When owners of Major League Baseball teams give their general managers millions of dollars to spend on the free agent market, it's kind of like giving money to a kid who wants candy. You tell them not to spend it all in one place, but know they're going to do it anyway.
And that's because the free agent market is a fickle mistress. Like any good gamble, one pull of the handle could send you home with your pockets weighed to the floor or broke like a joke.
The Philadelphia Phillies must know the feeling. The free agent market has changed since its inception. Teams no longer pay for past production. They pay for what a prospective free agent could do for them in the future. Nowadays, it's easy to go broke.
But one fundamental aspect of the free agent market that has never changed is that it is incredibly easy for you to spend millions of dollars on a single player and not be guaranteed that he is going to produce at the highest level. Is that the way the cookie crumbles?
Some free agents are just "busts"—and for the sake of this slideshow—we will define a "bust" as a player who came to the city of Philadelphia with a certain level of expectations and did not perform up par. That's it. There are no qualifiers other than that, but obviously, certain players are "busts" at different levels, so keep that in mind.
We will pick a free agent "bust" at every position that you would normally build a 25-man roster with and hope that history doesn't repeat itself.
The Line: .230 / .304 / .385, 32 HR
Lance Parrish was the result of an embarrassing attempt by the Phillies to get back into the race for the postseason in the late 1980s.
They made a play for him in free agency following a 10-year stint with the Detroit Tigers and billed him as their next franchise player. Following his signing, the Phillies began a long and expensive advertisement campaign under the slogan, "Lance us a Pennant."
The only problem with the whole thing was that Parrish was dreadful for the Phillies. He hit .245 in his first season with the Phils and followed that up by hitting .215 in 1988. The following offseason, he was traded to the California Angels.
The Line: .253 / .279 / .330, 5 HR
Bobby Tolan wasn't the first player past his prime that the Phillies' front office teased their fan base with in down times and certainly wouldn't be the last.
The first baseman and outfielder had played on some very talented teams with the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds before joining the San Diego Padres and taking an obvious step backwards. In fact, the Padres would release him mid-season.
In 1976, Tolan joined the Phillies and wasn't very good. He played in just 125 games over parts of two seasons and was just a shell of his former self in 1977. The Phillies released him in May of that year.
The Line: .223 / .284 / .277, 0 HR
I'm trying to keep this slideshow PG, so for lack of a better term, I'm going to call the Phillies during the 1990s "interesting." Outside of the 1993 season, they were a mess.
One of the more popular trends for the club during that decade was to bring in replacement level players from other clubs and given them tryouts in more regular roles. It was just another way of saving a few bucks.
Among those players was former St. Louis Cardinals utility man Rod Booker. The Phils brought him aboard for two seasons during the early 90s and he was tremendously bad. Following his stint with the Phillies, Booker was out of the MLB for good.
The Line: .258 / .331 / .385, 38 HR
What's the best way to welcome a 30-year-old, journeyman third baseman to the city of Philadelphia? Give him a four-year deal!
In all fairness to Bell, he never had much of a shot to live up to the lofty contract that the Phillies offered him and most of the onus here has to be on the front office, but with that being said, he was still a bust.
The Phillies, still desperate to replace Scott Rolen at third base, signed Bell following a solid year with the San Francisco Giants in 2002. He was hurt in his first season with the Phillies, but had a very good year in 2004. The next two years were the beginning of his demise and he was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers in the final year of his deal.
Now we have to wonder whether or not Bell's success with the Phillies was even legitimate. He was named in the infamous Mitchell Report during his stint with the Phils and was retired as a player by the end of 2006.
The Line: .198 / .237 / .238, 0 HR
Since the inception of free agency as we know it today, the Phillies have been fortunate enough to have two shortstops dominate their history—Jimmy Rollins and Larry Bowa. Most of their subsequent predecessors and successors, respectively, were brought in via trade.
One shortstop that the Phillies did bring in via free agency was Juan Castro. He was billed as a good utility man that could play a couple of different positions and the Phillies didn't pay much to get him. No harm, no foul, right?
Well, Rollins went down with an injury in 2010 and Castro was forced into a more significant role. He played in 54 games that season and quickly became a black hole at the plate. The Phillies didn't lose much, but Castro was definitely a bust.
The Line: .220 / .283 / .297, 3 HR
So Taguchi—pinch-hitter extraordinaire—well, except for the Phillies.
After six seasons as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Taguchi hit the free agent market before the 2008 season billed as one of the best bench and role players on the market. He was a left-handed contact hitter who could come through in the clutch.
And that was all very true until he came to Philly. Maybe it was the pressure of playing in front of the raucous Phillies crowd, but Taguchi transformed into a sloppy defender who couldn't contribute at the plate in a hurry.
The Line: .196 / .247 / .319, 5 HR
Before he was calling MLB games, Rex Hudler was a solid outfielder for a few big league clubs. Needless to say, being on a list like this and all, his days as a member of the Phillies were not his finest moments.
Hudler spent two seasons with the Phils and never got things going offensively. He appeared in just 75 games, posted an OPS of less than .600 and hit just five home runs.
