Chone Figgins and the 10 Worst Free-Agent Busts of the Last 10 Years

Doug MeadCorrespondent INovember 21, 2012

Chone Figgins and the 10 Worst Free-Agent Busts of the Last 10 Years

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    With Thanksgiving Day coming up, Major League Baseball players certainly have plenty to be thankful for.

    They work for a league that has seen relative harmony for 17 years and counting. They are employed by owners who think nothing of throwing millions of dollars at them. And sometimes, they're rewarded even when they cheat.

    Life is good if you're a Major League Baseball player.

    Once the turkey has been consumed and the apple and pumpkin pies have been dispensed, action in the MLB offseason will once again heat up as free agency goes into full swing.

    With the owners' meetings coming up in early December, free agents will really start reaping the rewards.

    So before those FAs start inking their lucrative long-term deals, we'll take a look back at the last 10 years and examine some of the free-agent signings that didn't work out quite so well.

    Those 10 players certainly had a lot to be thankful for—getting paid a mint for doing practically nothing.

Honorable Mention: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

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    Contract Details: 10 years, $275 million, signed Dec. 13, 2007

    Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks rewarded slugger Alex Rodriguez with a 10-year, $252 million contract in December 2000, setting a new MLB record. 

    Seven years later, the New York Yankees followed suit.

    The Yankees inked A-Rod to a 10-year, $275 million deal in December 2007, just months after he hit 54 home runs with 156 RBI and captured his third American League MVP.

    So what has Rodriguez done since signing that second record contract? He's pretty much regressed every year since.

    To say that there's been a precipitous decline since would be a vast understatement. These days, it's hard for A-Rod to even stay on the field on a regular basis.

    And the Yankees only have five years and $114 million left.

Honorable Mention: Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs

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    Contract Details: Eight years, $136 million, signed Nov. 20, 2006

    Outfielder Alfonso Soriano shined in 2006 for the Washington Nationals, clubbing 46 homers in his lone season in the nation's capital.

    The Chicago Cubs watched Soriano that season and imagined Soriano's swing being perfect for Wrigley Field.

    They've spent the last three seasons trying to figure out how to get rid of him.

    It might be a bit of a stretch to call Soriano a bust. After all, he has averaged 27 home runs and 79 RBI during his six years in Chicago.

    But try convincing Cubs fans that the contract was justified...

Chan Ho Park: Texas Rangers

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    Contract Details: Five years, $65 million, signed Jan. 16, 2002

    The Texas Rangers were looking for stability in their starting rotation when they approached free-agent pitcher Chan Ho Park.

    Park was coming off two productive seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers during which he posted a 33-21 record and 3.48 ERA.

    The Rangers, it's safe to say, got duped.

    Park posted a 22-23 record and 5.79 ERA in three-plus seasons, finally getting dealt to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline in late July 2005 for aging first baseman Phil Nevin.

Carl Pavano: New York Yankees

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    Contract Details: Four years, $39.95 million, signed Dec. 30, 2004

    It's understandable why the New York Yankees wanted to sign starting pitcher Carl Pavano to a contract worth nearly $40 million.

    After all, they had witnessed him pitch well against them in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series, and he followed it up with an 18-win season in 2004 with the Florida Marlins.

    What they got instead was nothing even close to a reasonable facsimile.

    Pavano was without a doubt one of the biggest free-agent busts in history—for any team.

    In his four years in pinstripes, Pavano missed time with a shoulder and hip injuries, missed a full year after Tommy John surgery and even found his way to the disabled list with bruised buttocks.

    His work ethic was questioned by teammates, and he was forever labeled as "soft."

    Four years and just nine wins later, Pavano was history.

Kevin Millwood: Texas Rangers

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    Contract Details: Five years, $60 million, signed Feb. 22, 2006

    Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood was coming off a year in 2005 in which he only won nine games but led the American League with a 2.86 ERA.

    The Texas Rangers thought it wise to reward Millwood with a five-year, $60 million contract. At the time, general manager Jon Daniels heralded the signing.

    'We are excited about what it means to our future, both short-term and long-term," Daniels said. "He adds something to our club that we sorely needed and will be a big part of what we're doing."

    Six-plus years later, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what Millwood gave them.

    In his four years with the Rangers, Millwood posted a 45-46 record and 4.57 ERA, never coming close to matching what was expected at the time.

    His fifth year was spent with the Baltimore Orioles after the Rangers finally gave up and dealt him for relief pitcher Chris Ray and minor leaguer Ben Snyder.

    Millwood then proceeded to lead the American League with 16 losses in the final year of his deal.

