The Braves have to be wondering whether they made a huge mistake by signing Upton and allowing Bourn to walk.
It’s not too early for a team to have buyer’s remorse after spending good money on a free agent who has yet to produce. I’m looking at you, Josh Hamilton, Melky Cabrera, B.J. Upton and Jeff Keppinger.
But how about those players who signed elsewhere and are having big years? Their new team is certainly happy. The team that let them walk as a free agent or was just outbid? Not so much.
Here are six free-agent signees from the past offseason that are making their past employers regret not bringing them back.
2013 team: Cleveland Indians
Contract: Four years, $48 million
2012 team: Atlanta Braves
It’s not even so much that Michael Bourn is having a great season—he’s been good (.838 OPS in 17 games) but missed nearly a month with a finger laceration. The bigger issue has been that B.J. Upton, the guy they signed instead of Bourn to a much bigger deal (five years, $75.25 million), has been terrible.
Unless we’re giving Upton credit for his little brother Justin’s success, I can say confidently that he’s been an even bigger free-agent bust than Josh Hamilton. Upton was bad in April (.500 OPS) and he’s been worse in May (6-for-44, 0 HR, 6 BB, 19 K).
We know the 28-year-old Upton can be streaky and can heat up at anytime, but we also know that the Braves are without a prototypical leadoff hitter—their leadoff hitters have a combined .301 on-base percentage through May 16—while the Indians now have one of the best in baseball.
2013 team: Boston Red Sox
Contract: One year, $9.5 million
2012 team: Oakland Athletics
The A's have gotten terrific production from Jed Lowrie and Adam Rosales at shortstop. But that production could easily be coming from the second base spot, where both Lowrie and Rosales can play and where Oakland has gotten very little production from Eric Sogard and Co.
On a limited budget, the A's decided to spend their money to acquire outfielder Chris Young and add him to an already-crowded group. It hasn't been a bad idea, considering Young, Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick are on, or have been on, the disabled list.
But the $9.5 million guaranteed to Young ($8 million in 2013, $1.5 million buyout for 2014) is the exact amount Stephen Drew signed for in Boston. And for that amount, he's been worth every penny. After a slow start, the 30-year-old shortstop has 20 hits in his last 63 at-bats with three homers, four doubles, a triple and 15 runs batted in.
2013 team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Contract: Six years, $147 million
2012 team: Los Angeles Angels
Zack Greinke's only made three starts—all very good one's and all Dodger wins—but he could've avoided that nearly six-week stint on the disabled list if he stayed in Anaheim, where Carlos Quentin wouldn't have been able to get hit with a pitch and charge the mound and fracture Greinke's collarbone.
The Angels, however, decided to spread out their dollars on three different starting pitchers: Joe Blanton (two years, $15 million), Tommy Hanson (acquired from Braves for Jordan Walden; added $3.31 million to payroll) and Jason Vargas (acquired from Mariners for Kendrys Morales; added $3.25 million to payroll).
And while the combined salary of that trio doesn't come close to Greinke's—sorry for rubbing this in, Angels fans—they could have fit him into their plans had they not spent a boatload of money on Josh Hamilton. The offense was not their problem. The possibility of losing Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana made the rotation the priority.
2013 team: Tampa Bay Rays
Contract: One year, $3.25 million
2012 team: Cleveland Indians
In a very non-controversial move, the Indians declined Roberto Hernandez's $9 million club option for 2013. The man formerly known as Fausto Carmona had a 5.25 ERA in 32 starts in 2011 and then missed most of 2012 because of the issues with his false identity.
But instead of re-signing him at a much lower salary—let's say $4 million, which is $750,000 more than the Rays gave him and $3 million less than they gave Brett Myers, who had an 8.02 ERA with 10 homers allowed in 21.1 innings before landing on the disabled list with an elbow injury—they let him walk.
In the meantime, Hernandez has been solid for Tampa Bay despite the team losing five of his seven starts. The 32-year-old has pitched at least six innings in all but one game and has a 3.68 ERA with 12 walks and 30 strikeouts in 29.1 innings over his last five starts.
2013 team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Contract: Two years, $15.5 million
2012 team: Oakland Athletics
Brandon McCarthy's had mixed results in his first National League stint—he has a 5.63 ERA through his first seven starts but only six walks and 32 strikeouts and eight shutout innings in his last outing. The 29-year-old has also pitched at least six innings in six of eight starts and appears to be getting into a groove.
More importantly, McCarthy is healthy, which had rarely been the case up until the last couple of years. And that's why even a team-friendly two-year, $15.5 million deal was a bit risky and too rich for the A's and their limited payroll.
But with Brett Anderson (currently on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his foot), Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily combining on a 6.77 ERA this season, $7.75 million per season for McCarthy might not have been a bad idea.
2013 team: Cleveland Indians
Contract: One year, $6 million
2012 team: Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles witnessed firsthand what kind of impact Mark Reynolds can have when he gets locked in. They also saw how bad he can be but stuck with him just long enough.
After a 9-for-63 start to the 2012 season with no homers, he hit .233 with 23 homers and 66 runs batted in the rest of the way while also playing solid defense after being moved over to first base.
It wasn't enough, as the O's declined his $11 million club option and watched him sign a one-year deal with the Indians for what is turning out to be a huge bargain at $6 million.
While the Orioles designated hitters have combined on a measly .488 OPS through 40 games, Reynolds, despite a recent 1-for-16 slide, is hitting .263 with 11 homers and 34 runs batted in through 39 games. He's also showing his versatility by moving over from first to third base after the struggling Lonnie Chisenhall was sent to the minors.