In a time where the Phillies liked to take their chances on former first round picks, the signing of the Wonder Dog didn't work out.
The Line: .000 / .364 / .000, 0 HR
Those are some impressively bad numbers from Danny Tartabull, but they exist in that manner because he played in just three regular season games as a member of the Phillies.
After signing him to a deal that would eventually pay him $2 million in the offseason, Tartabull took to the field in spring training and looked horrendous. He played a sloppy outfield and wasn't particularly good at the plate.
The big blow would come later, however, as Tartabull would injure his foot and earn most of his salary recuperating on the disabled list.
The Line: 1-6, 6.24 ERA
How desperate were the Phillies to find some starting pitching during the early half of the 2000s (and even beyond)? Desperate enough to make an offer to 36-year-old right-handed starter Paul Abbott.
Abbott began the 2004 season as a member of the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but was released on June 4. Three days later, he signed a deal for the remainder of the season with the Phillies.
He pitched horrendously, and that's putting it nicely. Abbott was shelled for 34 earned runs in just 49 innings pitched.
The Line: 14-18, 6.10 ERA
It just wouldn't be a proper slideshow about some of the worst transactions in the history of the Phillies franchise without a slide about Adam Eaton.
Eaton was originally drafted by the Phillies in 1996, but was traded to the San Diego Padres as a prospect. He made his debut with the Friars in 2000 and set out on a mediocre path that also included a stint with the Texas Rangers.
Following a seven-year stint with the Padres and Rangers—one in which he never posted an ERA better than 4.08—Eaton hit the free agent market following the 2006 season and the Phillies somehow felt compelled to offer him a three-year deal worth $24 million.
Needless to say, Eaton was a disappointment. He posted an ERA north of six in his first season with the Phillies and wasn't much better the following year. When the Phillies won the World Series and Eaton showed up to collect his ring, the fans booed him.
Of course, he was released before he could make a significant impact on the postseason race in 2008.
The Line: 1-2, 3.00 ERA
Sometimes, a player doesn't necessarily "bust" because he had a terrible season. In the case of Fernando Valenzuela, he had a reputation that he couldn't live up to in the later years of his career.
Valenzuela, of course, was a superstar for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A former Cy Young and Rookie of the Year winner, he spent 11 seasons with the Dodgers before moving on, but he was clearly on the decline.
After brief stints with the California Angels and Baltimore Orioles, Valenzuela joined the Phillies in 1994 and pitched in just eight games. With one win and zero significant moments, he was a big name who's reputation was too big to live up to.
The Line: 6-8, 4.80 ERA
Danny Cox wasn't even in a Phillies uniform long enough for me to find a decent picture for this slide.
After winning 56 games as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Phillies brought Cox aboard before the 1991 season after he missed the entire 1990 season.
When Cox returned, he clearly wasn't the same pitcher. His first season with the Phillies ended with him being converted into a reliever and his second season with the club resulted in more bullpen time.
He was released in June of 1992 and would later sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Line: 2-3, 5.16 ERA
Another struggling former St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher on the free agent market? Sign that man to a contract!
Greg Mathews won 26 games for the Cardinals before he started floundering around, but managed to latch on with the Phillies prior to the 1992 season.
The Phillies, of course, were not a very good team and found time for Mathews in the starting rotation. He made seven starts and appeared seven more times out of the bullpen, allowing 30 earned runs in just 50.2 innings.
The Line: .186 / .239 / .230, 1 HR
Mark Parent was a solid big league, backup catcher for for a lot of different teams over an 11-year span before he joined the Phillies in 1997. A former fourth round pick, he never quite lived up to his potential but always served an important role for an MLB club.
The Phillies, apparently, thought enough of him to sign him to a two-year, $800,000 contract. Now, that isn't an exorbitant amount of money, but two years is a medium-sized risk for a 35-year-old catcher, and Parent faltered.
His two seasons were riddled with injuries and inconsistency to the point that the Phillies were forced to rely on younger backup catchers in both of his seasons with the Phils.
The Line: .221 / .310 / .277, 2 HR
Can you imagine yourself sitting at a big, round table full of important front office executives that work for the Phillies, and someone has the audacity to say, in a serious tone, "We should bring in Abraham Nunez on a two-year deal to be our starting third baseman."
Me neither. The really sad part is that enough people agreed with him to make it happen.
The Phillies, following the David Bell era, found themselves with another gap at third base. This time, they tried to fill the void with a career utility man and underachiever, Nunez.
So the Phillies gave Nunez a shot at third base and he was as bad as you would expect in an everyday role. He serves as our utility infielder on this slideshow only because I think the Phillies had more on the line when Bell "busted" ahead of Nunez.
The Line: .228 / .266 / .295, 1 HR
You could label Derrick May a "bust" on a few different fronts.
While the 1986 draft didn't produce many big names in the first round, Roberto Hernandez, Luis Alicea and Mike Fetters are a few names that produced better results and were drafted after the Chicago Cubs took May with the ninth overall pick.
