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MLB Free Agency: One Guaranteed Bust Signing/Trade from Every MLB Team

Doug MeadCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2013

MLB Free Agency: One Guaranteed Bust Signing/Trade from Every MLB Team

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    Here's a news flash—not every MLB free agency signing or trade is successful.

    The phrase "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry," comes to mind.

    It's a safe bet that every single MLB team has horror stories in terms of signings or trades that didn't quite work out as planned.

    In recent times, the Seattle Mariners inked free-agent Chone Figgins to a four-year, $36 million contract.

    Okay, that didn't quite work out.

    Ditto with the New York Mets and outfielder Jason Bay. Following a spectacular year in Boston in 2009, the Mets signed Bay to a four-year, $66 million deal.

    Okay, that didn't work out so well, either.

    In 2003, the San Francisco Giants traded pitchers Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser to the Minnesota Twins for catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

    Nathan became an All-Star closer for the Twins and Pierzynski was absolutely hated in his lone season with the Giants, signing with the Chicago White Sox the following season.

    This offseason, a bevy of deals have been made already. It's more than likely that a decent percentage of those transactions simply won't turn out well.

    Here is a prediction of one transaction from each MLB team that could well turn out to be a complete bust.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Heath Bell

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    Before the World Series was even completed, the Arizona Diamondbacks entered into a three-team trade with the Oakland A's and Miami Marlins.

    The Diamondbacks ended up with utility infielder Cliff Pennington from the A's and reliever Heath Bell from the Marlins.

    Bell is coming off one of his worst seasons in recent memory, posting a 5.09 ERA in 73 appearances for the Marlins, losing his closer's role twice during the season.

    He'll be expected to set up for Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz, and Arizona is only on the hook for $10 million of the $18 million owed to Bell through 2014.

    There's an obvious affection for Bell with general manager Kevin Towers—he acquired Bell back in 2006 from the New York Mets when he was GM of the San Diego Padres.

    However, this Bell may not ring twice for Towers.

Atlanta Braves: Jordan Walden

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    When the Atlanta Braves announced the trade that sent starter Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for reliever Jordan Walden, the immediate reaction was that it was purely money-based.

    On the Braves' side, they had concerns about the future of Hanson. His home run rate shot up to 1.4 HR/9 last year and his velocity took a dip, averaging just 89-90 mph on his fastball. However, Hanson was also entering his first year of arbitration and almost assuredly set to start seeing seven-figure salaries.

    Walden is under team control for one year longer than Hanson and as a non-closing reliever, he won't cost the Braves nearly as much when he reaches arbitration.

    Make no mistake about it—as Christina Karhl pointed out on ESPN.com, this was a deal driven by Liberty Media, the corporation dictating the bottom line for the Braves. They liked Walden's cheap price a lot more than his fastball.

Baltimore Orioles: None

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    It's pretty difficult to criticize anything the Baltimore Orioles have done this offseason.

    That's simply because they haven't yet done anything to warrant criticism—yet.

    They signed outfielder Nate McLouth to a one-year, $2 million deal in December and recently re-signed Nolan Reimold to a one-year, $1 million contract. The two will presumably duke it out for the starting job in left field.

    Hard to find any fault there.

Boston Red Sox: Shane Victorino

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    When the Boston Red Sox overpaid—er, signed—Shane Victorino to a three-year, $39 million contract, Ron Chimelis of MassLive.com was quick to point out why.

    The Red Sox simply had no choice, he said.

    There are always choices in life, and this simply wasn't the right one by the Red Sox.

    Victorino statistically had the worst season his career, reaching low-water marks in batting average (.255), on-base percentage (.321) and slugging percentage (.383). Yet he earned a $3.5 million raise.

    Chimelis pointed out that the Red Sox would have been outbid had they not offered more money for fewer years.

    Sometimes, being out-bid isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Chicago Cubs: Scott Feldman

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    Paying for mediocrity in baseball has been occurring for decades.

    The Cubs paid for exactly that with their signing of Scott Feldman.

    In eight years with the Texas Rangers, Feldman posted a 39-44 record, a 4.81 ERA and 1.417 WHIP.

