting contracts from recent memory, it's about as bad as it gets.
He's made an average of $18 million a year and, in the seven seasons since the payday, his average WAR has been 0.44. His average WAA (Wins above average) has been -0.8. Yikes.
Here are some other horrifyingly bad contracts for perspective:
Vernon Wells (2008-2014, $126 million): WAR: 1.31, WAA: -0.45.
Alfonso Soriano (2007-2014, $136 million): WAR: 1.11, WAA: -0.33.
Carl Crawford (2011-2017!!!, $142 million): WAR:.733, WAA:-0.5.
Mike Hampton (2001-2008, $121 million): WAR: 0.5, WAA: -0.68
Ryan Howard (2012-2016, $125 million): WAR:-0.2, WAA: -1.15
Tim Lincecum (2012-13, $40.5 million): WAR: -1.15, WAA: -2.5
So Zito's contract isn't the most disastrous thing that's ever happened in the history of the universe, as some might have you believe. Lincecum and Howard have posted worse WARs and none of the guys on that list can reasonably argue that their contract was significantly better than Zito's. And this is just a quick sample. Every team has bad contracts.
Zito's contract isn't even the worst on the Giants. Lincecum has been worse relative to his salary and Aaron Rowand, another big time acquisition, wasn't great either with an average WAA of -0.825 in his four years with SF while raking in about $11.6 million per year.
Where's A-Rod, you ask? Or Mark Teixeira? Or Johan Santana? They are all overpaid, certainly, but they are in an entirely different category. Those players at least contributed.
A WAR of 2 or more is considered to be a starting-caliber player. Teixeira and Rodriguez have had WARs of 2 or more every season (before 2013, of course) that they've been with the Yankees and, besides injuries, Santana has been very good for the Mets.
Have they lived up to their contracts? Of course not. But they've at least been positive contributors. Zito, Lincecum, and Howard have actually hurt their teams for the most part.
The difference between Zito's contract and Howard/Lincecum is number of years of consistently poor performance. At least the Giants will be off the hook with Lincecum after this season and their is a theoretical possibility--that's about as far as I'll go--that Howard turns it around. But Zito's contract has just kept going and going and going. Crawford, Howard, Pujols, Hamilton, and other long term contracts have the potential to be as bad as Zito's, but aren't even close yet.
Enjoy the next decade or so, Angels fans. This is your punishment for that annoying Rally Monkey (Yes, I am still bitter about the 2002 World Series).
I started writing this post because I wanted to compare Zito's contract with other bad ones and see if it really was that bad, if maybe the hate had gotten out of control. In the end, the answer is YES, it was that bad. Maybe not the absolute worst ever, but considering duration and performance, it's been objectively horrible. But that raised another, possibly more interesting question.