Gambling in baseball is strictly prohibited (just ask Pete Rose), but gambling is exactly what general managers around the game have done this winter.
It's what they do every winter.
The wager, in this case, is the big money (and multiple years) that the free agents these general managers sign, hoping that these additions will improve their respective teams' chances of making a deep playoff run.
While some of these bets pay immediate dividends, more often than not, the payout at the end simply wasn't worth the time and money that they cost.
Let's take a look at 10 free agent gambles that, while short-term success may be enjoyed, aren't going to end well.
The Deal: Three years, $39 million
After the Carl Crawford disaster, you'd think that Boston would avoid players whose value is largely predicated on their ability to run.
Yet that's exactly what they got in 32-year-old Shane Victorino, who is coming off of the worst season of his nine-year career.
Defensively, he's an upgrade over the likes of Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava and Ryan Sweeney, Boston's internal options to fill a corner outfield spot.
But offensively? The "Flyin' Hawaiian" didn't look good at the plate in 2012, especially with the Dodgers. In 53 games, Victorino hit .245 with a .316 on-base percentage, 16 extra-base hits and 15 RBI.
The Deal: Five years, $80 million
Anibal Sanchez was phenomenal in the playoffs for the Tigers, pitching to a 1.77 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and striking out 18 batters in just over 20 innings of work.
But is he really worth more than $15 million a year?
You could make the argument that he is, with a career 3.75 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, solid numbers for sure.
However, this deal doesn't make the list because of Sanchez' performance on the mound, but instead because of the ramifications the Tigers will face for handing it out—if Sanchez is worth this much, than what is Max Scherzer worth? How about Justin Verlander?
Both of them are set to hit free agency following the 2014 season.
Verlander is on a level of his own, and the Tigers aren't going to have much of a choice but to make him the most well-paid pitcher in the history of the game.
Let's tentatively call Verlander's future deal a six-year, $175 million contract, just to put a number on it.
Scherzer is going to point to the deal Detroit gave Sanchez as a starting point in his negotiations, especially if he builds off of his 2012 success as many (myself included) believe that he will and emerges as a dark horse candidate in the Cy Young award race.
Detroit could be looking at three pitchers earning more than $300 million combined—all on the wrong side of 30.
The Deal: Three years, $25 million
Kansas City was desperate for starting pitching at the end of the season, and I can't help but think that the decision to re-sign Jeremy Guthrie wasn't a case of the Royals bidding against themselves.
Guthrie, 33, has been a mediocre starting pitcher over the course of his career.
While his numbers with the Royals were very good—5-3 with a 3.16 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 14 starts—Guthrie is a fly ball pitcher with a low strikeout rate.
That tends to lead to a lot of home runs—and poor results—for the team he's starting for.
An ERA in the mid-fours with an inordinate amount of home runs allowed will make Royals fans look at Guthrie's deal when it's all said and done and wonder whether he, or Gil Meche, was a bigger disappointment in Royals blue.
The Deal: Two years, $15 million
Rather than let prospects like Garrett Richards and Nick Maronde battle it out in spring training for the final spot in the starting rotation, the Angels decided to commit middle-of-the-rotation money to a borderline back-end veteran.
No matter how you look at his numbers over the past three years: ERA (4.79), ERA-plus (84) or hits per nine innings (10.3), Joe Blanton simply hasn't been very good.
Sure, he's an innings eater at the back of the rotation, but what are those innings worth if they aren't any good?
Going with Maronde, Richards, or re-signing Dan Haren would have been a better use of the team's finances than bringing Blanton on board, who hasn't had a season that could be mistaken for a quality one since 2009, when he went 12-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 31 starts for the Phillies.
The Deal: Five years, $125 million
The numbers that Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout combine to put up for the Angels in 2013, combined, are going to rival those of the best trios in the history of baseball.
We might be able to say that in 2014, heck, even 2015 as well.
But sooner or later, Hamilton's history of abuse is going to catch up with him; the body that he abused is going to betray him, sapping him of bat speed and power as he continues to age.
