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Ranking MLB’s five most untradeable contracts: Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Giancarlo Stanton and more

MLB free agency is an exciting time and also something that often to lead to regret. Today’s great signing is tomorrow’s headache. Contracts can go bad for countless reasons — age, injury, poor performance, etc. — and teams are fully aware of this. They still enter into these long-term contracts because they’re willing to live with the bad years later to get the great years now.

Shohei Ohtani’s 10-year, $700 million contract is a great example. Did the Los Angeles Dodgers give him that contract expecting him to be one of the game’s best players during his age-38 season in 2033? No, probably not. They gave it to him because Ohtani is great right now, and he ups their World Series odds at a time when Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman are in their prime.

There are exceptions, like Max Scherzer’s contract with the Washington Nationals, but most long-term contracts go sour at some point and teams just have to live with them. It is often said those contracts are untradeable and that’s what we’re here to rank: the most untradeable contracts in baseball. These are contracts no other team would take even if the player came free.

Before we move forward, I must make something clear: no contract is truly untradeable. They can all be traded, it’s just a question of how much money the team is willing to eat to facilitate a trade. Chris Sale’s contract looked untradeable for a while and guess what? He was traded a few weeks ago. Robbie Ray’s contract isn’t looking so hot, but he was just traded too.

No contract is untradeable. Some are just more tradeable than others. Here now are the sport’s most untradeable contracts.

5. Javier Báez, Detroit Tigers

Contract: 6 years, $140 million (signed November 2021)
Remaining: 4 years, $98 million

The good parts of Báez are so good. He’s still so athletic and gifted defensively, and he puts a serious charge into the ball when he connects. The bad parts of Báez are so bad though, and the reason he was viewed as a risky signing even before the Tigers offered him that contract. He’s an extreme hacker and that’s contributed to his .230/.273/.362 line with Detroit.

Báez has been a 3.1 WAR player during his two years with the Tigers thanks to his glove, and, honestly, I’m surprised his WAR is that high. That’s a testament to how much he contributes in the field. Báez is not really blocking anyone at short, though I’m sure the Tigers would jump at the chance to trade him. To the surprise of no one, Báez declined to opt out of his contract this offseason.

4. Kris Bryant, Colorado Rockies

Contract: 7 years, $182 million (signed March 2022)
Remaining: 5 years, $131 million

Give the Rockies credit, they are willing to spend. They just don’t always spend in smart ways. Some red flags had begun to pop up in Bryant’s game the year before free agency, but no matter, Colorado signed him anyway. He has played only 122 of 324 possible games with the Rockies and he’s hit .250/.335/.404 with 15 home runs, including only seven homers at Coors Field.

The five years are a bigger hangup than the money, I think. You can always make the money work (I’m guessing teams would have interest in Bryant at, say, $10 million a year). But five years covering Bryant’s age 32-36 seasons? That’s a really hard sell after he missed so much time during his age 30-31 seasons. Well, at least Denver is a great city. The Rockies have that going for them.

3. Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees

Contract: 13 years, $325 million (signed November 2014)
Remaining: 4 years, $128 million (Miami is responsible for $30 million)

Stanton signed his mammoth then-record contract with the Miami Marlins almost a decade ago now. When he was traded to the Yankees, 10 years and $295 million remained, and the Marlins agreed to pay down $30 million to push the trade across the finish line. Here’s the breakdown of what remains on Stanton’s deal:

Salary Marlins owe

2024

$32 million

2025

$32 million

2026

$29 million

$10 million

2027

$25 million

$10 million

2028

$25 million club option ($10 million buyout)

$10 million

The Yankees are on the hook for $98 million over the next four years and they’ll pay $64 million of that from 2024-25. From 2026-27, they’ll owe Stanton only — “only” — $34 million. New York has shown a willingness to eat money to cut multiple years of unproductive players (Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Hicks, Alex Rodriguez, etc.) and come 2026, they could do the same with Stanton.

