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15 MLB Stars Who Must Live Up to Their Big Contracts in 2014

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15 MLB Stars Who Have Big Contracts To Live Up To

15 Mx
Gary A. Vasquez-USA Today Sports

For those of you who haven't been paying close attention to Major League Baseball lately, there is a lot of money floating around the league these days. Every offseason there are huge contracts being handed out left and right.

The problem with getting a large contract is that with big money comes big expectations. With some deals the expectations are far too large to meet. Some deals do end up working out for both the player and the team, but some don't. One obvious contract that didn't work out for both sides was Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees. Rodriguez signed a 10-year deal worth just over $252 million prior to the 2008 season.

Due to MLB's lack of a salary cap, there is an undeniable advantage for teams that play in larger markets, such as Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. For teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics and the Pittsburgh Pirates in smaller markets, they don't have the same advantages that come with not having a salary cap.

While the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers can spend freely with basically no limit to their cash, the Pirates, Rays, Royals and Athletics have far less money to spend. To put the money differences into context, here is a little fun fact: The Dodgers' payroll in 2014 will go far above $200 million while the Pirates' payroll will barely exceed $80 million. For this reason, the slideshow you are about to read won't include many, if any, players from small market teams.

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15. Cliff Lee

Cliff Lee
Howard Smith-USA Today Sports

Cliff Lee's 2014 salary will be $25 million as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. While no player could truly be worth that amount of money, in today's MLB he is about as close to "worth it" as it is going to get. Last season, Lee had a 2.87 ERA with a 2.82 FIP. The lefty compiled 222.2 innings with 8.97 K/9 and an outstanding 1.29 BB/9.

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14. Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp
Jayne Kamin Oncea-USA Today Sports

Matt Kemp simply needs to find a way to stay healthy and play at least 145 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers for his $21 million 2014 salary to be justified. When he is healthy he is a legitimate MVP candidate. In his last full season, 2011, he hit .324/.399/.586 with a 168 wRC+. He finished one home run short of joining the 40-40 club.

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13. Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols
Kelley L. Cox-USA Today Sports

Everyone knew this one was coming. The Los Angeles Angels gave Albert Pujols a huge contract after he surprisingly left the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 2012 season. In 2014, Pujols will make a hefty $23 million, and he is coming off of an injury-plagued 2013 season. Not only was he injured for a lot of 2013, but it was also the worst offensive season of his career.

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12. CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia
Greg M. Cooper-USA Today Sports

In his age 33 season, C.C. Sabathia will be making $23 million with the New York Yankees. Sabathia joined the Yankees in the same offseason that A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira also joined the club. For the most part he has lived up to his contract, but 2013 was a bad season for Sabathia. He pitched to a 4.78 ERA and a 4.10 FIP while still logging 211 innings.

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11. Joey Votto

Joey Votto
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Of all the players in this slideshow, Joey Votto is the most likely to outperform his 2014 salary by a mile. He will only make $12 million next season, but he will soon be making north of $20 million all the way through his age 40 season. By the time he hits 35, he is unlikely to still be outperforming his deal, so the Cincinnati Reds need to get good use out of him now to make the deal worthwhile. Votto is elite; there is no questioning that. He is the master of getting on base with a career .314/.419/.541 slash line and a 156 wRC+.

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10. Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke
Robert Hanashiro-USA Today Sports

There are very few cases where giving a pitcher north of $20 million is worth it. In 2013, Zack Greinke was worth it. He pitched to a 2.63 ERA and a 2.9 fWAR. Along with being an elite pitcher he is also a tremendous athlete, and as far as pitchers go he is a very good hitter.

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9. Mark Teixeira

Mark Teixeira
The Star Ledger-USA Today Sports

Mark Teixeira is a very good first baseman when he is able to stay on the field. 2013 wasn't one of those seasons -- he played in just 15 games. I'm surely not the only person to think that paying $22.5 million to a guy for 15 games isn't worth it. As long as Teixeira is healthy next season, $22.5 million is definitely worth it, especially with the New York Yankees' deep pockets.

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8. Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton
Kevin Jairaj-USA Today Sports

Maybe the Los Angeles Angels should stop giving out large contracts. If Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are any indication, they don't seem to have much luck when signing big-money free agents. Hamilton will make $17 million in 2014, his age 33 season, and for him to be worth that much money he will need to hit better than his 2013 slash line of .250/.307/.432.

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7. Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard
Howard Smith-USA Today Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies are probably kicking themselves for signing Ryan Howard to a five-year extension a few years ago. Ever since he signed his extension prior to the 2012 season, Howard hasn't played more than 80 games in a season. He's going to be making $25 million in 2014, making him a candidate for worst current MLB contract.

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6. Prince Fielder

Prince Fielder
Tim Fuller-USA Today Sports

After being traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Texas Rangers, Prince Fielder's contract is now the Rangers' responsibility for the most part. He has an average annual value of $24 million, and his body type (hefty) suggests that he may break down some time soon. He had a good season in 2013 but not quite of Fielder's usual level, hitting for a .279/.362/.457 slash line.

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5. Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano
Joe Nicholson-USA Today Sports

The Seattle Mariners gave Robinson Cano a 10-year, $240 million contract this offseason. He was the big fish in the pond in free agency this year, and he certainly got paid like it. The Mariners aren't quite ready to contend yet, so it's going to be hard to judge if signing Cano to a $24 million average annual value contract was worth it for a few years until they are contenders.

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4. Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka
Koji Watanabe-Getty Images

The New York Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million deal in January. No one really knows how Tanaka will adjust to MLB, but the Yankees had better hope he adjusts well.

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3. Adrian Gonzalez

Adrian Gonzalez
Richard Mackson-USA Today Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Adrian Gonzalez in the huge blockbuster a few years ago with the Boston Red Sox. For the most part, Gonzalez has been great with the Dodgers. However, hitting in Dodgers Stadium has hurt his power numbers a bit. For the Dodgers, paying his $21 million salary isn't a problem, so he doesn't have to do anything different in 2014 to live up to his deal.

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2. Jacoby Ellsbury

Jacoby Ellsbury
Noah K. Murray-USA Today Sports

Oh, Jacoby Ellsbury, you did the unthinkable. You left the Boston Red Sox for the New York Yankees. I would have done so too, though, given the $21 million per year they will be paying you for the next eight seasons.

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1. Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw
Jeff Curry-USA Today Sports

You're probably noticing a trend, right? You see all the New York Yankees' and Los Angeles Dodgers'' players? That's because they are the haves, and most other teams are the have nots. Clayton Kershaw signed a seven-year, $215 million deal with the Dodgers this winter. He will be making north of $30 million after the 2014 season. Sorry, Dodgers fans, but there is nothing a pitcher can do to deserve $30 million per year while appearing in just 30-35 games.