Almost every team in Major League Baseball has signed a player to a contract that they would come to regret for years. From the Mets still paying for Bobby Bonilla well after his retirement to Washington Nationals giving $175 million to an already-injured Steven Strasburg, there has been a lot of overpays in baseball history.
The Baltimore Orioles are no stranger to these types of deals, either. While some of the other teams in the division like the Yankees or Red Sox are more known for being free agent destinations, there are some Orioles signings that have been head-scratching in retrospect. Here are the five worst contracts that the O’s have given out.
5. Brian Roberts
When there’s a beloved player in the franchise that has been there for years, you tend to do whatever you can to keep them happy and have them stick around. That’s what the Orioles did for second baseman Brian Roberts in 2010. Leading up to that point, Roberts was a two-time All-Star who could hit for average and routinely flashed the leather.
The only problem, though, was that Roberts was already 32 years old by the time the 2010 season came around, but the Orioles gave him a four-year contract worth $40 million. Over those four years, Roberts played in fewer than 200 games, including one season with just 17 games. After his contract, Roberts finished his career with the Yankees to nullify being a potential Orioles lifer.
4. Ubaldo Jimenez
Ubaldo Jimenez spent much of his career with the Colorado Rockies where he defied the odds by being a good pitcher at Coors Field, posting a 3.66 earned run average and a 56-45 record in five-plus seasons. Jimenez was dealt to the Cleveland Indians where he remained through the 2013 season before the Orioles signed the former All-Star to a four-year deal worth $50 million.
Jimenez struggled right out of the gate, posting a 6-9 record with a 4.81 ERA, but would have a bit of a rebound in his second year. Over the final two seasons of his contract, though, things fell apart quickly and he combined to go 14-23 with an ERA over 6. Jimenez’s career was finished as soon as his contract was following the 2017 season.
3. Sidney Ponson
Sidney Ponson is one of those stories of what could have been in Major League Baseball. He started his career with the Orioles in 1998, and the Aruban was a fine pitcher that finished the 2003 season with a 14-6 record and 3.77 earned run average. During that season, however, Ponson was traded to the Giants before becoming a free agent.
Ponson returned to Baltimore as the team offered him $22.5 million over three years, but he would only last for two trouble-filled years. Ponson had several run-ins with the law, including two arrests for driving under the influence. When he was on the field, Ponson posted a record of 18-26 during those two years and an ERA close to 6 before the Orioles cut their losses.
2. Albert Belle
Albert Belle was known for being a bit of a hothead, but an overall great player during his time with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. A five-time Silver Slugger Award winner and All-Star, Belle had actually signed a five-year deal with the White Sox but it was nullified after two due to a stipulation about his salary.
When Belle became a free agent, the Orioles gave him $65 million for five years. Just like he did in Chicago, though, Belle lasted for just two seasons. Though he was solid in those two years, Belle’s degenerating hip cost him the remainder of his career after 2000 and he missed the final three seasons of the contract before heading into retirement. Had he continued to produce the way he did at the start of his deal, Belle would have been worth it.
1. Chris Davis
After starting his career as a slugger for the Texas Rangers where he hit 42 home runs, Chris Davis was traded to the Baltimore Orioles during the middle of the 2011 season for Koji Uehara. Davis had a strong rest of the season over 31 games and then put together an All-Star campaign in 2013 with 53 home runs and 138 runs batted in.
Davis saw a huge drop in his batting average the next year but rebounded nicely in 2015 to earn himself a seven-year contract with Baltimore for $161 million. Much of the contract was deferred, and Davis was done by the end of the 2020 season and at his worst was batting just .168 over a full season.