Trade bait. Lots of the guys on this year's most overpaid list are already dangling from hooks and in the water, and there'd be even more if their minnow-like production wasn't attached to contracts of whale-like proportions. Those guys are really hard to deal.
Let's get one thing straight: We've got nothing personal against overpaid players. They're getting as much money as they can, and we can't blame them for that. (I once said to a friend, "I wouldn't mind being overpaid." He quipped back, "How do you know you're not already?" Touché.)
We're just saying, these guys aren't providing much bang for the buck. And if you're a fan of any of these teams or players, you know it. You might be rooting for them (I'm rooting for Piazza. C'mon, Mike! Give first base another try!), but you'd probably cringe if you had to hand them their paychecks every other week.
There are plenty of worthy candidates we left off because this is a list of 10. And we left off guys who haven't played much, or at all, because of injury. So, we're taking it easy on the Darren Dreiforts of the baseball world.
10. Bernie Williams (OF, Yankees, $12,357,143)
Oh, Bernie. He's one of our favorite Yankees (and we don't have many). But he's hitting .240 with six HR and 37 RBI, which projects out to well off his lifetime marks in those categories, and he's one of the worst regular outfielders in the bigs, ranking 79th in win shares.
9. Cristian Guzman (SS, Nationals, $4,200,000)
The worst player in baseball this year. Or, to put it statistically: .186 batting average, .226 on-base percentage, .275 slugging percentage.
8. Phil Nevin (1B, Padres, $9,492,689)
There are lots of overpaid first basemen floating around -- Todd Helton, Darin Erstad and Sean Casey come to mind -- but Nevin seems to fit the mold best. He never has played more than 147 games in a season (and won't again this year), and he's clearly on the downside of his career. Just a few days ago, Nevin rejected a deal that would have sent him to Baltimore in exchange for Sidney Ponson. Straight up for Ponson? To borrow from Jim Bouton, "that in itself must make a man think."
7. Sidney Ponson (SP, Orioles, $8,500,000)
Left-handed hitters must drool when they see they'll be facing Baltimore's 253-pound warrior. They're hitting .361 against him this year, with a nifty .928 OPS. If only that were the whole story. Ponson never has been much better than average, but in 2004 (11-15, 5.30 ERA) and again this year, he has been much worse. Hence the 7-9 record, and the 5.91 ERA. And in July, he has been just awful, losing four straight and piling up an 8.84 ERA for the month. That's trade bait only for a team that's starving.
6. Kirk Rueter (SP, Giants, $6,928,685)
After Rueter's excellent 2002 season, in which he went 14-8 with a 3.23 ERA, ate up 203 innings and pitched well in the playoffs, the Giants rewarded him with a two-year, $12 million contract extension. Which is why they're paying him big bucks this year for a 2-7 record, a 5.73 ERA and a 24/45 strikeout/walk ratio. Of course, 2002 was Rueter's career year in just about every way, and perhaps the most telling stat for the placement pitcher is that 2002 was the only year he ever has pitched 200 or more innings. This year, he's on pace to earn $43,304 an inning.
5. Adrian Beltre (3B, Mariners, $11,400,000)
When Beltre signed with Seattle this past winter, the Mariners thought they were set at third base: For five years and $64 million, they had signed a 25-year-old who had just finished a .334/48/121 season, numbers that dwarfed his previous career stats. This year, he's batting .259 (actually not much lower than his career average) with 12 dingers and 49 RBI. Maybe he's just having an off year and 2004 was truly an indicator of things to come. On the other hand, maybe 2004 was it.
4. Mike Piazza (C, Mets, $16,071,429)
As a Mets fan who likes Piazza and thinks he's one of the toughest and classiest players in the major leagues, it pains me to have to list him here. But the truth is, he's a liability to the Mets as a backstop; he has thrown out only eight of 69 baserunners who've tried to steal off him, making it almost not worth the trouble (and risk) of throwing down to second. Aside from that, Piazza, the ninth-highest paid player in baseball, just can't hit all that well anymore. He's batting .266 with 12 HR and 45 RBI, which means he's still one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball, but that ain't saying much.