Free Agent Contracts Gone Sour

Imagine the amount of number-crunching, scouting reports, and intangible assessments that must occur before a team signs a free agent to a multi-million dollar contract.  Presumably, team execs dissect every angle and feel completely justified before making one of these huge commitments.  Why, then, have so many free agent contracts from the 2008-09 offseason already gone sour?  Check it out…

  • The Braves, feeling light on starting pitching, committed $60MM to Derek Lowe and $23MM to Kenshin Kawakami.  A year later neither contract could be moved, and the Braves had to part with Javier Vazquez after an ace-like performance.
  • Manny Ramirez finally signed a two-year, $45MM deal in March of '09.  He started off raking, but his PED suspension came down on May 7th.  Manny hit .269/.389/.492 after the suspension, which was considered by many as a disappointment.  He declined the chance to opt out of $20MM for 2010.
  • Francisco Rodriguez signed for less than expected, getting three years and $37MM from the Mets.  He showed the worst control of his career in '09, and now the concern has to be that he'll meet the criteria to get his $17.5MM option for 2012 guaranteed.
  • Oliver Perez signed for three years and $36MM, which Scott Boras actually preferred to the Mets' idea of four years and $44MM.  Perez was a disaster in the first year of the contract.
  • The Cubs have already dumped Milton Bradley; they were happy to save $5MM on his $30MM contract.
  • Kerry Wood makes little sense for the Indians now, not that they could move his contract.  He's begun the season on the DL with an upper back strain.
  • That's just the $20MM and up contracts; commitments to Brian Fuentes, Pat Burrell, Jamie Moyer, Damaso Marte, Koji Uehara, Kyle Farnsworth, Nick Punto, Willy Taveras, and Juan Cruz are also viewed as unfavorable.  Which 2009-10 signings will make this list after one season?  It may be a smaller group, as teams are shying away from multiyear commitments. 


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39 Responses to Free Agent Contracts Gone Sour Leave a Reply

  1. mcgovern92003 5 years ago

    brandon lyon…dude looked like crap the other day vs the phils

  2. crunchy1 5 years ago

    Milton is Seattle’s problem now. That we got $5M out of it is just gravy. And with Bradley getting kicked out of spring training games and flipping off fans in just the first weekend of the season — plus Silva healthy and throwing 90 mph with good control — and giving us a very nice start his first time out, this deal is looking better and better. Obviously it’s still early but no matter what happens with Silva, the Cubs won’t regret dumping Bradley and saving $5M in the process.

  3. Pseudonymus Bosch 5 years ago

    Yeah, Brandon Lyon’s a really obvious one

  4. TwinsVet 5 years ago

    Matt Holliday.

    They’re paying for his late-09 production, but he sure isn’t going to keep that up.

    • Yankees10 5 years ago

      Why would he not be able to keep that up, his production in the second half of last year matched what he did from 2006 to 2008. Unless you are talking a couple of years down the line?

      • TwinsVet 5 years ago

        Aye. 4 years from now it stands to look atrocious. 1 year from now it has potential to look ugly. There’s a chance he keeps it up, but they’re paying him mvp dollars and he hasn’t shown mvp consistency.

        • empathizerightonyourbehind 5 years ago

          yeah, they really should have been more conservative with that contract. like the twins were with mauer’s.

          • TwinsVet 5 years ago

            Mauer would be another candidate. The kid has no short injury history. A year from now they could have just paid 23m for a month of games. And it wouldn’t be stunning.

            Anyone can say lyon. That one is obvious. I’m pointing out “dark horse” candidates.

          • Drew 5 years ago

            Well Mauer at least hasn’t gone bust YET. But you’re right in that we resigned him at what very well may have been the peak of his career, and he’ll be paid at that peak value for what will likely be well into his eventual (even natural) decline.

  5. In general any contract handed out by guys like Jim Hendry, Ed Wade and Omar Minaya have a good chance of going bad. Lyon, Grabow etc…

    • crunchy1 5 years ago

      Very true, unfortunately. And as much as I’m happy we were able to dump Bradley, it was a bad deal in the first place — and we’re still paying a lot of money to a pitcher we are hoping can be a passable 5th starter.