    At least he took a small cut in pay.

    The deduction wasn't nearly enough.

    Let's see how Feldman's stuff plays at Wrigley Field, an even more hitter-friendly park than Rangers Ballpark.

Chicago White Sox: None

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    Thus far this offseason, the Chicago White Sox have made only two significant transactions.

    They re-signed starting pitcher Jake Peavy to a two-year, $29 million deal and signed free-agent infielder Jeff Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million contract.

    With Peavy, the White Sox avoided paying out a $22 million for the 2013 season, instead essentially attaching another $7 million for an extra year. Peavy will receive his $4 million buyout of his option, but that will be paid in four equal installments after his current contract expires.

    In Keppinger, the White Sox saved a bundle over what it would have cost to hang on to an under-performing Kevin Youkilis. Keppinger hit .325 with nine HR and 40 RBI last year for the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Hard to find fault in either of those deals. Peavy certainly showed last year his rebuilt right shoulder can hang tough, throwing over 200 innings for the first time since 2007.

    Keppinger's .376 average against left-handed pitching led the American League last year, and he's historically one of the toughest batters in the majors to strike out.

Cincinnati Reds: Jonathan Broxton

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    The Cincinnati Reds brought back reliever Jonathan Broxton on a three-year, $21 million contract. Presumably, Broxton will take over full-time closing duties while the Reds experiment with Aroldis Chapman as a starter.

    This deal stinks on two levels.

    First, Broxton is far removed from his days of blowing hitters away at the rate of 13.5 batters every nine innings. He was effective last year in his return from an elbow injury that kept him out of action for four months in 2011.

    But to expect him to continue delivering with his reduced velocity for three more years is a stretch.

    In addition, why mess with complete success? Chapman was at times unhittable last season, posting a stratospheric 15.3 K/9 rate on his way to 38 saves and a 1.51 ERA.

    There has certainly been a trend in turning relievers into starters in recent years. C.J. Wilson and Chris Sale certainly found success. But Daniel Bard and Neftali Feliz certainly didn't.

    Is it really worth the risk with Chapman?

Cleveland Indians: Nick Swisher

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    The Cleveland Indians believed they got a difference-maker for their offense when they signed right fielder Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million contract.

    In today's market, Swisher's deal would be considered good value, according to ESPN.com's Keith Law. However, the Indians are now paying Swisher to be the go-to guy offensively.

    That's not Swisher.

    Swisher at best is a second or third option offensively, exactly what he was for the New York Yankees. Great plate discipline and solid on-base percentage for sure, but being paid to be the go-to guy is a mistake.

    Swisher has an option for a fifth season that could easily vest, at which point he'll be 37 years of age. Hard to imagine Swisher will be worth another $14 million at that point.

Colorado Rockies: Jeff Francis

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    The Colorado Rockies are another team that has made very few moves this offseason. However, one move made was perplexing.

    The Rockies brought Jeff Francis back on a one-year, $1.5 million contract. He can double that if he pitches 210 innings.

    This is the same Jeff Francis whom the Rockies let go following a horrible 2010 campaign (4-6, 5.00 ERA). And it's the same Jeff Francis who came back to Colorado last year and posted a 5.58 ERA in 24 starts.

    Will the third time actually be the charm or the death knell?

    I'm guessing the latter.

Detroit Tigers: Anibal Sanchez

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    In the year of overpaying for pitchers, the Detroit Tigers committed the most overpayable act of all.

    Okay, so that's not a word—I just made it up.

    But that word would describe the Tigers ponying up five years and $80 million for starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez.

    Sanchez has at best been a No. 3 or 4 starter throughout his career. On the strength of a good September and three excellent postseason starts, Sanchez "earned" his contract.

    The Detroit Free Press aggregated several different views from national baseball writers regarding Sanchez's contract. The general consensus was that he was indeed overpaid.

    That's the price the Detroit Tigers wanted to pay for winning right now. Five years from now, they'll likely regret the deal.

Houston Astros: Wilton Lopez for Alex White

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    Just two years ago, starting pitcher Alex White was a top pitching prospect for the Cleveland Indians.

