#5: John Olerud: 2000-2002: 3yrs/$20 million, 14.0 WAR, $30.26m Surplus, $10.09m surplus per season
You could get into a tremendous deep dive on the “what-if” surrounding Olerud. For those who don’t know, Olerud may have been a better pitcher than a hitter. As a true sophomore at Washington State University, Olerud went 15-0 on the mound with a 2.49 ERA and 113 strikeouts. Everything that happened in college is a story for another day.
Olerud had opened up his career with the Blue Jays and instantly showed his hitting talent, with a slash line of .293/.395/.471. That was highlighted by a 3rd-place MVP finish in 1993 when he hit .363/.473/.599, with 186 OPS+, 200 hits, and 54 2Bs. He had a much better season than the two who finished ahead of him, but he still should’ve lost the MVP that year to Griffey (who had an 8.8 WAR!)
Olerud would then go to the Mets, where he would hit .315/.425/.501 over a three-year stretch, highlighted by a .354/.447/.551 slash line in 1998. So, when the Mariners signed Olerud to a 3yr/$20m deal to start the 2000 season, they were getting a career .301 hitter who could drive it into the gaps and was good for 20 HRs a season.
They got that from him, as Olerud would compile a .296/.399/.467 stat line over his first three years in Seattle, hitting 57 homers. For those worried he wasn’t going to drive in runs as he did with the Mets, those fears were quickly extinguished. He would have at least 84 R and 95 RBI each season, averaging 19 HR, 87 R, and 100 RBI for the Mariners, to go along with 39 2B per season.
OH! We can’t forget the cycle. On June 16th, 2001, Olerud became the third Mariners player to hit for the cycle. It was actually the second time in his career that he had done it, previously accomplishing the achievement with the Mets on September 11th, 1997.
It was an incredible run for the fan favorite, and good enough to get him into the top five of best contracts in Mariners history.