Aside from Alex Rodriquez, the New York Yankees' free agent signings are getting the most positive attention by numerous magazines, newspapers, and web sites. Reading these various articles brought me back to the early '90s, when the New York Mets signed Vince Coleman, Bobby Bonilla, and traded for Bret Saberhagen.
These moves were expected to catapult the team to the top of the division. But as it turned out, these were bad transactions that led to this Met club being dubbed "The Worst Team Money Can Buy".
This article will list free agent signings and trades completed since 2000 that were initially perceived as pivotal moves to benefit the team. But of course, the player didn't match their prior success or justify their new contract.
- (12/11/01) New York Mets traded Matt Lawton, Alex Escobar, and Jerrod Riggan to Cleveland Indians for future Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar.
The Mets finished in third place in '01 and wanted to find the thunder to make it back to the World Series and repent their 2000 loss.
They decided to trade Robin Ventura, whose skills were diminishing, to the Yankees. In order to replace "Batman", the Mets traded for Alomar and moved Edgardo Alfonzo to third.
This would be a huge upgrade, right?
They were getting a perennial MVP candidate who appeared in what seemed to be every postseason in 1990s. Alomar was coming off another terrific year (.336, 113-20-100-30 sb) and it seemed batting in front of future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza would guarantee similar numbers.
That was my thought the day the trade was announced, and I wasn't alone; every Mets fan was expecting big things. We were all celebrating the 2002 season in December 2001. This is it, we are the team to beat. Blah, blah, blah, blah!
Then reality set in. Alomar (.266-73-11-53-16) had his worst season, and the Mets finished fifth. The next year didn't start off any better, so the Mets traded him to the Chicago White Sox for Edwin Almonte, Royce Ring, and Andrew Salvo.
- (12/17/04) New York Mets signed future Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez for approximately $52 million over four years
The Mets lost 91 games in 2004 and needed to replace departed free agent Al Leiter in the rotation. They decided to sign another aging veteran to pitch along with ageless Tom Glavine. That pitcher was Pedro Martinez, who was not re-signed by the Red Sox.
It was no secret Pedro couldn't blow away hitters like he did in the past. It was also no secret that he had to change his pitching style to win 16 games, but Pedro was still an excellent player. Omar Minaya loved Martinez and even gave him one more year than any other team was willing to offer.
Having Pedro Martinez pitch every fifth game helped management regain the fans who stayed away the past couple years.
They finally had a player with an ego, resume, and personality beloved by fans. Pedro would go on to win 15 games in 2005 and the Mets were able to win 83 games that same year.
Unfortunately, the Mets were not able to get another injury-free year out of him, as hoped. Pedro would go on to pitch only 48 games over the next three years, winning 17 over the same duration.
It's difficult for me to list Pedro on this list because my feelings, and many other fans, is the Mets had to make this move after a dismal 2004 season. The team needed a player to be the face of the club, and Pedro was able to do that.
But when a team pays $1.6 million per win, it has to be categorized as a bad signing.
- (12/6/06) Philadelphia Phillies traded Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez to the Chicago Whites Sox for Freddy Garcia
The Phillies were able to win 85 games in 2006, despite only having two pitchers on the staff win 10 or more games. Eleven pitchers started for the Phillies during that year. So management knew in order to take the next step, an ace-type pitcher needed to be obtained. They decided to trade two up-and-coming pitchers to gain the services of Freddy Garcia, who just won 17 games.
It's amazing the Phillies won the division in '07 and '08, especially considering they only got one win from $10 million-man Garcia, a one-year serviceman in the rotation.
- (12/7/04) Chicago Cubs resigned shortstop Nomar Garciaparra
- (11/20/06) Los Angeles Dodgers resigned infielder Nomar Garciaparra
During the 2004 season, the Cubs were able to trade for Nomar, which helped them finish with 89 wins. They then decided to re-sign Nomar to a one-year contract for $8.25 million. As a return on their investment, Nomar had 230 at-bats for the year and the Cubs finished under .500 in 2005.
Then for the 2006 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Nomar to a one-year contract for $6 million. Nomar hit 20 home runs and had 93 RBI, which he was able to turn into a two-year extension for $18 million. Nomar's tough luck set again, he compiled 17 home runs and 87 RBIs combined in those two years.
- (12/11/00) Los Angeles Dodgers resigned Darren Dreifort for five years, approximately $60 million.
- (12/06/00) Los Angeles Dodgers signed Andy Ashby for three years, approximately $24.5 million.
After finishing second in the NL West in 2000, the Dodgers decided to re-sign Darren Dreifort and acquire Andy Ashby to fortify their rotation. Dreifort was coming off his first winning season (12-9) in his six-year career, and Andy Ashby was below .500 (12-13) while pitching for two teams in 2000.
It was no surprise these two players were not able to fulfill their contracts, given the amounts that the Dodger were willing to spend for two No. 4-type pitchers.
But they didn't even pitch as fourth starters when they were able to actually get their feet on the mound. Dreifort compiled a 9-15 record over three injury-filled years and in the other two he didn't even complete an inning. As for Ashby, he would go on to win five more games than Darren, compiling a 14-23 record over the duration of the contract.
- (12/09/05) Los Angeles Dodgers signed Jason Schmidt for 3 years, $47 million
The Dodgers paid big money for a pitcher who won 71 games in his previous five years and was only going to be 34 years old. For $47 million they received one win. In 2009, the Dodgers are hoping for some return on their investment. But things don't sound too optimistic heading into spring training for Schmidt.
- (12/04/00) Colorado Rockies signed Denny Neagle for 5 years, $51.5 million
- (12/12/00) Colorado Rockies signed Mike Hampton for 8 years, $105 million
These were two bold moves that the Rockies made to bolster their rotation. They figured this was one way to match the team's hitting and for them to win a championship.
What they received was a total of 19 wins over three years from Neagle and 21 from Hampton over two years.
It didn't take long for the Rockies to realize their mistake, as neither pitcher completed their contract with the team.
Other notable bad transactions were:
- San Francisco signing Barry Zito.
- Arizona signing Russ Ortiz.
- St Louis trading three players, including Dan Haren, for Mark Mulder.
- Arizona trading six players, including Lyle Overbay and Chris Capuano, for Richie Sexson and two other players.
In summary, most of the bad transactions involved a pitcher and were mostly completed by "big"-market teams. There is a lot of pressure on these teams to produce winners. and they don't have the patience to wait for a young pitcher to evolve.
It's amazing the Los Angeles Dodgers have not felt the effect of the bad signings listed above.
They were able to offset these moves.
I will provide a similar list for the AL in the near future.