    He's now been traded twice since that time.

    The Indians gave him up to the Colorado Rockies in the the deal that brought over Ubaldo Jimenez at the trade deadline in 2011.

    Last month, White was dealt for the second time, this time for reliever Wilton Lopez.

    The Astros must think that White offers up something two other franchises didn't.

    They also gave up a promising closing prospect in Lopez, who posted a 2.17 ERA with 10 saves. Lopez was effective following the trade of Brett Myers to the Chicago White Sox.

    Lopez will no doubt strengthen the Rockies' bullpen. I can't say that White necessarily strengthens the Astros' rotation.

Kansas City Royals: Jeremy Guthrie

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    When the Kansas City Royals inked starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to a three-year, $25 million contract, bells and whistles went off.

    Well, no—it wasn't quite that melodramatic.

    But Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.com certainly voiced his displeasure rather emphatically.

    From Cameron:

    I’m sure it doesn’t feel this way, but I’d really like to see the Royals become a good baseball team. I’d like to see Dayton Moore make some good moves, build around the young core that he has helped develop, and turn the Royals back into a legitimate contender. I’d like to write about how Moore has learned from his past mistakes, and is applying those lessons to make better decisions about what kinds of players he should spend money on. Mostly, I’d just like to be able to say something nice about a Dayton Moore transaction so that we can debunk the idea that FanGraphs has something personal against him or the Royals organization.

    But, as much as I’d like to be able to write a post talking about a good Dayton Moore transaction, he has to make one first. And, with news of the Royals agreeing to give Jeremy Guthrie a three year contract, today is not the day that I get to write something positive about a Dayton Moore transaction.

    And how about a parting shot from Cameron:

    Guthrie is a little bit of age-related decline away from being a replacement level scrub. Odds are pretty good that he’s going to be that pitcher by the time this contract ends, and it’s not obvious that he’s going to provide all that much value at the front end of the contract.

    Okay, then.

Los Angeles Angels: Joe Blanton

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    When the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Joe Blanton last August, they were hoping that Blanton could provide a boost for them down the stretch.

    That didn't happen—Blanton posted a less-than impressive 4.99 ERA in 10 starts.

    The Los Angeles Angels signed Blanton to a two-year, $15 million contract, hoping Blanton could serve as a suitable replacement for Dan Haren or Ervin Santana.

    In the past three seasons, Blanton has posted ERAs of 4.82, 5.01, and 4.71.

    Blanton is considered an innings-eater. But a quality innings-eater isn't what the Angels paid for.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers paid starting pitcher Zack Greinke $147 million over six years.

    Stop reading right now if you think Greinke is a better pitcher than Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels or Clayton Kershaw.

    Stop reading right now if you think Greinke is worth more per year than Justin Verlander, Matt Cain or even David Price.

    Greinke now makes more than all of them.

    I rest my case.

Miami Marlins: Placido Polanco

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    The signing of Placido Polanco to a one-year, $2.75 million contract by the Miami Marlins was done for two reasons.

    One, they have no major league-ready third baseman ready to take over.

    Two, they're covering up for massive and complete mismanagement.

    The Marlins traded off their two third basemen last season—Matt Dominguez to the Houston Astros and Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    As a result, they're now stuck with an aging third baseman with chronic back issues that will likely only get worse. Polanco played in just 90 games last year for the Philadelphia Phillies, and his offense has been in steady free-fall since 2008.

    Karma can be a you-know-what, can't it?

Milwaukee Brewers: None

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    The Milwaukee Brewers brought in three relievers to bolster their sagging bullpen, signing both Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny and trading for Burke Badenhop.

    Thus far they represent the major transactions of note for the Brewers.

    Can't find much fault in improving a bullpen that finished last in the National League with a 4.66 ERA last year.

Minnesota Twins: Kevin Correia

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    The Minnesota Twins weren't about to go out and spend lavishly to improve one of the worst starting rotations in the American League.

    But in Kevin Correia, they completely missed the mark.

