Welcome to another edition of Take Five, where I indulge the public's boundless fascination with lists. My first five was on the most surprising developments in baseball over the first six weeks of the season.
This week I'll look at five MLB players who are doing a very bad job of justifying their pay -- guys who actually make Alex Rodriguez seem undercompensated. The figure in parentheses represents what the player is making in salary in 2015.
1. C.C. Sabathia, Yankees ($24.3 million): Six years ago, the Yankees made Sabathia the highest-paid pitcher in history with a seven-year, $161 million deal. But why stop there? They reworked it after the 2011 campaign, extending it through 2016 and adding $30 million to the deal. He's now perhaps the most overpaid hurler in baseball history.
Sabathia hasn't been the same since elbow surgery after 2012, which diminished his velocity and turned him into a finesse pitcher. It has not gone well. Since the start of the 2013 season, he has an ERA around 5.00, allowing 365 hits, 195 runs and 48 homers in 323 innings.
He made only eight starts last season before having knee surgery. This season, Sabathia is 2-7 with a 5.45 ERA. He has allowed 83 hits in 66 innings. Opposing batters are hitting .312 off him, the second-worst among AL starters with 40 innings pitched. Only teammate Nathan Eovaldi (.325) has been more hittable.
2. Joe Mauer, Twins ($23 million): When Mauer signed an eight-year, $184 million contract with Minnesota five years ago, it was considered a home-town discount. In 2009, he had become the first catcher to lead his league in batting average, slugging and on-base percentage.
Some discount. Mauer has gone from stud catcher to slap-hitting first baseman. Last year, he had the lowest batting and slugging averages of his career. The trend continues. Through Thursday's games, Mauer was hitting .263 with a .354 slugging percentage. He had one home run, pathetic for a big-league first sacker.
In his last 730 plate appearances, Mauer has four homers. It's not all about power, but you don't pay first basemen to slug .354. You certainly don't pay $23 million a year. Mauer is signed through 2018, which will make it tough for the cost-conscious Twins to make big moves in free agency. At least the Twins are winning, for now.
3. Tim Lincecum, Giants ($18 million). Giants fans are actually thrilled because "Lincy" is 5-3 with a 3.00 ERA through 10 starts. That's a big leap from his previous three seasons, when he went a combined 32-38 with ERAs of 5.18, 4.37 and 4.74 for a team that won two World Series in that time.
It has been a precipitous comedown for a man who won back-to-back Cy Young awards during his long-haired prime in 2008-09. Skeptics felt his strenuous motion and lack of size would eventually catch up to him. They were right.
The Giants re-signed Lincecum to a two-year, $35 million contract with a no-trade clause after the 2013 season. He was about to become a free agent after a two-year, $40.5 million contract expired. So it was a pay cut, but it was still way too much. Warning: His strikeout-to-walk ratio is at a career low, so a regression could be coming.
4. Carl Crawford, Dodgers ($21.4 million). When you review these deals, it's a wonder anyone pays big money for hitters in free agency. Boston gave Crawford a seven-year, $142 million payday in 2010. He rewarded them by going into the tank and missing a chunk of time due to injuries.
The Red Sox were lucky to get LA to take the contract off their hands. Crawford hasn't been much better in LA. He missed 103 games in his first two seasons with the Dodgers. He's a shadow of the swift, dynamic player he was in Tampa Bay.
Crawford, who turns 34 in August, has played only 15 games this season, hitting .245, and recently went on the 60-day DL with an oblique injury. The Dodgers would love to trade him, but who would want now at that salary? Some consider his contract the worst in Red Sox history, which is saying a lot.
5. Grant Balfour, Rays ($7.3 million): Tampa Bay isn't known for spending lavishly on players. But in a curious move, the Rays gave Balfour a two-year deal before the 2014 season -- after his contract with the Orioles was voided due to concerns that arose during his physical with Baltimore.
Balfour argued that he was healthy and threatened to file a grievance with the union. The Rays decided he was sound. Maybe so, but Balfour had a 6.46 ERA in 24 games with them last year and lost the closer's job. Tampa released him this April, then re -signed him to a minor league deal. He was recently spotted having lunch on Chippewa when the Durham Bulls were on a swing through Buffalo.