By the time Hamilton's five-year deal with the Angels is over, a then 36-year-old Hamilton will not be the perennial All-Star and MVP candidate that he is today.
Yet the Angels will still be paying him as if he is.
The Deal: Three years, $22.5 million
After being acquired at the trade deadline from the Seattle Mariners, Brandon League pitched pretty well for the Dodgers down the stretch, posting a 2.30 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in just over 20 innings of relief.
But he also averaged nearly five walks per nine innings of work, a number that's far too high for any reliever, much less a closer.
There's the rub. League shouldn't be closing for the Dodgers.
Kenley Jansen, 25, who has overpowering stuff and was largely successful in the closer's role for Los Angeles in 2012, is the one who should have gotten the nod.
League couldn't hold onto the closer's job in Seattle—he'll suffer the same fate in Los Angeles.
He simply isn't worth the money that the Dodgers are paying him.
The Deal: Four years, $40 million
Angel Pagan is a fine ballplayer, one who fits the defending World Champions very well, and it's completely understandable why the Giants would reward him with a lucrative multi-year deal.
Keeping the band together is something every championship team hopes to do.
But a four-year deal?
Pagan had an excellent season for the Giants in 2012, but this is a 31-year-old outfielder, one heavily reliant on his speed (see Victorino, Shane). He'll be 35 by the time the deal comes to an end.
Players like that typically don't age well, and with the lack of a power game, they become far less effective at the plate.
For someone without a real power stroke, his 97 strikeouts last season have to be a concern, as does the fact that it was only two years ago when he posted a .694 OPS with the Mets, nearly 100 points lower than the .778 mark he had last year.
Sure, the Phillies were sniffing around Pagan, but as CBS Sports' Danny Knobler noted, Philadelphia always considered Pagan's asking price too high.
The dollars are what they are—but the Giants committed at least one, if not two years too many to Pagan.
The Deal: Three years, $20 million
Marco Scutaro rewarded the Giants handsomely for getting him out of Colorado, hitting .355 with a .386 on-base percentage in 77 games, both in the regular season and postseason combined.
It is totally understandable why the Giants wanted to keep Scutaro in the fold for 2013—after a performance like that, they'd be foolish not to.
But does anyone, GM Brian Sabean included, really believe that Scutaro can replicate those numbers again in 2013?
Or in 2015, when a 40-year-old Scutaro will still be the team's starting second baseman?
What Scutaro did for the Giants in 2012 was incredible.
But he'll never sniff those gaudy numbers again. That kind of performance, from a 37-year-old infielder, is unsustainable.
The Deal: One year, $2 million
Barely a blip on the free agency radar this winter, that James Loney received anything other than a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training is surprising.
To be fair, the free agent crop of first basemen was rather bare, but James Loney isn't much of an upgrade over Tampa Bay's bargain-bin first baseman from 2012, Carlos Peña.
Loney, 28, has little in the way of power, and he looked completely lost at the plate in 2012, finishing with a slash line of .249/.293/.336. That he's going to be part of a platoon with Shelley Duncan tells us all we need to know about the state of first base in Tampa Bay.
The Rays, still with a wealth of pitching both on the major league roster and in the minors, would have been far better off swinging a deal for either Kendrys Morales or Michael Morse rather than spend $2 million on a player that figures to hit at the bottom of the lineup.
The Deal: Two years, $16 million
In the grand scheme of things that have transpired in Toronto this winter, signing Melky Cabrera isn't a big deal, financially or on the field.
Cabrera, the latest poster boy for PEDs, was suspended for 50 games in the middle of August, the result of a positive test (and subsequent admission of) using a performance enhancing drug, in this case, testosterone.
That the Blue Jays decided to give him a two-year deal is mind boggling, considering that the significant jump in his production over the last two years now falls under the cloud of performance enhancing drugs.
So which Cabrera did the Blue Jays sign?
Did the 28-year-old finally figure it out and develop into an All-Star, or the player who, at best, is a capable fourth outfielder or part-time starter in a platoon situation?
Obviously Toronto is banking on the former.
I'm leaning heavily towards the latter.