He did have a few solid seasons in Chicago, but May never lived up to that first round potential. May bounced around a bit after his stint with the Cubs, including a one-year deal in Philly where he only played in 83 games and hit .228.
The Line: .246 / .297 / .368, 5 HR
There are some deals that look bad at the moment they are signed, and this is one of them. The Phillies have been so desperate to find a new third baseman since trading Scott Rolen that they've tried everything—including a two-year deal with Wes Helms worth more than $5 million.
Helms had been a solid source of right-handed power with the Milwaukee Brewers and was coming off of a career year with the Florida Marlins, but few people thought that he could play third base everyday—except the Phillies.
Needless to say, Helms' career with the Phils is a forgettable one. He hit just five home runs in the first year of his deal and the Phillies had already seen enough. They sold him to the Marlins where he seemed to kill the Phillies every time they faced each other.
The Line: .220 / .293 / .276, 1 HR
Every good bench needs a left-handed hitter, and ours is going to be former outfielder and pinch-hitter John Morris.
Morris, a former 10th overall pick by the Kansas City Royals, was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Lonnie Smith and spent the first five seasons of his career there.
Following that tenure, he joined the Phillies on a one-year deal in 1991 and appeared in 81 games. In those games, he proved to be an average defender, but a well below average pinch-hitter.
A year later, he signed with the California Angels and was out of baseball the following season.
The Line: 13-18, 4.05 ERA, 112 SV
But wait! Jose Mesa is the Phillies' career leader in saves!
If that was the first thing that came to mind when you saw mention of the former Phillies closer, there are a few nice men behind you ready to carry you off to the loony bin.
If there was ever a statistic that could use an update, it would be the saves stat. While Mesa amassed plenty of saves, you could probably count the "quality" ones on one hand. Mesa couldn't get out of an inning without working himself into a mess first.
The Phillies paid Mesa $12.3 million over three seasons from 2001-03. It wasn't worth it.
The Line: 7-4, 3.74 ERA, 9 SV
When the Phillies first signed Jose Contreras (to a one-year deal), it was a curious move. He had just made the transition to the bullpen the previous season as a member of the Colorado Rockies and there was a clear adjustment period.
But Contreras was very solid for the Phillies in that first season, so much so that Ruben Amaro Jr. decided it was okay to offer the 39-year-old a new, two-year deal. That was a terrible idea.
Right off the bat, pundits criticized Amaro for overpaying for Contreras. If they could see the future and now that Contreras pitched in all of 34 games over the next two seasons, they would know that they were correct.
The Line: 4-2, 5.84 ERA, 1 SV
The Phillies used enough unrecognizable relievers in the 1990s to make your eyes spin, but someway, somehow—Darrin Winston managed to be slightly worse than the rest of them.
A former 18th round pick of the Montreal Expos, Winston never had much going for him. His career was riddled with injuries and his two, lone MLB seasons came with the Phillies.
Winston would allow 24 earned runs over 37 innings before being out of baseball by the end of 1998.
The Line: 5-8, 5.81 ERA
This one has always been a head-scratcher for me, and—considering there are no legitimate reasons for this deal—I fear that I'll never get an answer.
When Danys Baez hit the free agent market following the 2009 season, he was a mediocre right-handed pitcher with one truly "solid" season on the books—an All-Star campaign in 2005. Outside of that, Baez had never been anything to write home about.
So Baez must have been blackmailing Ruben Amaro Jr. during that 2010 offseason. It is the only thing outside of demonic possession that makes any trace amount of sense for an MLB-level general manager to give a reliever like Baez a two-year deal.
The Line: 6-6, 2.73 ERA, 4 SV
While his peripheral numbers are solid, J.C. Romero is another one of those "should have quit while we were ahead" relievers for the Phillies.
The Phils picked Romero up off of the scrap pile in 2007 after he had been released by the Boston Red Sox midseason. He finished that year strong, prompting the Phillies to sign him to a three-year contract worth nearly $12 million in the offseason.
That was a lot of money for a guy like Romero—a solid left-handed specialist who would now be earning more money than teams should allocate for that role. He couldn't live up to that contract. The injuries and 50-game suspension only made matters worse.
The Line: 1-1, 4.60 ERA
Once upon a time, I said (and typed) with a serious face that Chad Qualls could be the best penny for penny signing by any team of last offseason's free agent class. Every now and then I go back and reread that to remind myself that I am stupid.
But for a moment, it seemed like it could be true. The Phillies picked Qualls up off of the scrap pile right as spring training was about to begin and he was rock solid through the month of April for a bullpen full of relievers dropping like flies.
Then Qualls must have washed his lucky socks or something, because all of the magic was gone. It was a one-way trip to rock bottom that led to the Phillies designating him for assignment.
The Line: 1-5, 4.58 ERA
That is probably one of the only effective ways to summarize the Phillies' signing of Ryan Franklin prior to the 2006 season. To make matters worse, they signed him as a reliever for $2.6 million. Ouch.
Franklin was bad for the Phillies. He allowed 27 earned runs in 46 games and the Phillies had seen enough before the season ended. They traded him to the Cincinnati Reds for minor leaguer Zac Stott and cash.