What are the 10 worst contracts not just for the Cardinals, but in the NL Central, focusing on the future and not so much on past performances?
With four of the five teams in the division in small- or medium-sized markets, most of the NL Central squads can’t afford to make bad decisions on big-ticket players and hope to remain competitive. The good thing is, for the most part they haven’t made these mistakes. For the most part. There still are some contracts that are hurting teams now and/or have the risk of hurting them in the long term.
This analysis of the ten worst pacts in the division won’t consider the past. What we’re looking at here is the worst contracts based on the remaining money on the deal. Buy-outs are factored in, but deferrals are not. Let’s get to it.
No. 10 (tie): Paul DeJong, $17M remaining; Lorenzo Cain, $13.5M remaining
What team couldn’t use a slick-fielding shortstop or a rangy center fielder? Every franchise would love to have at least one of each, right?
Fair enough, but what if neither one of them could hit? That quickly becomes a problem when you have a hole in your lineup, because in today’s game, every position player is expected to be able to contribute on both sides of the ball, especially on playoff contenders.
DeJong’s hitting has been trending downward since his debut season with the Cardinals in 2017 when he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .285/.325/.532, which was a 121 OPS+, with 25 home runs. Before being sent down to Triple-A recently, he had compiled a ghastly .130/.209/.208 line with a single homer and three doubles.
The remaining money isn’t big, which is why he’s at the bottom of the list, but there’s enough debate about whether DeJong will get back to being a major league-caliber hitter that his contract can be viewed as a potential waste of money.
Cain’s hitting peaked in his late 20s, which is pretty common. However, he’s now 36 and hasn’t had an above-average bat in a full season since 2018, when he posted a .308/.395/.417 line for a 119 OPS+ and finished seventh in MVP voting in his first season with the Brewers. Much has changed in four years, as Cain has started out this year batting .182/.247/.216 in his first 97 plate appearances.
Milwaukee can either ride out the final year of his contract and employ Cain as a platoon player and defensive replacement or cut its losses and eats the remainder of his contract. Either way, the rest of the money is pretty much a sunk cost with little upside.