I (based on an idea put forth by Neil Paine) started wondering which player each MLB team would choose to cut if it meant they could completely void the contract--meaning release the player and not have to pay the salary.
Let's take a look.
- Diamondbacks: Chris Young ($16.4 million through 2014) - Young is not a bad player but the only other player the D'backs have signed long term is Justin Upton, and they want to keep him.
- Dodgers: Ted Lilly ($24.8 million through 2013) - Lilly averaged just 5.8 innings per start with a 94 ERA+. A solid innings-eater but will be 36 next season.
- Giants: Barry Zito ($46 million through 2014) - Zito was horrible in 53.2 innings last year and continues to serve out one of the worst free-agent contracts in history.
- Padres: Jason Bartlett ($7 million through 2013) - The Padres have just 3 players under contract beyond 2012. Bartlett didn't do well in his first year with the club although still may be a bargain.
- Rockies: Todd Helton ($11.2 million through 2014) - Helton has played 130 games just once in the last 4 seasons and has had a big drop in production in his late 30s. The Rockies have huge contracts with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, but those guys seem to be cornerstones worth keeping.
- Astros: Brett Myers ($15 million through 2013) - Myers was at best a decent 3rd or 4th starter in 2011 and this team doesn't need an overpaid veteran doing that right now. Carlos Lee would have been a decent choice too, except that he was great last year (helped by an inexplicable excellent defensive year) and is in his contract year in 2012.
- Brewers: Yovani Gallardo ($25.3 million through 2014) - A surprise choice, but Gallardo has been just "pretty good" for 3 years now, never putting it all together as he seemed poised to do. The only other candidate would be Randy Wolf, who has worse numbers (but is owed a lot less money.)
- Cardinals: Jake Westbrook ($8.5 million in 2012) - His last season with no injuries where he pitched at least pretty well was 2006. We could have gone with Kyle Lohse here instead, but at least Krazy Kyle gave them a lot of innings.
- Cubs: Alfonso Soriano ($57 million through 2014) - Still a ton left on this dud of a contract for a player who is just a bit better than replacement level.
- Pirates: Kevin Correia ($4 million in 2012) - a really bad All-Star selection last year. His last really good season was 2007.
- Reds: Bronson Arroyo ($23.5 million through 2013) - led the league in homers allowed and earned runs in 2011 with a K rate all the way down to 4.9 per 9.
- Braves: Dan Uggla ($52.8 million through 2015) - Uggla had a nice resurgence in the second half of 2011 and might yet pay off but the Braves don't have any other questionable contracts.
- Marlins: Hanley Ramirez ($46.5 million through 2014) - I hear the Marlins have a new shortstop. Ramirez's performance has fallen off and he has an attitude problem.
- Mets: Johan Santana ($55 million through 2014) - If Santana returns in 2012 to form, he'll be worth it, but that's a huge if. Jason Bay ($39.3 million through 2014) would also be a good choice.
- Nationals: Jayson Werth ($115.4 million through 2017) - I've run out of bad things to say about Werth.
- Phillies: Ryan Howard ($125 million through 2017) - This contract might turn out to be one of the worst in history when it's all said and done.
- Angels: Vernon Wells ($73.9 million through 2014) - Awful.
- Athletics: Kurt Suzuki ($17.7 million through 2014) - Not a bad player but hasn't blossomed as hoped after his first couple of years. His offensive production is lackluster.
- Mariners: Chone Figgins ($18 million through 2013) - Posted one of the all-time worst seasons in 2011 and it's not gonna get much better.
- Rangers: Yorvit Torrealba ($3.3 million in 2012) - All of the Rangers' high-priced talent is performing well. Torrealba isn't doing well at the plate or behind it, and the Rangers need someone who can spell Mike Napoli.
- Indians: Fausto Carmona ($7 million in 2012) - the guy who was once part of a 1-2 punch with C.C. Sabathia hasn't cracked an ERA+ of 80 in 3 out of the last 4 years. Derek Lowe might be even a worse value at $15 million in 2012 but they did just trade for him for some reason.
- Royals: Joakim Soria ($6.75 through 2013) - a down year in 2011, this guy is probably OK, but he's the worst contract of those that pertain to this list. The real guy they should never have signed, though, is Jeff Francoeur to a 2-year extension for $13.5 million through 2013.
- Tigers: Brandon Inge ($6 million through 2013) - A career Tiger, Inge has been a versatile player for years, but just doesn't hit enough anymore.
- Twins: Joe Mauer ($138 million through 2017) - WHAT?!?!?!?! Last year was very scary for the Twins. Mauer might be done as a catcher and if he can't get his hitting groove back, his contract will bury the Twins. Sadly, Justin Morneau ($30 million through 2013) could also be chosen here.
- White Sox: Alex Rios ($39.5 million through 2015) - Adam Dunn benefits from having more upside than Rios, so the White Sox would probably opt to dump Rios.
All of the data here is from Cot's Baseball Contracts.
- Blue Jays: Adam Lind ($12.3 million through 2014) - Lind fell off a cliff a couple of years ago and hasn't mae it back yet. The Blue Jays shouldn't have to be on this list after already dumping Rios and Wells.
- Orioles: Nick Markakis ($43.2 million through 2014) - Could just as easily have been Brian Roberts ($20 million through 2013) but there's more cash committed to Markakis.
- Rays: Wade Davis ($11.6 million through 2015) - It's just not working out.
- Red Sox: John Lackey ($47.9 million through 2014) - I don't think this one needs explaining. Carl Crawford has a lot more upside even though he's owed a lot more cash. Sadly Daisuke Matsuzaka ($10.3 million in 2012) and Bobby Jenks ($6 million in 2012) should also hit the road.
- Yankees: Alex Rodriguez ($149 million through 2017) - Injuries and drop in production aren't surprising, except that they came so soon. A.J. Burnett ($37 million through 2013), Pedro Feliciano ($4.3 million through 2013), and Rafael Soriano ($25 million through 2013) are also bad contracts, not to mention Derek Jeter.