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Bad contracts in the NL West

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Nothing hamstrings a general manager's ability to build and keep a contending roster than expensive contracts to bad players. Here's how the Rockies compare within their division.

Will Carlos Gonzalez be a dead weight on building the Rockies roster going forward?
Will Carlos Gonzalez be a dead weight on building the Rockies roster going forward?
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's note: Leading up to Purple Row's 10th birthday, several of the site's former writers have agreed to make a brief comeback. We hope you'll enjoy these articles as much as we will.

Back in 2009, I was a newly single, unemployed, almost-college-graduate looking for somewhere to make a contribution. Rox Girl and Russ afforded me the opportunity to find my voice mostly unchecked while writing about the Rockies, who were on the eve of arguably their best season in franchise history. Over the next four seasons and 1,100-plus front page stories for Purple Row, the Rockies got progressively worse and my life got progressively more interesting. I got a real job, got married, adopted a boy, bought a house, and had a son of my own.

I bowed out of the rotation prior to the 2013 season, and while I still watch the team closely and comment on Twitter, my time investment has gone on to more personal ventures. Bryan asked me to come back for a guest piece, and I was honored. Just forgive the unusual rust and usual number vomit and meandering commentary.

★★★

Every general manager hopes to build a team whose roster can produce sustained success, but nothing hamstrings a GM's ability do that than being held to expensive contracts owed to bad players. This is especially true for the Rockies, who operate on a middling payroll and who will not break open the cash cow of a new television contract until the end of the decade.

Salary obligations can also help predict the future course of teams' activity in free agency and in retaining their own young talent. What potential bad contracts exist in the division?

First, we will define a "bad contract" as one that the player will very likely not perform to the level of remaining monetary compensation, with the contract extending past 2015. This eliminates Tim Lincecum, Bronson Arroyo, Ian Kennedy and Kyle Kendrick. While those deals might hurt this season, they won't dramatically influence the course of the franchises going forward.

Onward...

Arizona

3B/OF Yasmany Tomas - Six years, $64.5 million. Tomas can't stick at third base, and the Diamondbacks already have a solid outfield in AJ Pollack, Mark Trumbo, David Peralta and Ender Inciarte. Tomas struggled with contact in the minors, and while he's had a solid debut week with Arizona, he's done little to quell critics that Arizona overpaid for the 24-year-old.

2B Aaron Hill - Two years, $24 million. That's a lot of money for a middling defensive second baseman coming off a below-replacement season. He's also hitting worse than the average Rockies pitcher this year.

Los Angeles

2B Hector Olivera - Six years, $62.5 million. Olivera is just one of several international free agents the Dodgers have dumped eight figures on in recent years. Olivera has yet to come stateside, reportedly has a potential UCL injury, and is a longshot to appear in the majors this season.

SP Brandon McCarthy - Four years, $42 million. McCarthy has improved velocity and strikeouts early on this season, but he's also given up an MLB-leading nine home runs, thanks in part to allowing more flyballs than groundballs. Just four starts into the contract, McCarthy is having elbow pain.

OF Carl Crawford - Three years, $62 million. The base-stealing and defensive assets Crawford showed in Tampa are long since gone, and his bat certainly isn't worth $20 million per year. He did approach 3 WAR in each of the previous two seasons, though.

OF Andre Ethier - Three years, $56.5 million. That's a lot of dough for a fourth outfielder who can't hit lefties. Someone should have advised Ned Colletti against this deal.

OF Matt Kemp$32 million. Kemp doesn't play for the Dodgers anymore, but they paid San Diego $32 million just to take Kemp from them.

San Diego

OF Matt Kemp - Five years, $75 million. Kemp's deal is much more affordable after the $32 million the Dodgers are chipping in, but he was worth less than 1.0 WAR from 2013-14. Despite his good start, he could become a problem for San Diego going forward, especially considering $72 million of the $75 million owed will be due after this season.

