Ranking the 10 worst contracts in the National League Central
By Greg Simons
No. 9: Ke’Bryan Hayes, $67.5M remaining
Sure, the Pirates just signed Hayes to this deal. Yes, Hayes is a standout defender at the hot corner. And of course, this is an eight-year deal, so the average annual value is low. This is unlikely to be a bad deal. Again, the NL Central teams don’t sign too many bad contracts.
However, there is risk. Hayes hasn’t fully established himself as a major leaguer. He’s played fewer than one full season’s worth of games. Many players have dropped off the face of the earth after a brief run of success in the big leagues.
Hayes also has suffered wrist injuries that have sent him to the injured list more than once in his career, and that’s the kind of malady that often saps power. And recurring injuries could lead to an early ending to his career, leaving Pittsburgh with a big chunk of change paying for zero production.
And while power is a very desirable trait, it’s not been a big part of Hayes’ game to this point. He has 11 career MLB home runs, though his 37 doubles are nice and allude to the possibility of over-the-fence pop in the future.
Then there’s the odd structure of this contract. Unlike most early career deals that pay players something similar to their pre-arb and arbitration salaries for what would have been those seasons, Hayes is getting $10M this year and next, $7M per year from 2024 through ’27, and $8M a season in 2028 and ’29, along with a $6M buyout of a $12M option for 2030. While that could make Hayes more appealing to trade partners down the line, it’s more money out of the Pirates’ purses now, and $10M today is more valuable than $10M 7-8 years in the future.
Is Hayes’ contract likely to come back to bite Pittsburgh? Probably not. While the worst case is a total washout, his high floor offers a strong defender at an important position who is just an adequate contributor at the plate. For an AAV of under $9M per season, that’s not a bad risk for any team to take.