  6. garlick 5 years ago

    I hated Lowe’s contract when he signed it, and now Atlanta is going to be paying for that one, whether Lowe pitches for them or not over the next couple of years. He’s worth about a bucket of balls, a half a six pack of Schlitz & the half eaten Chipotle burrito I didn’t finish last night.

    Kenshin’s contract isn’t all THAT bad, and after this year, with a single year left, could actually have some trade value, but I don’t see the Braves parting ways with him.

    • ronny9 5 years ago

      Derek Lowe’s contract isn’t great, i would agree with that. He isnt even close to as bad as you made him out to be.

      Since he left the AL and went to the Dodgers in 2005 he has recorded the following stats.

      2005: 3.61 ERA 1.25 WHIP 222 innings
      2006: 3.63 ERA 1.27 WHIP 218 innings
      2007: 3.88 ERA 1.27 WHIP 199 innings
      2008: 3.24 ERA 1.13 WHIP 211 innings
      2009: 4.67 ERA 1.52 WHIP 194 innings

      I think its very easy to see how the Braves may have thought that Lowe would have been worth what they signed him for. You could make an argument that the 4 years he was with the Dodgers he was worth (and FANGRAPHS agrees) more than what he signed for for the next 4 years.

      Remember that he signed this deal before 2009, so obviously they were going by his track record in the NL the previous 4 years (05 thru 08). Oh and by the way fangraphs rated his 2009 performance at 12 million so it wasn’t as far off as you can make it seem when you pick and choose your stats.

      this to me shows that his peripherals prove that last year was an outlier and that the braves can expect for Lowe to be a good bit better than he was for them in 2009. Add this to the fact that the braves could have played better defense as a team in 2009 behind him. ( they ranked 17 out of 32 teams in Team UZR/150 )

      This all proves to me that Lowe doesn’t even belong on this list, and if the Braves weren’t so tight with their money (don’t bother me with the small/mid market team bs either cuz read more into it and you will find they pocketed alot more than you probably think.) they could have kept vazquez too.

      This was a good signing and alot of teams would probably love having Lowe instead of their “overpaid” starting pitcher. (think of what the brewers for instance would think if they could trade Lowe for Suppan)….

      It could be ALOT worse than Derek Lowe for 15 million per…

      • garlick 5 years ago

        Your post is without context on what was going on with the Braves at that time. Tommy Hanson was a pretty known commodity, Hudson, while out, still had 2 years left on a contract (a team option that was going to get picked up), and KK was already signed at that point & Vasquez was also on the team. The minors were filled with guys that could have put up similar numbers in ERA and WHIP to what Lowe did last year. Medlen is the perfect example.

        The only other reasonable contract that Lowe had, was an offer from the Met’s at somewhere near $10-12MM per year, and 3 years.

        So while fangraphs may say he was close to those $$’s on a contract, it doesn’t mean Lowe’s value to the Braves was anywhere near that number.

        The team didn’t need him when they signed him, and really still don’t. He also signed a 4 year deal at age 36, so even though his previous 5 years showed decent peripherals, history shows, those peripherals WILL deteriorate based solely on age alone. So if it’s $12MM he’s worth last year, he’s going to be at $6MM in the last year of that deal. That’s horrible, and definitely not worth what they’re paying for him.

        The days of pitchers producing cy young award years in their late 30’s & early 40’s has gone out with the PED’s they were based on. So to sign a veteran pitcher entering their late 30’s based on their previous 5 year performance, is faulty logic from the beginning.

        • ronny9 5 years ago

          Ya obviously they didn’t need Lowe, they had Hanson (in the minors) tim hudson (we know that story) an unknown pitcher (he could have turned out to be Kie Igawa for all they knew) in “KK” and vazquez. That sure is a lights out rotation in a division with three other teams that planned on contending for the postseason; they certainly and undoubtedly did not need a veteral presence with great production for the previous 4 years in the same league that also has a career track record of above average era, whip and innings pitched.

          Did they overpay for a guy that is 36? yes without a doubt they probably shouldn’t have given him 4 years at the age of 35 (when he signed). But, they kept him from a division rival (I don’t know how anybody can prove that was the ONLY other offer Lowe had before he signed),and he hadn’t shown any signs of slowing down from 05 – 08 which were the only years they could have gone by at the time.