OF Melvin Upton, Jr. - Three years, $46.4 million. Upton currently has a left foot injury, but based on his previous two seasons, his stint on the disabled list may prove more valuable to San Diego than his presence on the roster. With the poor defense in San Diego's starting outfield, could he be valuable on defense at least?

SP James Shields - Four years, $75 million. The good news is Shields has been historically durable and consistent, and his start to 2015 shows no negative indicators. The bad news is Shields will be 37 in the final year of that contract ... and he's a pitcher.

San Francisco

C Buster Posey - Seven years, $146.5 million. Posey is not here because he's a bad player or due to a reaction to his slow start. Posey is a phenomenal player, but he's going to end up being a first baseman once that deal gets most expensive, and his bat might not be worthy of that.

SP Matt Cain - Three years, $67.5 million. Cain had elbow surgery last season after showing chinks in the armor in the season-plus leading in. He won't debut this year until midseason, if all goes well.

OF Hunter Pence - Four years, $74 million. Pence is already on the disabled list, and I always thought he would age poorly for some reason.

There are definitely some cringe-worthy contracts there. The Dodgers should be able to buy their way out of any of them. If Tomas is a workable player, the Diamondbacks will be fine once Aaron Hill is off the books. The Padres really accelerated their timeline, and failing to contend by 2016 could put them in a very difficult spot. The Giants' window is likely closing, and the contracts they have on the books might just be the nails in the coffin.

So ... the Rockies. Here are all of their commitments past 2015 for consideration, regardless of contract value:

Colorado

SS Troy Tulowitzki - Six years, $118 million. There are no worries about performance here. Even when returning from injury, Tulo is the best player at his position in the league. This deal should be considered an obvious win. Until it isn't.

OF Carlos Gonzalez - Three years, $53 million. That isn't an unreasonable sum. But like Crawford, Gonzalez's basestealing and defensive peak appear to be past. He is off to a poor start, which means he's been a below-replacement player since 2013. He's taking fewer walks than before, his flyballs aren't turning into home runs, he's seeing more change-ups than ever before in his career, and he's swinging more frequently than ever. It's too early to call CarGo a bad contract, but it is no longer clear that he will fulfill the remainder of his deal.

SP Jorge De La Rosa - Two years, $25 million. Again, this contract is unlikely to hamstring Jeff Bridich, and DLR has a reasonable chance to reach 3.5 fWAR, which is roughly worthy of that salary. Then again, he has had significant nagging injury issues, and he's reached 3.5 total fWAR over two consecutive seasons just once since 2009-2010.

RP Boone Logan - Two years, $11.75 million. That sure seems like a lot for what the Rockies have gotten, and Colorado doesn't need to be dealing with three-year deals for non-closers, but Logan could still reach his end of the bargain.

C Nick Hundley - Two years, $6.25 million. Hard to argue against the value in this one.

IF Daniel Descalso - Two years, $3.25 million. I'm no fan of Descalso, but this contract will affect Bridich more in roster flexibility than in payroll.

Worst Rockies Contract

To me, De La Rosa seems like the most likely to fail to provide sufficient value for his salary going forward. Gonzalez seems most likely to move from a decent contract to a bad one. Solely based on dollars allowed, Tulowitzki's deal has the highest likelihood of becoming a franchise burden.

But to be honest, Jeff Bridich is in pretty good shape with his payroll going forward if he wants to add a free agent or put up a worthy extension offer to Nolan Arenado. The Rockies might even be better positioned going forward than any other divisional team.

★★★

Afterword

At age 25, Ian Stewart had accumulated 4.4 WAR ad 54 home runs. After asking him a few questions on Twitter following the 2010 offseason, I went and wrote 4900 words deconstructing every offensive weakness Stewart had. In the 3+ seasons since, Stewart is a minus-1.6 WAR player with just seven HR.  Breaking Ian Stewart is forever my legacy.