8. Adam Wainwright, starting pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals’ going-away present to Wainwright, who at 41 wraps up an 18-year career this season, was a one-year, $17.5 million deal for the sake of auld lang syne. Personally my bosses were never that warm-hearted, although I never worked for the Cardinals.
This was a case of sentiment getting in the way of reality. Wainwright could not even take the field until May, and since then he has gone 3-4 with a 7.31 ERA in 12 starts. His gives every indication of having stayed too long at the party.
The 2023 ERA is more than double his 3.46 career ERA. His 4.9 strikeout per nine innings rate is easily the worst of his career, as is his 14.0 hits per nine rate.
The data makes that $17.5 million contract look foolish for any reason beyond raw sentimentality. His -1.3 WAR is second worst among the 128 qualified pitchers and the only pitcher with a worse WAR – Cincinnati’s Luke Weaver – is drawing one-eighth the salary that Wainwright is receiving.
When you do the math, it sets Wainwright’s 2023 on-field value to the Cardinals at a staggeringly bad -$12.656 million. Combine that with his $17.5 million salary and the conclusion is that Wainwright is being overpaid by a matter of $30.156 million. That is how they do a going-away present in St. Louis.