          Whether we agree or not is fine; but to say that because the Braves already had the rotation they had in place was the reason they shouldn’t have signed him all together is an absolutely hideous argument.

          • garlick 5 years ago

            When you’re 1 year into a 4 year deal, and it’s already being hailed as one of “the worst in baseball” than it wasn’t a good contract from the start.

            I’ll even use your own fav, fangraphs, as his wins against replacement was only 4.9 in his biggest year before he signed with Atlanta & he was averaging only 3.4 WAR over his career. Only 2 times in the five previous years, had he exceeded a dollar value of over $15MM per year, and again, turning 36 in June, there was no reason to go above 3 years and $12MM per year. Atlanta acted as if they were desperate for him, which was far from the truth.

            Again, Medlen was 0.9 WAR, Jo Jo Reyes was .1 WAR. For $14.7MM more, we got a whopping 2.7 wins. WOOHOO, great contract there. Even if he bounces back, where’s the value?? Let’s just say he does his average over the next 3 years, and is at 3.4 WAR, that’s 12 wins for $60MM!!

            Also add in Javy’s 4.9 Career average WAR value, and the fact that we had to trade him because of Lowe’s bloated contract, and we’re losing a net of 2 wins and paying an extra $2.5MM per year.

            Here’s one more thing to consider, there were 8 total pitchers who made $15MM or more in 2008, one was Mariano Rivera and as a closer can’t be compared to Lowe, so we won’t include him. The others were Santana, Pettitte, Zambrano, Hampton, Hudson, Schmidt & Randy Johnson.

            Santana & Santana were the only ones of the group, that really earned their value that year. The other 5 were either WAY over valued, or were injured.

            I just don’t understand how do you justify that contract??

      • alphabet_soup5 5 years ago

        Out of 32 teams?

  7. bStephen 5 years ago

    Shouldn’t All Free Agent Flops be compared to The jeff Suppan Debacle??

  8. alxn 5 years ago

    Jason Bay’s is by far the worst. At least the Cardinals have a chance to compete in these next few years before he starts to decline. It is probably worth it to suffer through the later years of that deal if they can win a World Series in the next year or two. The Mets had little chance to compete this year and they still dished out a huge contract to a player who will probably decline significantly by the time that contract is up. They should have been building for the future, but they instead did something that will likely hinder their ability to make other moves if they are in a position to compete later down the line.

  9. K-Rod has been great i dont know why he is on this list

    • garlick 5 years ago

      If by “Great” you mean a near 4 ERA, a rising 1.31 Whip & a save percentage that was drastically off his 2008 number, which was the baseline for his $10+MM per year contract.

      Then yeah, he was great.

      • icedrake523 5 years ago

        ERA isn’t that great to judge relievers b/c it can be inflated from one bad outing. Besides, teams can do worse than K-Rod and his contract. The Phillies would take him in a heartbeat if it meant they could get rid of Lidge and his contract (which is worse because of how awful he’s become).

        • garlick 5 years ago

          I didn’t use ERA alone, it was referenced along with other stats. Every one of his peripherals has increased over the last couple years, and ERA is just one of them.

          But I completely agree with the phillies contract with Lidge. That’s a horrible contract as well.

  10. bj82 5 years ago

    How dare these team give put bad contracts, I thought only the Yanks did that

    • ellisburks 5 years ago

      The Yankees don’t always give our bad contracts (Jeter’s was good, Damon was worth what they paid) but they always give out HUGE and LONG contracts which more than anything have a potential to be bad. When you get a free agent they are more often than not in their 29th year and then you give out 5 year contract and when they are 34 and making the biggest part of the contract it almost always looks bad. The Yankees should just start giving out shorter term contracts like the rest of the majors so they don’t end up with an infield of 38-year-olds and nowhere to play them.

      • garlick 5 years ago

        I think it would be interesting to see the Yankees starting to frontload contracts.

        So the most money is paid in the first 2 or 3 years.

        They can afford it, so why not make it more attractive to the player by paying them more now, and making the contracts more trade worthy later on.

        It would be forward thinking, but I don’t think it would be too hard to sell to the players getting the contracts.

