No. 4 Vernon Wells
Even after all the hits, all the home runs, and all the awards, Vernon Wells’ Blue Jays tenure is best remembered for one number: $126M.
Wells was coming off a 2006 season in which he eclipsed 30 home runs for the second time and 100 RBI for the third time when the Blue Jays signed him to a seven-year, $126M contract extension. It was at the time the sixth-largest contract in Major League history, a testament to Wells’ status as the face of the franchise following the departure of Carlos Delgado.
He never lived up to that contract, which became a burden the franchise could ill-afford. His batting average plummeted from .303 to .245 the following year. Not until 2010 would he hit more than 20 home runs in a season. He never again drove in 100 runs. The Blue Jays were finally able to get rid of the contract when they traded Wells to the Los Angels Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera before the 2011 season.
But before that, Wells was a superstar in the making. He was just 20-years-old when he made his Blue Jays debut in 1999. In 2003, at the age of 24, he set a Blue Jays franchise record with 215 hits while hitting .317 with 33 home runs, 117 RBI, and a .909 OPS; Delgado is the only other player in franchise history to put up those numbers in a season. Three years later, he added 32 homers and 106 RBI on his way to his second All-Star Game selection.
Wells started 1,336 games in the outfield during his 12 years with the Blue Jays, the most in franchise history. He’s still the franchise leader among outfielders with 813 RBI and is second with 223 home runs. In the five-year span before the massive contract, he hit 139 homers and averaged a .835 OPS. He was also a graceful defender, winning three Gold Gloves with the Blue Jays.
His career began with so much promise, and while his contract became an albatross for the Blue Jays, he was still the cornerstone of the franchise for the better part of a decade.