Jason Schmidt: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Contract Details: Three years, $47 million, signed Dec. 6, 2006

    The Los Angeles Dodgers had seen enough of power right-handed pitcher Jason Schmidt in their own division that they decided they needed him.

    Working for the San Francisco Giants for six seasons, Schmidt more than impressed, posting a stellar 3.36 ERA and 78 wins.

    However, once in L.A., that power petered out.

    Schmidt, it turns out, had a rotator cuff injury at the time of his signing, and he would later undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum as well.

    Schmidt started exactly 10 games for the Dodgers, winning only three of them. That's just under $16 million per win.

    Where do I sign up?

Gary Matthews Jr.: Los Angeles Angels

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    Contract Details: Five years, $50 million, signed Nov. 22, 2006

    In 2006, outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. put together a career year for the Texas Rangers, hitting .313 with 19 home runs and 79 RBI, earning the first All-Star selection of his career.

    That November, the Los Angeles Angels came calling.

    It's safe to say the Angels should have dropped the call.

    Matthews was OK his first season in Anaheim, hitting .252 with 18 home runs and 72 RBI. Then the wheels fell off the wagon.

    Matthews hit just .242 the following season, and manager Mike Scioscia often left Matthews out of the lineup.

    After another dismal year in 2009, the Angels were done, shipping Matthews off to the New York Mets for relief pitcher Brian Stokes.

Barry Zito: San Francisco Giants

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    Contract Details: Seven years, $126 million, signed Dec. 29, 2006

    At least one good thing can be said about San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito and his albatross of a contract: His recent postseason performance made up for at least some of the backlash.

    But before this past October, you won't find many who would actually agree with the deal that Zito and the Giants agreed to in 2006.

Andruw Jones: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Contract Details: Two years, $36.2 million, signed Dec. 6, 2007

    Andruw Jones spent 12 seasons with the Atlanta Braves, turning into a slugger who seemingly glided across center field to the tune of 10 consecutive Gold Glove awards.

    In 2007, Jones hit 26 home runs with 94 RBI but saw his batting average dip to a then-career-low .222.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers apparently weren't worried.

    They inked Jones to a two-year, $36.2 million deal, thinking they had the slugger they were looking for.

    In one injury-filled season, Jones was awful, hitting just .158 with three homers and 14 RBI in 75 games.

    Jones and the Dodgers agreed to part ways in January 2009, with the Dodgers paying Jones $22.1 million over the next six years as a condition for his release.

Roger Clemens: New York Yankees

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    Contract Details: One year, $28,000,022, signed May 6, 2007

    In early May 2007, New York Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard asked fans to direct their attention to the press box behind home plate.

    There, former Yankees starting pitcher Roger Clemens was seen smiling and waving as he signaled his return to the Bronx for one more season.

    After pitching for his hometown Houston Astros the previous three seasons, Clemens signed a one-year deal for $28,000,022 that would kick in once he took the mound.

    The deal amounted to Clemens being paid approximately $17.4 million, for which he delivered exactly six wins.

    He essentially made a cool million for each start in his final season.

Chone Figgins: Seattle Mariners

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    Contract Details: Four years, $36 million, signed Dec. 8, 2009

    During his eight seasons with the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels, Chone Figgins became known as a complete pest. At least for opposing teams, that is.

    Figgins played multiple positions, was a stalwart at the top of the batting order and lethal on the basepaths and had terrific plate discipline.

    The Seattle Mariners wanted that pest in their lineup.

    They got a pest, alright.

    Three seasons later, Figgins is looking for another employer.

    The Mariners designated Figgins for assignment on Tuesday night, ending his three-year, misery-filled existence in Seattle.

    Figgins hit just .227 in 304 games with Seattle and had an on-base percentage of just .302. That's a far cry from his .291 average and .363 OBP in Anaheim.

    And the Mariners are still on the hook for another $8 million.

Carlos Silva: Seattle Mariners

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    Contract Details: Four years, $48 million, signed Dec. 20, 2007

    I would love to know what the Seattle Mariners were thinking when they signed starting pitcher Carlos Silva.

    During his four seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Silva posted a 4.42 ERA with a record barely over .500 (47-45). Yet he was deemed worthy of a four-year, $48 million contract.

    Silva's first season in Seattle was an unmitigated disaster. He posted a 4-16 record and a whopping 6.46 ERA in 28 starts.

    He would win only one game the following season before the Mariners shipped him off to the Chicago Cubs for another unmitigated disaster—outfielder Milton Bradley.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.