With the trade rumors flying and Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline rapidly approaching, it’s easy to overlook all the detailed conversations that go into making a deal. Rebuilding teams often want to acquire talented prospects in exchange for their overpaid veterans who can help contending clubs in pennant races. The catch, of course, is these rebuilding teams usually have to pay a portion of player's salary that they're dealing away.
Considering this, let’s look at the most untradable contracts in baseball. Sidenote: You won’t find Jacoby Ellsbury here because there are legitimate questions about whether he'll play again. Onto the list.
5. Yu Darvish, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Remaining Contract After 2019: 4 years/$81 million | Original Contract: 6 years/$126 million
A deadline darling just two year agos when the Dodgers acquired him from the Rangers, Darvish missed most of the 2018 campaign with a slew of arm injuries and has been nowhere near the pitcher he was in his first six seasons. He’s made 29 starts since joining the Cubs, posting a 4.65 ERA and walking 4.2 batters per nine innings. He’s still a solid strikeout pitcher, but that’s likely to decline in the four years remaining on his deal after 2019. Durability will continue to be an issue for the soon-to-be 33-year-old righthander, and he’s owed $81 million from 2020-2024. As baseball continues to trend younger, the Cubs are going to be stuck with Darvish.
4. Giancarlo Stanton, OF/DH, New York Yankees
Remaining Contract After 2019: 8 years/$234 million | Original Contract: 13 years/$325 million
Stanton is paid third most of anyone baseball and still has eight years left on his deal (nine if the Yankees pick up his $25 million option in 2028) unless he opts out of his deal after next season, which won’t happen. There’s still a ton of upside for the 29-year-old Stanton, who’s played in just nine games this year due to injuries. However, there are very few teams that are capable of taking on such a massive contract, and even fewer who’d actually want to pay him the remaining quarter-billion he’s owed after 2019. The only way the Yankees could deal him—if they wanted to—would be if they ate a significant amount of that salary. Even then it's a contract that would (and should) scare most teams away.
3. Robinson Canó, 2B, New York Mets
Remaining Contract After 2019: 4 years/$96 million | Original Contract: 10 years/$240 million
It would be even easier to justify Canó’s monstrous contract as untradable if the Mets didn’t do the Metsian thing and trade for him before this season. They’re paying Canó $19 million this season and then $24 million in each of the next four years, his age 37-40 seasons. Yikes. All this for a washed up second baseman who’s far from the Gold Glove player he once was and is 20% worse on offense this year than the average player (80 OPS+). Some of his poor play could be attributed to his two separate injuries this year that landed him on the injured list, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll be in peak physical condition and injury-free as he pushes 40. At least Mets fans don't have to fret about him getting traded away.
2. Miguel Cabrera, 1B/DH, Detroit Tigers
Remaining Contract After 2019: 4 years/$124 million | Original Contract: 8 years/$248 million
Cabrera is the most expensive player on this list, but he also is more valuable than the final player on this list. The former superstar has been plagued by injuries the last three years, and this season is the worst offensive campaign of his career (86 OPS+). But if the Tigers were going to eat a significant amount of the remaining dollars on his contract, then maybe a team could justify trading for him. In addition to getting one of the best hitters of all time, a team would have him if/when he reaches both 500 home runs 3,000 hits. If healthy and playing only DH, he could still be a league average hitter in the twilight of his career. But teams have made it clear they no longer want to pay for past performance. At least for the former Triple Crown winner, there's at least one contract more untradable than his.
1. Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
Remaining Contract After 2019: 3 years/$69 million | Original Contract: 7 years/$161 million
It’s hard to imagine a steeper decline than the one we’re seeing from Davis, especially from a player without a serious injury. The 33-year-old first baseman has gone from a boom-or-bust hitter to just a bust. Last year, he recorded the lowest single-season batting average for a qualified position player ever (.168) and is following that up with a .181 mark this year. His 51 OPS+ is putrid, which is the third worst among players with at least 250 plate appearances, and his 49 OPS+ was the worst in the majors by 14 points last year. It's a genuine question how much longer the Orioles will keep him on their roster, let alone another team lining up to use his services.