        • ellisburks 5 years ago

          I always wondered why they(not just Yankees but anyone) backload. You screw your future for today pretty bad. I would just make it an average over the length of the contract with maybe 5-10% increases instead of like Wells with his (approx) 3 mil, 10 mil, 23 million increases.

          • garlick 5 years ago

            It makes sense from a GM point of view. If the player is good in the first couple of years of the contract, then even their backloaded contract will still look attractive to trade partners. If the player is bad in the first few years, you most likely won’t be around to try to figure a way out of the bad years of the contract.

            Also, with deferred payments, there’s less interest on payments made on backloaded deals, due to the length of time of the deferments.

            That’s why I could only imagine the Yankee’s, Red Sox & possibly the Met’s as being able to try something like frontloading the contract.

            One other thing to consider, is backloading is self perpetuating. If you backload one contract, you have to account for it in the subsequent years, so you look to add other pieces, you then are forced the backload the next contract, due to the increasing salary weight of the previous contract. Because all baseball contracts are guaranteed, the agents are all for this happening, because they get paid regardless, and puts them in a better bargaining position heading into the next negotiating with the team, because they can then push for another backloaded contract.

          • ellisburks 5 years ago

            Yeah I guess the agent has better bargaining power for the next contract if he can say, “Well he made $25mil in the last year of a $50 mil contract”, rather than saying he only made like $5mil.

            Regardless the Yankees should start signing shorter contracts, otherwise they will end up with a team of 40-year-olds.

          • yougotrondod 5 years ago

            Well teams do it for obvious reasons. The main reason is a dollar tomorrow is worth less than a dollar today. But, another important reason is the player. If a player earns 50% of an 8 year deal in the first three seasons, chances are he complains about his salary at some point in the last 5 years. Teams can lock up a player longterm and pay them relatively cheap in the first couple years, and the player will still be happy because he has long term security. If a team needed to frontload a contract because they were afraid of the players performance in the last few years, they shouldn’t sign the deal to begin with. Say the Yankees were afraid Teixeria wouldn’t be elite in the last three years of the deal, how do you frontload $23 million a year? The guy isn’t worth $30 million a season now, so then he would be overpaid on both ends. It’s better to have a fair contract in the players prime and then deal with the decrease in performance later.

      • bj82 5 years ago

        Actually the Yanks bad contract have been mostly the short ones (Pavano, Wright, kyle farnsworth). I don’t remember them signing a guy for like 7-8 years and wanting him out the next (Soriano, Zito)

  11. empathizerightonyourbehind 5 years ago

    personally, i think john lackey’s contract is all aboard the express train to regret-city.

    • yougotrondod 5 years ago

      I disagree, mainly because the Red Sox will have Beckett, Lester, and Buccholz/Kelly for the length of Lackey’s deal. Even if performance declines and he’s slightly overpaid, I have a hard time seeing Lackey not being a good #4 guy in years 3-5. He might be overpaid, but the Red Sox would take that because of the overall stability they have in their rotation going foward. Elite starting pitching isn’t going to reach free agency anymore, and when it does the contracts will be outrageous.

    • bomberj11 5 years ago

      They signed him for too long, that’s why.

  12. melonis_rex 5 years ago

    Brandon Lyon, Jose Valverde, Matt Holliday (he’ll still play awesomely, but if it causes issues in extending Albert Pujols, that contract becomes a HUGE problem).

  13. tman89544 5 years ago

    Pretty much every contrat Dayton Moore has given out has been terrible. Gil meche, Jose Guillen, Farnsworth/Cruz, Kendall and podsednik were all overpayed or signed for too many years.

  14. crunchy1 5 years ago

    And Brian Sabean…

  15. garlick 5 years ago

    My post never says he’s atrocious, nor does the original article, it’s just hard to say that his contract is a good contract, with the team being as bad as they are, and he’s not worth the HUGE amount they’re paying him.

    He would be if he was a record breaking closer every year, but that’s not what he is, and never what he’s going to be again.

    It’s just not a good contract. The OP said he was “great” which wasn’t really what he was last year.

  16. bomberj11 5 years ago

    Hey, why not throw in Dombrowski!

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