Last Year’s Big Free Agent Deals

20 players signed free agent deals worth at least $10MM last offseason.  How'd those work out?

  • Matt Holliday, Cardinals: seven years, $120MM.  Holliday lived up to expectations in year one.
  • John Lackey, Red Sox: five years, $82.5MM.  The Red Sox would probably undo this contract given the chance.  Lackey shook off the health problems of 2008-09 by tossing 215 innings, but his performance dropped off in most aspects.
  • Jason Bay, Mets: four years, $66MM.  Bay's numbers fell off a cliff, and then a concussion ended his season on July 25th.  The Mets would undo this contract if they could.
  • Chone Figgins, Mariners: four years, $36MM.  Figgins' walk rate and batting average fell as the Ms moved him from leading off and playing third base to batting second and playing second base.  There was also a July dugout altercation with manager Don Wakamatsu.  The Mariners would undo this deal.
  • Aroldis Chapman, Reds: six years, $30.25MM.  No regrets here, as Chapman dominated in 13.3 relief innings for the Reds and electrified fans with the fastest pitch ever recorded.  Other teams are wishing they'd outbid the Reds.
  • Randy Wolf, Brewers: three years, $29.75MM.  Like Lackey, Wolf provided innings but at reduced effectiveness.  I'm guessing the Brewers are disappointed.
  • Placido Polanco, Phillies: three years, $18MM.  I imagine the Phillies are satisifed with this deal, as Polanco hit .298/.339/.386 while playing solid defense at third base.
  • Joel Pineiro, Angels: two years, $16MM.  He missed two months with an oblique strain, but the Halos are probably still happy given his 3.84 ERA in 152.3 innings.
  • Mike Cameron, Red Sox: two years, $15.5MM.  He played in only 48 games due to an abdominal strain that resulted in August surgery.  The team probably regrets the contract.
  • Marlon Byrd, Cubs: three years, $15MM.  Byrd hit .293/.346/.429 in his Cubs debut and played capable defense; the Cubs are likely fine with his contract.
  • Brandon Lyon, Astros: three years, $15MM.  He tossed 78 innings of 3.12 ball, picking up 20 saves when Matt Lindstrom got hurt.  The contract was panned at the time, but the Astros got what they hoped for.
  • Jason Marquis, Nationals: two years, $15MM.  I thought Marquis would be mediocre, not hurt.  A surprising elbow injury limited him to 13 starts and has the Nats regretting the deal.
  • Jose Valverde, Tigers: two years, $14MM.  He had some elbow woes in September but generally met the team's expectations.
  • Marco Scutaro, Red Sox: two years, $12.5MM.  He stayed healthy and did a decent job on offense and defense, so the Sox are probably OK with the contract.
  • Mark DeRosa, Giants: two years, $12MM.  Wrist surgery limited him to 26 games, so the Giants would prefer a mulligan.
  • Mike Gonzalez, Orioles: two years, $12MM.  The lefty finished strong, but shoulder pain limited Gonzalez to 24.6 innings.  The Orioles would like to have this one back.
  • Andy Pettitte, Yankees: one year, $11.75MM.  A groin injury limited Pettitte to 129 innings, but a 3.28 ERA made it worthwhile.
  • Fernando Rodney, Angels: two years, $11MM.  It was an unimpressive campaign, though not an unpredictable one given his '09 stats.  The Angels would probably undo this deal.
  • Adrian Beltre, Red Sox: one year, $10MM.  Beltre had an MVP-type season and was a huge bargain for Boston.
  • Ben Sheets, Athletics: one year, $10MM.  Elbow problems limited Sheets to 119.3 innings of 4.53 ball.  The deal was regrettable.
  • There you have it: over half a billion bucks and 57 contract years given to the 20 most expensive free agents last winter.  By my estimate, teams regret half of these deals.

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54 Responses to Last Year’s Big Free Agent Deals Leave a Reply

  1. MB923 5 years ago

    Best 3 (not in order)
    1- Adrian Beltre
    2- Marlon Byrd
    3- Brandon Lyon

    Worst 3 (Amongst players who played almost full time, not in order)
    1- Jason Bay
    2- Chone Figgins
    3- Ehh, I guess Fernando Rodney

    • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

      “Ehh, I guess Fernando Rodney”

      How about Lackey, Gonzalez, and DeRosa, who pretty much didnt help their team at all this season.

      I’d say Valverde is better than Lyon.

      • MB923 5 years ago

        Gonzalez pitched 24 innings and DeRosa played 26 games. As I said, for amongst players who played almost full time

        Valverde is a good choice though for the top and Lackey is a good choice for one of the worst

      • Koby2 5 years ago

        He specified players who played almost full time, so that puts Gonzalez and DeRosa out of the running.

      • johnsilver 5 years ago

        I’d give Lackey another year to make up mind on. he at least threw 200 innings and was fair. Bay and Figgins were easy choices though.

        • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

          Well bay didn’t play a full season either so why not derosa or Cameron before bay?

          I say lackey bounces back as well, but he was the best out of lackey, Beckett, and dice-k, so the red sox need to know what they are getting next season because Lester and Bucholz aren’t going to carry the whole team. If Kelly pitches well next season, he could very well be in the Sox rotation by next July/August.

          • johnsilver 5 years ago

            Good point and Cameron was really awful, same with Derosa. was mainly going with the big salary guys that thought you were intending to post.

            Have this awful feeling that the Bay deal has only began to look awful and you may be right that the lackey one will be horrible also. Another year am thinking though, he had some gems thrown in there last year and was a horse.

      • 0bsessions 5 years ago

        Lackey was absolutely not worth his contract this year, that much is definitely true.

        To say, however, that he didn’t help his team at all this season is untrue. He pitched 200+ innings of better than league average ball and of his 33 games pitched, 21 were quality starts. He was also a workhorse, only going less than six innings four times this season. He suffered from big inning syndrome all season. If he could avoid that one big inning, he’d generally go seven innings of solid pitching, but every few games, he’d have that one big inning where he just falls apart.

        Overpaid? Yes. Helping the team? Also yes, heck, considering their bullpen, the fact he led the team in IP made him VERY useful to the team.

    • ny_minute 5 years ago

      Well I may be in the few who think this but, I actually see Jason Bay coming back next year, hitting around .280 30 HR 100+ RBI and stealing about 10 bases, don’t forget his solid defense. I think he’ll come back and be the old Bay, but we shall see… This is coming from a Yankee fan by the way…

      • Bay? Defense?

        Ohoho, you pull my chain.

        • MetsEventually 5 years ago

          Merp derp. Bay played solid defense and showed great hustle all year. Thats fire any Met fan wants to see after these past four years.

          • If you like hustle so much, you’d love to have guys like David Eckstein who are gritty and gamers.

          • MetsEventually 5 years ago

            Well, looking at the Mets past with players who were all about the money and leaving the club house to go party, hustle is a nice change wouldn’t you say?

          • MetsEventually 5 years ago

            Well, looking at the Mets past with players who were all about the money and leaving the club house to go party, hustle is a nice change wouldn’t you say?

    • bjsguess 5 years ago

      Depends on how you look at it.

      Rodney was mediocre and definitely not worth his paycheck. However, fair market price is probably closer to $3m. If that is the case, the Angels lost maybe $2.5m on the deal and are on the hook for another $5.5m for the duration of his contract.

      Compare that to Lackey, Figgins, Bay, Wolf, Sheets, Marquis, Cameron, etc the deal isn’t a huge mistake.

    • 9 out of the 20 had less then what should have been delivered seasons. And Beltre, KING OF THE FREE AGENT GRIFTERS, wants a long term contract. HA HA HA HA HA

  2. Mudhens 5 years ago

    The Lackey deal has the potential to be one of the worst among these. If he cannot regain his form the Red Sox have at least 3 more years of him. The fifth year is a vesting option.

    • Fangaffes 5 years ago

      I suspect Lackey will do better in year 2, much like Beckett did. It takes some people a while to adjust to the Boston atmosphere. Some never do.

      He was much better at the end of the year, though I understand that is normal for Lackey. His ERA for June, July, September and October were OK. He just needs to pitch like that all year.

      Anyway, there’s hope for him to be better.

      • Mudhens 5 years ago

        I was surprised that he was so awful on the road. For his career his splits are very similar home vs road.

      • 0bsessions 5 years ago

        “His ERA for June, July, September and October were OK”

        I would argue that they were overall quite good. His ERA dropped from 5.78 in the first half to 3.97 in the second half and his WHIP dropped from like a 1.6 to a 1.2. Even his peripherals took a step in the right direction, notching an extra two strikeouts per nine on average in the second half. His solid second half is lost on a lot of folks amidst his awful first. He was essentially performing to his career norms in the second half last year and if he maintains that pace, he’ll be one of the better #3/4 guys in the MLB.

  3. tiger woods, dont make me grab iron

    Bay, Lackey, Figgins are all disasters…thought i expect Lackey to rebound, he wont justify his 16 m/yr salary.

  4. Tko11 5 years ago

    I hated the idea of John Lackey well before the deal happend…now I hate it even more. Horrible signing for the Sox but I guess Adrian Beltre made up for it(at least this past year).

  5. Hermie13 5 years ago

    The worst part about the Gonzalez deal with the Orioles… that he cost them a very high 2nd round draft pick on top of the money they’re paying him to finish in last place.

    I do not understand why last place teams think they need stud closers. You’re not going to have a lead very often. I mean, the Nats grabbing Capps made sense since he was non-tendered and not too pricey. Didnt cost anything and a nice reclamation project.