    Correia, signed to a two-year, $10 million contract, was the pitcher the Pittsburgh Pirates demoted when they acquired Wandy Rodriguez.

    Correia was the guy that struck out a meager 4.68 batters per nine innings, ironically the same K/9 rate as current Twin Scott Diamond.

    General manager Terry Ryan said that Correia "left money on the table" to sign with the Twins.

    Ryan should have left the table before even making an offer.

New York Mets: None

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    The New York Mets sacrificed the present for the future in dealing away Cy Young Award-winning pitcher R.A. Dickey.

    But was the sacrifice worth it?

    In terms of the future, absolutely.

    Mets fans will no doubt feel the pain of this deal this season. However, after next season, the Mets will shave off another $50 million off the books with the expiring contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay. And they'll have their top prospects another year closer to the majors.

    Dickey was going to cost them at least what it cost the Blue Jays, and it would have brought the Mets no closer to a postseason berth this season with the signing.

    By trading for Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, the Mets have two more key pieces that fit brightly into that future for years to come.

New York Yankees: Kevin Youkilis

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    After failing in efforts to acquire more affordable options to replace Alex Rodriguez at third base, the New York Yankees rewarded Kevin Youkilis with a one-year, $12 million deal.

    The only saving grace was that it was a one-year deal.

    Youkilils put together the worst statistical season of his career in 2012, setting career lows in batting average (.235), on-base percentage (.336), slugging percentage (.409) and RBI (60). He simply played and looked like a player on the down-slope of his career.

    The Yankees will now pay $40 million to cover third base between Rodriguez and Youkilis.

    It's certainly fair to say that both deals are a bust.

Oakland Athletics: Bartolo Colon

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    Where else can an employee get caught for taking a banned substance and then be rewarded with a 33 percent raise?

    Oakland A's pitcher earned $2 million last year from the A's, posting a 10-9 record and 3.43 ERA in 24 starts. However, Colon was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone.

    He'll now earn an extra million and maybe more next season.

    Colon signed a one-year, $3 million contract with performance incentives that could tack on another $2 million.

    Maybe he'll work out, who knows. Maybe the stem cell replacement therapy he received two years ago made him bionic.

Philadelphia Phillies: None

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    The Philadelphia Phillies have pulled off a series of moves designed to help them back to the playoffs next season. It's hard to criticize any of the deals they've pulled off to date.

    They needed a center fielder—they went out and obtained Ben Revere, a player under team control for the next five years.

    They needed a third baseman—they traded for Michael Young and are only on the hook for $6 million of the $16 million he's owed next season.

    They needed a starter to replace Vance Worley—sent to the Twins in the Revere deal. They signed John Lannan for one year and $2.5 million.

    They needed a capable setup man to build a better bridge to closer Jonathan Papelbon—they got one of the best in business. Mike Adams signed for two years and $12 million.

    Was Adams expensive for a non-closer? Yes, but with the best ERA in baseball out of the bullpen over the past five seasons, he earned his contract.

    The Phillies completed filling out their shopping without spending an arm and a leg. Seems like a winning offseason to me.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jeanmar Gomez

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates are another team that's been relatively quiet this offseason, their biggest splash coming in the form of free-agent catcher Russell Martin.

    Last week, the Pirates acquired starting pitcher Jeanmar Gomez from the Cleveland Indians after he had been designated for assignment.

    Fortunately, the Pirates only gave up minor league outfielder Quincy Latimore, a youngster that didn't even crack the top 20 on the Bucs' minor-league rankings.

    Gomez has yet to develop into the pitcher the Indians envisioned when they signed him as an amateur free agent in 2005.

    Gomez is only 24 years old, so it's possible he could turn things around. But if an organization like the Indians are giving up on him, it might be a waste of time for the Pirates as well.

San Diego Padres: Jason Marquis

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    When the San Diego Padres signed starting pitcher Jason Marquis to a one-year, $3 million contract, one major question stood out.

    How will he pitch in a park that brought in the fences?

    Petco Park won't be considered an extreme pitchers' park anymore after shortening the field. Marquis certainly took advantage of that last year, posting a 3.67 ERA in seven starts.

