Nine figure contracts are all the rage in baseball over the past few seasons. Of the 36 contracts worth at least $100 million signed in league history, 17 of them took effect in the year 2010 or later, and 23 of them have taken effect in 2008 or later. Massive contracts have a terrible attachment to a decline in performance for players, but is that thinking actually sound? I'm going to take a look at the 13 contracts worth a total of $100 million that have taken effect before 2008, and see how they have worked out for the teams and the players that signed them.
Kevin Brown, $105 million (1999-2005)
The first $100 million player in baseball was...Kevin Brown? Yep. The Dodgers inked Brown to a seven year, $105 million deal before the 1999 season, and it looked bad even then, with Brown turning 34 before that 1999 season even began and coming off of the best season of his career in 1998 with the NL champion Padres. Brown stayed with the Dodgers for five of the seven years of the deal, getting traded to the Yankees after the 2003 season for Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban, and current Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. Through two seasons, the contract looked good for the Dodgers after Brown had back to back 230 inning seasons with a pair of sixth place Cy Young finishes. But he fell off a cliff soon after, qualifying for the ERA title just once in the final five seasons of the deal (2003). in the seven years of this contract, the Dodgers got three seasons worth at least 6.0 fWAR. The other four were worth less than 3.0 fWAR, including the final two with the Yankees.
Ken Griffey Jr, $116.5 million (2000-2008)
After the Cincinnati Reds dealt a package highlighed by Mike Cameron for Griffey, many expected The Kid to be the face of the Reds franchise for years to come while he enjoyed the prime of his career. Of course, things didn't happen that way. Griffey had 600 plate appearances just twice in his Reds career (2000 and 2007), playing in less than 100 games three times during his tenure in Cincinnati. Griffey hit 40 homers just once after the trade (in 2000) after hitting at least 40 in six of seven years prior to the trade. Ironically, during the four years where Cameron was in Seattle (2000-2003), he outproduced Griffey over his entire career with the Reds in fWAR 19.7 to 11.8.
Alex Rodriguez, $252 million (2001-2010)
Derek Jeter, $189 million (2001-2010)
Manny Ramirez, $160 million (2001-2008)
Mike Hampton $121 million (2001-2008)
The offseason after the 2000 season was when big contracts hit the fan. Rodriguez, Jeter, and Ramirez were all young, budding superstars when they signed their contracts with the Rangers, Yankees, and Red Sox respectively, but Hampton was a pitcher who had warning bells going off around him before the ink on his contract with the Rockies was even dry. After two seasons in Colorado with an ERA over 5.00 (and somehow, more walks than strikeouts in 30 starts in 2002), the Rockies ate a large portion of Hampton's contract and shipped him to the Marlins, who ate a piece of his contract before immediately moving him to the Braves. Hampton actually pitched suitably for the Braves in 2003 and 2004 and for the first half of 2005 until blowing his elbow out. He'd miss the rest of 2005 with the injury, and all of 2006 recovering from his Tommy John surgery. In the spring of 2007, Hampton tore his oblique and then blew his elbow out again, not throwing a pitch during the regular season. In 2008, he made just 13 starts of 4.85 ERA ball for the Braves, missing time with pectoral and groin injuries before his contract finally expired at the end of the season. Hampton made about $60 million over the last four years of the contract and threw a *total* of 147 1/3 innings for a team that didn't even sign him to that deal. Unbelievable.
Everyone knows about Rodriguez, Ramirez, and Jeter and what resulted from their contracts. Rodriguez had three insanely productive years in Texas before being traded to the Yankees, where he won the last two of his three MVP awards under the original contract before opting out after 2007 and inking an even bigger extension (that will end very poorly for the Yankees). Ramirez was a ridiculously productive hitter with the Red Sox during the life of his deal, helping the team win two World Championships before being dealt halfway through the final year on his contract. Finally, there's the much-maligned Jeter, who chugged right along during his nine figure contract as the Jeter than Yankees fan have known and loved for his entire career.
Jason Giambi, $120 million (2002-2008)
With Tino Martinez aging, the Yankees signed his replacement in the MVP winning Giambi, and for the first two seasons of the deal, Giambi raked, homering 41 times in each of the first two years. But then he missed half of 2004, and his range at first base was toast after that. A 4.3 fWAR 2005 was the only time over the rest of his career he'd top three wins in a season, though he did have three more 30 homer seasons and continue to walk at a double digit rate.