    But Gonzalez? That 2nd round pick could have netted the O’s a very good prospect with how the draft went.

    I’d put that as the worst contract for that reason alone.

  6. Infield Fly 5 years ago

    Ben Sheets has “Don’t Do It” written all over him…but somebody always does.
    He insists on being paid top dollar…but aside from 2008 rarely lasts a full season. The guy is a poster boy for “Buyer Beware,” but folks just don’t like reading posters.

  7. It makes perfect sense that clubs would regret about half of the deals, generally I’d guess that about half of all contracts signed end up being poor deals for the clubs. Conversely you’d expect the players to be happy with 50% of those deals and that they’d regret the deals that the clubs “won”, so to speak. If the team regrets the deal the player is probably happy to have signed it, if the team is happy with the deal the player probably thinks he was worth more. Human nature probably means both team and player want the other side to be satisfied with the deal but few deals are perfect from both points of view.

  8. Some of the regrets comments sound like they’re purely numbers based. Like, for example, Mike Cameron. Literally speaking, I really don’t think the Red Sox regret the signing. They regret that he got hurt, but that isn’t really the same thing.

    • jwredsox 5 years ago

      Agreed 100%. Cameron got a freak injury that could have happened to anyone. You can’t base his production on the season because he was hurt. I still expect him to play very well next.

    • TwinsVet 5 years ago

      You could make the argument that, based on his age, he was more prone to injury.

      • 0bsessions 5 years ago

        Except, as noted above, the sports hernia he suffered isn’t something that’s any more likely to happen to a 37 year old than a 27 year old. It was a freak injury that absolutely nobody could’ve predicted.

        • TwinsVet 5 years ago

          Granted, that specific injury could have happened to anybody. But I’m just saying, the durability of a 37-year old to play CF all year *should* be a concern. If not the sports hernia, he had a higher chance of missing time to some other injury than a 27 year old.

  9. MetsEventually 5 years ago

    Jay Bay will come back this year, just like Beltran did after his first bad year with the Mets!

  10. NYBravosFan10 5 years ago

    Considering how high the expectations were and how good the team that signed the player felt with the signing and how he helped the team I gotta say the worst one was Lackey. He wasn’t terrible but nowhere close to what the Sox were expecting and may be one of the reasons for a dissappointing season. If JonnyLak had performed up to expectations then the Red Sox would have been a lot closer than they ended up. Figgins is a close second but the entire Mariners team was bad unlike the Sox so it takes a little less blame off of himself. Beltre and Polanco were the best by far.

  11. jwredsox 5 years ago

    I think Scutaro is being severely undercut here. I think the Sox have to be more then OK with his production. He was worth his contract with his 2.1 WAR (good for a SS) and his production was good enough for what the Sox needed from him considering he was really forced into the leadoff spot for most of the season. He had a solid .275 avg with a low K% (11.2%) and a good BB% (7.6) which you like from your leadoff guy. He had a low OBP but he hit 38 doubles and acted as the catalyst to their offense without Ellsbury. He was a huge part of the Sox this season and if I had the decision I would prefer him as the #1 guy in the order over Ellsbury. But I think the Sox being OK with the contract is an understatement, I would think they got exactly what they wanted out of Scutaro.

    And while I can’t defend Boston’s signing of Lackey (I actually thought of it as overpayment from the start) he can hardly be the worst signing. He gave the Red Sox 215 innings and pitched to a 3.85 FIP (which is in line with his career FIP of 3.83). He had a high BABIP and low LOB% that hurt him but he was still worth 15.9 mil according to WAR which isn’t bad seeing as he is being paid 18mil for this season (14.5 + a 3.5mil signing bonus). If he pitches like this each season he will be about worth what the Sox are paying him. The only problem is that fans (and media) thought the Sox got him to be an ace when he wasn’t. He is their 3/4 starter in this rotation yet people expect ace numbers. I will take 200+ innings with a 3.85 FIP over the length of this contract and I think the Sox would like that too.

    • flickadave 5 years ago

      Very well said. The only thing that I would add is that the Red Sox signing Lackey also made it so that the Yankees couldn’t sign him. His contract might not be the best but at least it isn’t AJ Burnett bad (at least not yet). I’m betting that Lackey has a much better showing next season.

  12. NYBravosFan10 5 years ago

    Hey how about this? I’m gonna give a lineup of which players we will be talking about this time next year concerrning bad contracts.
    SP-Hiroki Kuroda
    LRP-JC Romero
    RRP-Grant Balfour
    Closer-Jon Rauch
    Catcher-AJ Pierzynski
    1st base-Carlos Pena
    2nd base-Christian Guzman
    SS-Juan Uribe
    3B-Aramis Ramirez (I think his option is too much)
    LF-Pat Burrell
    CF-Melky Cabrera
    RF-Jayson Werth (He’s going to get a ridiculous contract and won’t live up to 75 bombs and 200RBI’s that the contract with be worth)

    I had to reach for alot of those btw, this free agent market is absolute trash.

