5 MLB Stars Who Aren’t Living Up to Their Contracts in 2024

Today we take a look at five MLB stars who are playing out a massive contract but simply aren't living up to it this year.

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 05: Julio Rodríguez #44 of the Seattle Mariners walks to the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Coliseum on June 5, 2024 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Every year in Major League Baseball, there are a few players who come out of seemingly nowhere and tear up the league. On the other hand, there are also always a few players coming off of great seasons who fall off a cliff.

There are a handful of established superstars who fit this bill in 2024. Let’s take a look at five MLB stars who are playing out a massive contract but simply aren’t living up to it this year.

George Springer

Springer made a name for himself as one of the fixtures of the late-2010s Astros teams that garnered a lot of attention, both for their on-field accomplishments and the cheating scandal that lessened their significance. The outfielder has the second-most leadoff home runs all-time, only behind Rickey Henderson, and he has been a solid player for over a decade.

Springer is now in his fourth year with the Toronto Blue Jays after signing a six-year, $150 million contract prior to the 2021 season. This is the first year of his contract where you can say he really hasn’t lived up to it.

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In the first seven years of his career with the Astros, Springer compiled an .852 OPS while being named an All-Star three times and a Silver Slugger twice. Because of that, the Blue Jays felt more than comfortable handing out a contract worth $25 million a year to Springer.

In his first three years in Toronto, Springer was named an All-Star once and compiled a .798 OPS. His level of play wasn’t on par with what he was doing in Houston, but he was still considered a valuable member of the team, and no one would say that Springer wasn’t worthy of what he was making.

This year? It’s not up for debate. Through 54 games, Springer is playing at near-replacement level with 0.5 fWAR and a .619 OPS. That OPS would be the worst mark of his career by far. He’s hitting .210 and has just five home runs in 235 plate appearances. In his career, he’s only had one full season in which he has hit less than 20 home runs. This year, he’s on a pace for just 15 in a 162-game span.

Springer has a hard-hit rate that would be the worst of his career, an average exit velocity that would be the worst of his career, and a ground ball rate over 50%. Whereas in the past he lifted the ball and drove it, he’s now hitting it on the ground and dribbling it. It’s no wonder he’s not performing well.

Despite all of Springer’s regressions, he’s posting career-best walk and strikeout rates. It’s helped him post an on-base percentage nearly .100 points better than his batting average, but with an average so low, he’s still getting on-base just over 30% of the time.

Springer is 34-years old, so you have to wonder if his regression is age-related. Still, he was having productive seasons early in his 30s so it’s surprising to think he would regress so quickly and drastically.

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Springer will have two years remaining on his contract after the 2024 season. Given his past, there exists some optimism that he can turn it around. But if he can’t, it could be a long two-and-a-half years for the Blue Jays.

Alex Bregman

Speaking of the late-2010s Houston Astros teams, Bregman is another player who hasn’t lived up to his contract in 2024. Still with Houston, Bregman has struggled on a team that has performed uncharacteristically poorly in Joe Espada’s first year at the helm.

Bregman is in the final year of a five-year, $100 million contract that he signed prior to the 2020 season. Before he signed his contract, Bregman was phenomenal in his first four years with the Astros, posting a .911 OPS and being named to two All-Star teams.

In his first four years under the new contract, Bregman undoubtedly experienced a drop-off in play with an .804 OPS but was still an extremely valuable player. The story is way different this year, though. Like Springer, Bregman’s drop-off has been swift and unexpected.

In 2024, Bregman has a .697 OPS and nine home runs in 253 plate appearances. He’s posting an almost career-worst hard-hit percentage and average exit velocity, while posting the third-highest ground ball rate of his career.

Bregman is also no longer walking more than he strikes out, a feat he accomplished the past two seasons and four total times in his career. In 2024, he has walked 20 times and struck out 36 times. His on-base percentage is below .300 and his slugging percentage is just barely above .400, both of which would be the worst of his career.

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Bregman is still just 30-years old. 30 tends to be the hump where players begin to experience a decline, but even Springer had an .899 OPS in his age-30 season and a .907 OPS in his age-31 season. For Bregman to fall off so quickly, it’s hard to imagine it’s anything age-related.

One thing about Bregman’s season that is notable and inspires some hope is that he had a much better month of May after a brutal April. He still didn’t play up to the level he’s used to, posting a .719 OPS over the month, but it was a huge improvement from his .577 OPS in April.

If Bregman can continue to improve, maybe he can erase the sentiment that he’s not living up to his contract. For now, though, Bregman is still underperforming and has been a big part of the Astros’ massive dip in play this year.

Corbin Carroll

Unlike Springer and Bregman who have had long careers and are in their 30s, Carroll is still just 23-years old. He’s played in parts of three big league seasons and has just one full year under his belt. In fact, he signed his eight-year, $111 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks with just over 100 career MLB at-bats to his name.

Still, the Diamondbacks appeared to have saved a ton of money when Carroll had an .868 OPS and won Rookie of the Year, was named an All-Star, and came in fifth place in MVP balloting in 2023. He clocked 25 home runs, stole 54 bases, and led the league with 10 triples, cementing himself as a household name.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard much about Carroll this year, it’s because he’s been almost unrecognizable with his drop-off in play from last year to this year. He’s still leading the league in triples, at least at this point in the year, but everything else is looking way worse. Through 60 games, he has a brutal .557 OPS and just two home runs and 20 RBI.

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A year after batting .285, he’s now batting under .200. A year after slugging over .500, that number now sits at .281. He looked so comfortable and confident at the plate last year, leading the Diamondbacks to the NL pennant, but that has all gone out the window this year.