    That advantage is now gone—so too will be the advantage for Marquis.

San Francisco Giants: None

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    The San Francisco Giants pulled off all of the deals they set out to make following their World Series victory.

    They resigned free-agents Jeremy Affeldt, Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan. Hard to criticize any of those signings, considering their efforts for the championship cause.

    They brought back 2010 World Series hero Andres Torres for a very-friendly one-year, $2 million deal as well.

    Hard to look at any of the deals and think bust at this point.

Seattle Mariners: Robert Andino

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    The Baltimore Orioles were only too happy to unload the under-performing Robert Andino. They found a willing partner in the Seattle Mariners.

    The Mariners acquired Andino for outfielder Trayvon Robinson and then signed him to a one-year deal in December.

    Andino has a career .235 batting average with a .296 on-base percentage—not exactly the boost in offense needed by the run-starved Mariners.

    Andino also committed 13 errors last season, the third-most among American League third basemen despite playing just 108 games at the position.

    The acquisition of Andino certainly won't make or break the Mariners' 2013 season. But on its face, it's a deal that just didn't make a whole lot of sense.

St. Louis Cardinals: Randy Choate

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    The St. Louis Cardinals didn't have to pay a lot to acquire lefty reliever Randy Choate—$7.5 million got the deal done.

    But three years for a 37-year-old?

    The Cardinals will be hoping that Choate won't break down before the end of the 2015 season.

Tampa Bay Rays: James Loney

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    The Tampa Bay Rays replaced an under-performing first baseman with one that performed even worse.

    With Carlos Pena, the Rays got 19 HR and 61 RBI despite a .199 batting average and 182 strikeouts.

    With new first baseman James Loney, the Rays get a player who put up his worst year offensively, hitting just .249 with six homers, 41 RBI and a paltry .630 OPS.

    For a team looking to increase offensive production, curious wouldn't come close to describing the Loney signing.

Texas Rangers: Lance Berkman

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    Needing to replace the offensive production of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli, the Texas Rangers signed Lance Berkman to a one-year, $11 million contract.

    Paying out eight figures to a 37-year-old who played in just 32 games last season and endured two knee surgeries? Wow, now that's optimism.

    Or just sheer stupidity.

    Even general manager Jon Daniels brought up the dreaded "if he's healthy" phrase when referring to Berkman.

    "I think every player acquisition has some sort of risk," Daniels said. "I think the big thing is, if you look at Lance's career and the type of hitter he is and what he brings, if he's healthy, he's going to produce. I'm very confident in that."

    Eight figures is a lot of risk when using the "if he's healthy" phrase, for sure.


    Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/01/07/4530589/healthy-berkman-will-be-rangers.html#storylink=cpy

Toronto Blue Jays: R.A. Dickey

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    New Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey put together a magical season last year for the New York Mets.

    But can lightning strike twice?

    The Blue Jays obviously thought so, negotiating a new two-year, $25 million deal that finalized his trade.

    Dickey showed his worth in three seasons with the Mets, posting a 39-28 record and 2.95 ERA.

    However, Dickey will be facing a team with a designated hitter rather than a pitcher for most of his games in the American League. Combined with pitching in the tough AL East Division, there's certainly no guarantee for future success.

    I don't have a problem with the Jays acquiring Dickey—adding on an additional two years and $25 million, however, could very well lead to an overall bust.

Washington Nationals: Dan Haren

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    The Chicago Cubs pulled out of a potential trade with the Los Angeles Angels, pulling the plug on a deal that would have netted starting pitcher Dan Haren.

    At issue for the Cubs was Haren's back stiffness last season, along with a hip issue and his reduced velocity.

    Those issues didn't seem to deter the Washington Nationals, who inked Haren to a one-year, $13 million deal.

    The Nationals were convinced after a full physical and an MRI that Haren was indeed healthy.

    There was obviously a red flag that prevented the Cubs from completing a trade with the Angels. In turn a red flag was there for the Angels as well, having no inclination to bring Haren back.

    That red flag could very well turn this deal into a bust for the Nationals.

     

    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.

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