    • thegrayrace 5 years ago

      meh, aside from Werth, Kuroda, and possibly Pena, I doubt any of those guys get paid enough to really become that regrettable. Kuroda’s apparently only looking for a one year deal. I don’t think any of the others get more than $10m (Ramirez doesn’t count, that was a player option).

      De La Rosa, Pavano, Garland, Harang are possible $10m+ contracts that could be regrettable, though.

      • TwinsVet 5 years ago

        I think Pavano has proven his consistency; somebody will only regret it if they give him more than 2 years. They’d definitely kick themselves by 2013.

    • BlueCatuli 5 years ago

      Aramis Ramirez signed with the Cubs for below market value. Hind sight is 20/20.

  13. Just_MLB 5 years ago

    where are all the arm-chair GM’s that were telling Omar to sign Ben Sheets/Jason Marquis/John Lackey/Randy Wolfe

  14. bjsguess 5 years ago

    I’m really surprised the M’s and Angels don’t try to work out a deal for Figgins. Bet if the M’s ate $10m the Angels would take him. That would put them on the hook for 3/16 with the vesting option. Seems about right.

    The M’s free up money, the Angels hopefully shore up their 3rd base hole. Figgins and the Angels have an excellent relationship. Make it happen.

  15. blackandorangepride 5 years ago

    DeRosa shouldn’t have been signed to begin with. I think Burrell knocked him out of a job, Burrell provides protection on offense and durability. DeRosa with an injured wrist at 35 won’t be effective, either he’s a backup or he’s traded mid-season again.

  16. jasonallen_02 5 years ago

    13.3 dominant innings from Chapman = no regrets? I’m sure the Reds thought they would get more production from him even in year 1.

    • jeffhorton 5 years ago

      They got more than they expected. he was supposed to be in the minors all year he is way ahead of schedule

      • jasonallen_02 5 years ago

        I wouldn’t consider him way ahead of schedule. He wasn’t called up because he was tearing it up in AAA. Nor does it appear that he would be ready to start effectively next year. I agree with Brian that in 2012 is when the Reds will find what kind of return on investment they have with him.

    • The Reds signed him for the long term future. What he did this year was just a bonus. It is shown by their determination that he will go back to starting next year instead of staying in the pen which would basically guarantee he starts next year with the reds and not in the minors. He will start the year in AAA again and work on his starting, if he makes it up to Cincy then he is progressing well. Really they have sights set on him being the ace from 2012 on

  17. clark182 5 years ago

    Figgins makes a lot of sense for the Cubs. He’s a top of the order guy with speed and positional versatility. With the uncertainty with Ramirez, the unknown in prospects like Vitters and Hak Ju Lee, a guy like Figgins can be plugged in and give the Cubs more time develop these two prospects instead of rushing them. I would think Fukudome as a Japanese product would be appealing to Seattle.

  18. Lanidrac 5 years ago

    Let’s have a show of hands. If last Spring Training you knew half the $10M+ free agent contracts would look bad after one year, who would’ve predicted that Matt Holliday’s deal would be one of the good ones?

    • 0bsessions 5 years ago

      A bit early for this one. Nobody thought Holliday would fall apart immediately. The issue most took with the Holliday signing (And the one I still take issue with) is that it was too many years and too much money with Pujols coming off his contract relatively soon into it. As I recall, Bay signed first and nobody else was expected to come close to what the Cardinals offered, it was one of those kind of deals the Yankees would be crucified by opposing fans for.

      The biggest concern about it is that, barring a dramatic payroll increase, a lot of people see it really handcuffing the Cardinals moving forward. They absolutely have to re-sign Pujols, considering he’s the face of the franchise and essentially the best overall position player in the MLB. Doing so will cost them a boatload of cash and having him and Holliday locked up to longterm, high price deals really puts them in a tough position to fill out the rest of their roster.

      It is way too early to call the Holliday deal a good one.

      • TwinsVet 5 years ago

        Right. Nobody was saying Holliday would be a bad deal in 2010 or even 2012. But check back in 2015, when the Cards haven’t been able to assemble a winning roster for 3 years because they’re dumping 50% of their payroll on two players.

        • 0bsessions 5 years ago

          Definitely. Nobody’s saying that Holliday will stop being good anytime soon, if at all in the lifetime of his contract. The issue is that Pujols deserves to get more money than Holliday and if the Cardinals even come close to what Pujols should get on the open market, they could very well have at least a third of their current payroll locked up on two players.

  19. Lyon and Polanco still were outlandish contracts…both guys pretty much played to preseason projections. With Polanco I have always said he’s not a bad player, the Phillies just bid way more than I felt they had to.

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