This article will list free agent signings and trades completed since 2000 that were initially perceived as pivotal moves to benefit the team. The player didn't match his prior success or justify his new contract.
Aside from the NY Yankees and the Seattle Mariners, it wasn't as easy to identify "bad" transactions performed by AL GMs as it was for their counterparts in the NL.
New York Yankees
- (Dec. 13, 2003) Traded Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban, Brandon Weeden, and cash to the Dodgers for Kevin Brown.
- (Dec. 16, 2003) Traded Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, and Randy Choate to the Montreal Expos for Javier Vazquez.
After losing the World Series to the Florida Marlins, the Yankees had to decide if they were going to keep Andy Pettitte and David Wells or bring in new faces. Also, they did not expect to keep Roger Clemens, who was threatening to retire.
They decided to sign two new potential "aces" to head their rotation in 2004.
The Yankees were so willing to trade underachiever Jeff Weaver to obtain Kevin Brown and his remaining $31 million that they gave the Dodgers cash aside from the two other players.
Kevin Brown would win only 14 games in his two years of service, and when it counted the most, the postseason, he would give up eight earned runs to the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS.
Javier Vazquez would match Kevin Brown's win totals in his lone year in pinstripes. But similar to Brown, he wouldn't produce when it counted. Vazquez gave up a total of 12 earned runs in the 11 postseason innings he pitched.
- (Dec. 20, 2004) Signed Carl Pavano for four years, $40 million.
- (Dec. 28, 2004) Signed Jaret Wright for three years, $21 million.
- (Jan. 11, 2005) Traded Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro, and $9 million to the Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson.
Wanting to forget their last two moves, the Yankees traded away Vazquez and his recently signed four-year extension ($45 million) to the Diamondbacks to get future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson.
This trade would cost the NY Yankees a total of $41 million, which included the two-year extension to Johnson for $32 million.
Though costly, Randy did win 17 games each of his two years in pinstripes. Unlike his World Series performance in 2001 against the NY Yankees, Randy gave up 10 earned runs in 13 innings in the '05 and '06 ALDS losses.
Prior to the Randy Johnson trade, the Yankees signed two free agent pitchers who also beat them in the past. The Yankees' motto that winter was: IF YOU CAN'T BEAT THEM, BUY THEM.
For these two charitable contracts, the Yankees received a total of 25 wins from Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. No one really can second guess the Pavano deal, as he was coming off an 18-8 season at the age of 28. But the Wright deal was puzzling from the moment they signed the contract.
Wright was also 28, but had a long history of arm problems. Prior to the 2004 season, when he won 15 games, Jaret pitched approximately 150 innings the last four years combined.
It is apparent that the NY Yankees feel that pitching wins championships. They threw good money after bad money, time and time again, trying to recapture the glory that they last felt in 2000.
Only time will tell if their two latest pitching signings will be included in this list or bring them glory.
- (Dec. 15, 2004) Signed Richie Sexson for four years, $50 million.
- (Dec. 17, 2004) Signed Adrian Beltre for five years, $64 million.
After winning only 63 games in 2004, management wanted to acquire the players needed to bring them back into contention and perhaps win their first World Series.
It was not hard to identify what they lacked and at what position they could improve. The Mariners only had one player (Brett Boone) hit more than 20 home runs and were only able to receive a total of 15 home runs from the corner positions (Scott Spiezio and John Olerud).
The stars seemed to have aligned in 2004, as two of the top free agents were power hitting corner infielders.
Richie Sexson was your typical power hitter, a throwback from the days of all or nothing hitters (e.g. Greg Luzinski and Dave Kingman), who had four 30-homer seasons to his résumé.
Adrian Beltre was coming off a MVP season in 2004, which saw him hit 48 home runs and drive in 121 runs. All this at the age of 25.
Richie Sexson's first two years of the contract were justified as he combined for 73 home runs and drove in 228 runs. But in year three, his numbers were only 21 home runs and 63 RBI. In year four, Sexson's productivity had eroded so much that the team released him in July 2008.
Adrian Beltre has been Mr. Consistent over the four years of his contract. Unfortunately, the numbers don't justify the large contract. Beltre has averaged approximately 23 home runs and 88 ribbies a year for an average cost of approximately $13 million a year.
- (Dec. 22, 2005) Signed Jarrod Washburn for four years, $37.5 million.
After basically being a soft-tossing .500 pitcher for the Angels, the Mariners signed Jarrod to a contract that worthies front of the rotation numbers. He went 23-43 with ERAs of 4.67, 4.32, and 4.69 over the first three years of the contract.
- (Dec. 20, 2007) Signed Carlos Silva for four years, $48 million.
The person who decided to pay Carlos Silva this much money should be shipped to New Zealand or any other country where professional sports don't exist. Silva was 55-46 for his career with fewer than 400 strikeouts over his six seasons prior to the signing. Silva only showed to be a fifth starter at best in the Twins rotation.
In 2008, Silva was 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA and only 69 K's. He was the worst pitcher in baseball last year.
Other Bad Transactions
- (Oct. 9, 2002) Toronto Blue Jays released Chris Carpenter
The 2002 Opening Day pitcher had arm problems all season, which led to only 13 starts and the team releasing him at the age of 27.
Chris Carpenter was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals two months later, and he provided them with a total of 51 wins once he returned from Tommy John surgery in 2004.
- (Nov. 18, 2004) Detroit Tigers signed Troy Percival for two years, $12 million
The Tigers received a whopping eight saves from Percival, who missed most of 2005 and all of 2006. Despite Percival's injury, the Tigers were able to win the AL Championship with Todd Jones as the closer in '06.
- (Jan. 16, 2002) Texas Rangers signed Chan Ho Park for five years, $65 million
It seems that the Rangers are always chasing pitching in an attempt to match the power hitting teams that they have produced since their first year of existence in 1961 (there's an idea for an article).
In 2002, the need was no different, and they were able to attract the best pitcher on the market. Park was coming off a productive 15-win, 218 K, 3.50 ERA season, which he was also selected to his first and only All-Star game.
This signing did not seize the chase—Park was only able to produce 22 wins over the three-and-a-half injury-filled years.
- (July 30, 2003) Oakland A's traded Aaron Harang and two others to the Cincinnati Reds for Jose Guillen
The Athletics surprised the baseball world and made a move to benefit the present rather than the future. This move may have helped keep the Mariners at bay, as they would win the division by three games. The A's lost to the Red Sox in the ALDS.
Jose Guillen was able to bring pop to the lineup, as he hit eight home runs and drove in 23 runs during his 170 at bats with the A's.
But the price of winning the AL West Title cost them a fine pitcher in Aaron Harang. Harang would go on to win 10, 11, 16, and 16 games over the next four years for the Reds. We probably would have been talking about the Big Four during the mid-2000s, instead of the Big Three (Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, and Tim Hudson) if this trade was not made.
Jose Guillen left as a free agent after the year was over.
Unlike the New York Yankees, who have the resources to offset the bad transactions, the Seattle Mariners are in the process of rebuilding and hopefully learning from their mistakes due to their share.
I'm not sure how much though, as the Carlos Silva deal is basically new and they traded away five talented players for Erik Bedard in early 2008.
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