Anyway, injuries have limited Stanton to 391 of 708 possible regular season games the last five years, and his bat has declined as well. He slashed .191/.275/.420 with 24 home runs in 2023. That combined with unplayably bad defense make Stanton a sub-replacement level player. The Marlins money makes this contract only slightly more palatable for the Yankees.

2. Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels

Contract: 7 years, $245 million (signed December 2019)
Remaining: 3 years, $114 million

I’ll say this much: Rendon was excellent in 2020, his first season with the Angels. He hit .286/.418/.497 and was healthy just about all year. Too bad it was a shortened 60-game season. In the three years since, Rendon has authored a .235/.338/.364 line and been limited to 148 of 486 possible games by injury. That works out to 1.0 WAR. He’s also been a headache for non-baseball reasons.

Rendon’s contract was a bit front-loaded and he’s owed $38 million a year for the next three years. He’ll be the fifth-highest paid player in baseball in 2024 and the second-highest paid position player behind Aaron Judge. Factor in what the Marlins are paying, and the Yankees owe Stanton less money over the next four years than the Angels owe Rendon over the next three years. Yeesh.

1. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

Contract: 7 years, $245 million (signed December 2019)
Remaining: 3 years, $105 million

It’s a damn shame Strasburg’s career is ending the way it is. He was named World Series MVP en route to helping the Nationals win their first championship in 2019, signed his contract after that season, and has made only eight starts and thrown only 31 1/3 innings since. Strasburg was set to announce his retirement last year, though those plans were put on hold because the team was reportedly not happy with the way the remainder of his contract would be handled.

With Báez, Bryant, Rendon, and Stanton, you can at least squint your eyes and see a useful player. If their teams are willing to eat money, they’d find takers on the trade market. With Strasburg though, there’s no chance. He’s no longer physically able to pitch. The Nationals knew Strasburg’s medicals better than anyone and they took the risk anyway, and it’s worked out about as poorly as possible. Flags fly forever though. Consider this contract back pay for 2019.

The next five

There is no shortage of contracts around the league we could label untradeable, or close to it. Here are five others that stand out, listed alphabetically.

Andrew Benintendi, Chicago White Sox: A corner outfielder with a .356 slugging percentage and poor defense (according to the 2023 numbers) is a replacement level player. Benintendi turns 30 in July, so he’s not old. Perhaps there’s a bounce back coming Either way, Year 1 of is his franchise record (!) five-year, $75 million contract went terribly. Benintendi is owed $64 million over the next four years.

Nick Castellanos, Philadelphia Phillies: Castellanos is an excellent vibes guy and he had a fantastic Division Series last year, though he’s been roughly a league average hitter and a poor defender his first two years in Philadelphia. The Phillies gave him five years and $100 million, and still owe him $20 million a year for the next three seasons.

Jacob deGrom, Texas Rangers: deGrom may have been a bystander in October, but the Rangers made the postseason by two games last year, and they went 6-0 in deGrom’s six starts before he needed Tommy John surgery. He helped get them to the playoffs and thus played a role in the franchise’s first World Series title. deGrom’s five-year, $185 million contract has a complicated option, though Texas owes him $155 million from 2024-27. He’s not expected to return until the second half of the coming season at the earliest.

Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals: Flags fly forever and Corbin was an important part of Washington’s World Series win in 2019, the first year of his six-year, $140 million contract. He has been one of the very worst pitchers in baseball since then though, posting a 5.62 ERA since 2020. The good news: 2024 is the last year of the contract. The bad news: Corbin will make $35 million this year, and will be one of the 10 highest paid players in the game.

Carlos Rodón, New York Yankees: Teams give out long-term contracts expecting to get elite production up front. Instead, Rodón had a 6.85 ERA in 64 1/3 innings around injuries in 2024. That was Year 1 of his six-year, $162 million contract. Ouch. The Yankees owe Rodón $27 million a year for another five years. He has a strong case to be in the top five here.

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