Carroll’s struggles could certainly be attributed to confidence issues. He is 23 years old, after all. It’s a tough game and any tough stretch at the plate has the ability to mess up the mind of a young player. But the fact of the matter is, Carroll has been worth -0.1 fWAR this year. He has not been the player the Diamondbacks need him to be, and it’s a major reason for the team’s struggles early in the year.

Do the Diamondbacks regret giving Carroll his contract? Absolutely not. They know that his 2023 season reflects the player he is more than his 2024 season. But he has not been a player worthy of a contract giving him $14 million a year on average, and the Diamondbacks need him to figure it out fast if they want to compete in 2024.

Francisco Lindor

Francisco Lindor is a wildly fascinating case. He’s worth 2.2 fWAR and has a wRC+ above 100. Considering the fact that he started the season with a 1-for-38 stretch, which continues to weigh down his overall stats, Lindor has played a lot better than the stat line would suggest.

Now on a red-hot stretch over the past month, Lindor has come close to playing himself off this list and he’s certainly having a better season than anyone else mentioned.

Still, it’s the general consensus that he is not living up to his contract. Of course, it’s hard to live up to a 10-year, $341 million deal. But because he signed that deal, he brought with him massive expectations that he just hasn’t met.

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Lindor hasn’t been a bad player with the New York Mets. He’s not the player he was in Cleveland where he was a four-time All-Star with two Silver Sluggers and two Gold Glove Awards. But he’s also been valuable both offensively and defensively in his three-plus years with the club. As a Met, he has a .771 OPS.

In 2024, though, Lindor’s play has been noticeably worse. In 62 games, he has a .713 OPS which would be the worst mark of his career. It’s still above the league average mark, but the Mets aren’t paying Lindor $34 million a year to be an “average” hitter.

Lindor’s peripheral stats actually suggest he’s been about the same batter this year as he has the past few years with the Mets. His strikeout rate is slightly down, as is his walk rate. But his average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and batted ball numbers are all about near his career average.

Lindor’s current BABIP of .249 would be the worst mark of his career, and his .175 ISO would be one of the worst of his career as well. Again, Lindor has been heating up at the plate as of late, so it’s likely we see some more positive regression from him as the year goes along.

Regardless, though, even with his spectacular defense, Lindor has not been worth $34 million in 2024. He was fantastic for the Mets each of the past two seasons, finishing in the top-10 in MVP voting both years, but 2024 has been a different story.

Lindor is 30 years old and has seven years left on his contract after this season. He likely won’t ever be the player he was in Cleveland again, but the Mets need him to at least be an above-average hitter.

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Julio Rodríguez

Arguably the most disappointing player this season has been Julio Rodríguez. Prior to the 2023 season, he signed a massive 12-year, $209.3 million contract with the Seattle Mariners through at least 2034.

His first two years in the league were magnificent. He was a two-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger, and finished top-10 in the MVP voting both years, and he also won Rookie of the Year his first season. 2024 has been a much different story so far.

In a league-leading 63 games, Rodríguez has just five home runs and a .668 OPS. Interestingly enough, Rodríguez’s batting average (.270) and on-base percentage (.317) are both down but not by much. His slugging percentage (.351), on the other hand, has fallen off a cliff. Rodríguez has sported an ISO above .200 each of the past two seasons. This year? That number is .081. He’s recorded just 10 extra-base hits all year.

There are many things this could be attributed to. One big reason could be the presence of bench coach and offensive coordinator Brant Brown, who was recently dismissed from his position in just his first year on the job. Despite the Mariners’ team success, the overall offensive production has been among the worst in the league. Maybe Rodríguez and his teammates were taking an approach at the plate that wasn’t working for them.

There could also be confidence issues with Rodríguez, like was discussed with Corbin Carroll. The game of baseball is unkind to anyone in a slump, especially younger players. Perhaps Rodríguez just hasn’t found the confidence, or the rhythm at the plate needed to break out.

Rodríguez needs to simply find more gaps and hit more extra-base hits. That’s the only thing missing from his game, and it’s taken a massive hit to his slugging percentage and OPS. He’s been worth 1.0 fWAR this year, so his defense and baserunning still give him some value, but he has not been a player worth over $200 million this year. He’s still young and very much proven, so don’t expect him to struggle much longer.

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Honorable Mentions: Austin Riley & Matt Olson

Austin Riley and Matt Olson are honorable mentions here because the Braves are still a powerhouse, even as the team does find themselves in an unusual slump. Even when Riley and Olson underperform their contracts, the Braves remain a winning team and there really is no question that these two players have been worth what they’re making. They just haven’t played like it this year.

This applies more to Riley, who sports a .661 OPS through 46 games. Olson has a .752 OPS through 59 games which is well above league average, but considering he had a near 1.000 OPS in 2023, you can clearly see the drop-off in play.

Riley has hit just three home runs and has 19 RBI in just under 200 plate appearances. He’s batting just .232 after hitting above .270 each of the past three seasons and above .280 in two of the past three. Riley is still hitting the ball relatively hard this year, but he’s hitting it more on the ground and less in the air than he has the past few seasons.

On the other hand, Olson is actually hitting it on the ground at one of the lowest rates of his career and has been hitting line drives at the highest rate of his career. Still, he’s striking out more than ever and walking less than ever while also hitting home runs at about half the rate he did in 2023.

For Riley and Olson, you can see that their play has kept the Braves from being the offensive juggernaut that they’ve been over the past few seasons. Still, Atlanta is well-positioned at nine games above .500, which is why Riley and Olson only make this list as honorable mentions. There’s no doubt that they’ll be able to turn it on again given their track records.