One-Year Gambles

Earlier today, Ray Ratto at the San Francisco Chronicle decried Billy Beane's propensity to sign aging former stars to one-year deals, citing the recent release of Jason Giambi as another failed experiment:

"The final point here is that Beane is finally going to have to make his next stand without the benefit of 35-plus hope-and-a-prayer guys whose only benefit is that they're available. It's a short-stack strategy whose failures far exceed all the benefits of the one time it worked."

With many players facing team budget crunches, there were no shortage of these types of deals this past offseason. Using Ratto's criteria of "35-plus hope-and-a-prayer guys," let's check out the performances of some of this past year's veteran one-year gambles, sticking specifically to hitters and starters who once flashed star-level success at the big league level, and deals with guaranteed major-league money:

HITTERS

  • Jason Giambi – .193/.332/.365 in 328 plate appearances. Signed one-year, $5.25MM contract with club option for 2010 with A's. Released this week.
  • Ken Griffey Jr. – .222/.322/.401 in 334 PA. Signed one-year, $2MM contract with Mariners.
  • Bobby Abreu – .320/.416/.456 in 445 PA. Signed one-year, $5MM with Angels.
  • Ivan Rodriguez – .245/.274/.384 in 318 PA. Signed one-year, $1.5MM with Astros.
  • Nomar Garciaparra – .265/.300/.372 in 120 PA. Signed one-year, $1MM with A's.
  • Garret Anderson – .289/.320/.435 in 338 PA. Signed one-year, $2.5MM with Braves.
  • Cliff Floyd – .125/.176./.125 in 17 PA. Signed one-year, $750k with Padres.
  • Jason Varitek – .225/.333/.432 in 336 PA. Signed one-year, $5MM with Red Sox.
  • Orlando Cabrera – .289/.326/.384 in 476 PA. Signed one-year, $4MM with A's, now with the Twins.

STARTING PITCHERS

  • Bartolo Colon – 4.19 ERA, 38/21 K/BB ratio in 62.1 innings. Signed one-year, $1MM deal with White Sox.
  • John Smoltz – 8.32 ERA, 33/9 K/BB ratio in 40 innings, DFA'd this week. Signed one-year, $5.5MM-guaranteed deal with Red Sox.
  • Mike Hampton – 5.19 ERA, 71/44 K/BB ratio in 105 innings. Signed one-year, $2MM with Astros.
  • Tom Glavine – Did not play. Signed one-year, $1MM deal with Braves.
  • Randy Johnson – 4.81 ERA, 80/31 K/BB ratio in 91.2 innings. Signed one-year, $8MM with Giants.

Hampton has had his moments and Anderson, Varitek and Cabrera have been passable, but it looks like the only real win from this group was Bobby Abreu, and he was probably less of a "gamble" in the sense that he had a fairly clean bill of health and success up to his signing. Gambling on veteran stars has been like playing roulette for many teams this season. Let me know if you think I missed anyone notable in the comments and we'll add them to the list.


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