5 MLB Free Agents You Don't Want Near Your Team's Clubhouse
On successful MLB teams, dozens of players must peacefully coexist. Talent is important, too, but it's no coincidence that these notorious free agents remain unsigned.
Because of all the trouble they cause on and off the field, none of them should expect lengthy or lucrative deals this offseason. Their toxic reputations precede them and many general managers wouldn't even touch them with a 10-foot bat.
For obvious reasons, you don't want any of the following individuals around.
Yuniesky Betancourt is being passed over by MLB teams because of his past selfishness.
Jayson Jenks of The Kansas City Star reports that the infielder became disgruntled with his lack of playing time in 2012. Manager Ned Yost affirmed that after the team designated Betancourt for assignment:
“In order for us to get over the hump, we have to have 25 guys that are solely invested in one goal, and that’s turning this organization around to become a champion. That’s it. It’s not about, ‘How much do I play?’ It’s not about, ‘Do I have a job?’ And Yuni did a great job for us, but he was a guy that wanted more playing time. He would get upset when he didn’t, but (Chris) Getz was playing good. There were just situations."
He also sets a lousy example on the field. Betancourt has terrible plate discipline that limits his offensive value (.266 career batting average vs. .290 on-base percentage). Though coaches have surely addressed it in the past, he remains indifferent about improving.
The Chicago Cubs considered him for their vacant third-base job, but ultimately re-signed Ian Stewart instead.
Delmon Young loses control on occasion.
His most infamous moment occurred on April 26, 2006. While playing for the Triple-A Durham Bulls, Young threw his bat at an umpire's chest—writes MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo—in response to an ejection. The International League suspended him 50 games.
Six years later, he embarrassed himself again. The Detroit Tigers designated hitter confronted a group of Jewish men in New York and tackled one to the ground, leading to a seven-game ban. In November, Young pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment, according to Laura Italiano of the New York Post.
The former No. 1 overall draft pick may have to settle for a minor league deal this winter.
Carlos Zambrano can be the ultimate clubhouse cancer.
"He's the living embodiment of his organization's woebegone history," Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com wrote during Zambrano's tenure with the Chicago Cubs.
Rather than holding himself accountable for poor performances, the right-hander would blame teammates. He alienated himself by getting into physical altercations with Michael Barrett and Derrek Lee in 2007 and 2010, respectively.
"Mentally he's weak," outfielder Alfonso Soriano insisted after an outburst landed Zambrano on the disqualified list in 2011 (via Chris Cox, MLB.com). More specifically, Big Z struggles to keep his emotions in check.
A quiet year with the Miami Marlins doesn't mean he has changed one bit.
Longtime nemesis Mark Teixeira told Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com that Vicente Padilla has been headhunting MLB batters for many years.
The stats validate his claim. According to FanGraphs, the Nicaragua native has plunked 108 opponents since 2002, the highest total in the big leagues. Not so surprisingly, Carlos Zambrano ranks second.
Another former teammate, Marlon Byrd, said the following after Padilla was released from the Texas Rangers in 2009 (via Steve Dilbeck, Los Angeles Times):
"It's absolutely a positive for this team. We have to get rid of the negatives to make a positive, and I believe this is a huge positive for this team. You have to be a good teammate. You have to help teach younger guys the right things. He wasn't a positive influence on the young guys. You started questioning his character and about how much he cared."
The 35-year-old is now searching for his sixth MLB team.
But cheating is only a subset of his deplorable actions. Before any of that became public, the slugger forced his way out of Boston by fighting with Kevin Youkilis and 64-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick (separate instances), and faking a knee injury (via Roger Rubin, Daily News).
"Manny being Manny" just means trouble for everybody else.
Ramirez isn't retired from professional baseball.
“I’m not thinking about the big leagues now,” he said after homering for Las Aguilas Eagles of the Dominican League last month. The 40-year-old added, however, that "if any offer, then I’ll think of baseball.”
The Oakland Athletics signed him to a minor league contract for the 2012 season and released him in June. Hopefully, no MLB team is foolish enough to give him another opportunity.