Cardinals: Ranking the 10 worst contracts in the National League Central Division

The NL Central, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, generally doesn't have a ton of bad contracts, however, no organization is immune to mistakes. Today, we'll sift through the worst deals in the division!

Steven Matz faces the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium
Steven Matz faces the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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9) Christian Yelich

Christian Yelich is having a great season. Now, he's not reliving his glory days. He led the NL in OPS in both 2018 and 2019 and captured the 2018 NL MVP award. Frankly, he deserved the 2019 award as well, but I digress. After the second of those monstrous seasons, the Brewers locked Yelich up long-term, signing him for the next seven years. The deal was worth $188.5MM. The Brewers had a franchise cornerstone and were paying him like one.

2020 was a weird season for many players, but perhaps none suffered the way Yelich did. His production cratered. His OPS dipped by nearly 350 points, and it only got worse in 2021. He was a shell of his former self, being paid like a superstar. He also moved to left field full-time, as his arm had declined significantly. Yelich was no longer an elite defensive outfielder, and 2022 represented a third consecutive down year at the plate.

Then, 2023 happened. Yelich isn't an MVP candidate, but he's the Brewers' best hitter. He's leading them into September with a division lead and great odds to make the postseason. Is this current iteration of Yelich worth $26MM? Probably not, and that's why he finds himself on this list. He's making more than Paul Goldschmidt, the reigning MVP! But it's nowhere near the disaster it could have been. Yelich has rediscovered himself offensively, and advanced metrics suggest there could still be room for improvement.

Hoping for MVP-level performance is almost always futile, but Yelich doesn't need to be his 2019 self to justify the contract. He just needs to continue being the club's best hitter. The high monetary value and the long-term nature of the deal still carry risks. Yelich could easily regress in 2024 or 2025, and in that case, he would rocket up this list. But, for now, the deal is perfectly reasonable and Brewers' personnel are undoubtedly glad to have Yelich on their squad.