Barry Zito. Vernon Wells. Mike Hampton.
It doesn't matter how much money is at stake, Major League GM's make a lot of mistakes. Few names prove as much better than the three players listed above.
Some bad moves are avoidable. Some are not. But every offseason, every trade deadline, some general manager is going to make a move he thinks will help his team, only to see it backfire and eventually cost him his job.
2010 has certainly not been immune to bad deals. Adrian Beltre, Marlon Byrd, and Vladdy may have been terrific pickups for their current teams, but free agency is a zero-sum game. Somebody always loses.
Hindsight is 20/20, and with that in mind, let's rank the 20 worst deals of the last year, from the 2009-10 offseason to the 2010 trading deadline.
Edwin Jackson started off the 2009 season on fire. Midway through the season the former top prospect looked like one of the American League's best pitchers. That was, of course, before he remembered who he was. Jackson had a horrible second half, and everyone got the message. Well, almost everyone.
This past offseason, Arizona GM Josh Byrnes traded talented young pitcher Max Scherzer to the Detroit Tigers for Edwin Jackson. Not surprisingly, Jackson went on to prove what everyone in baseball already knew—Josh Byrnes wasn't very good at his job.
Byrnes was fired in early July, and with the trade deadline approaching, new GM AJ Hinch traded Jackson to the Chicago White Sox. Since the trade, Jackson has made 10 starts with a 3.25 ERA and 4.44 K/BB ratio.
You have to feel for Diamondbacks fans.
Garbage for garbage... or at least that's what we thought when the Seattle Mariners traded highly-paid scrub starting pitcher Carlos Silva for highly paid-scrub outfielder Milton Bradley. The Mariners needed a bat, and the Cubs needed to not have Milton Bradley.
Silva gave the Cubs 21 solid starts this season, with a 4.22 ERA and even better underlying numbers. Had the Cubs defense picked him up a bit more often (.314 BABIP) he could have sported an ERA under 4.
Milton Bradley, on the other hand, hit under .200 with a sub .300 OBP in 73 games for the Mariners, making him a bellow-replacement level player. Had the Mariners played an average AAA hitter in Bradley's place, they likely would have scored more runs.
This past offseason, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein embarked on a crusade against bad defense, revamping his team's outfield by moving Jacoby Ellsburry and acquiring Gold Glover Mike Cameron.
The 37-year-old Cameron's OPS dropped 65 points this season, and after posting UZR's above 10 the past two seasons, he cost his team nearly 10 runs in the field—despite playing less than 50 games. After hitting 24 home runs in 2009, Cameron hit just four this year.
The Red Sox didn't commit too much money to Cameron, but they did count on him to anchor their outfield defense. Cameron failed miserably, dragged down by injury and general poor performance.
After a near-MVP 2004 season, the Mariners signed Adrian Beltre to a long-term deal. While Beltre played Gold Glove caliber defense at third base, his offensive production plummeted in Seattle.
After a terrible 2009 season the Mariners let Beltre go, moving Jose Lopez to third base. Lopez has struggled, while Beltre has rediscovered the offensive prowess he showed off in 2004.
In 153 games this year, Beltre is hitting .323 with 28 home runs and a .923 OPS. Add to that his customarily good defense, and he's easily been one of the five most valuable players in the American League this year.
The Mariners went in a different direction, and while Beltre may not have been able to save their abysmal season, the decision to let him go now looks like a poor one.
Given the hotly-contested NL West race the Giants find themselves in as the season nears its close, it's only natural to look back over the season and consider just how much each and every win and loss will mean. The Giants' biggest mistake this season likely cost them a few.
After holding Buster Posey's seat in 2009, it was widely believed the Giants would part ways with Bengie Molina heading into this season. Instead the Giants, uncomfortable with Posey as their starting catcher from Day 1, re-signed Molina and Posey headed to the minor leagues.
Molina struggled over the first couple of months of the season, and in early June, Buster Posey began his Major League catching career. Over the past few months, he's hit well over .300 and put himself squarely in the Rookie of the Year conversation.
How different would this division look had the Giants had more confidence in Posey, and let Molina move on?
Despite missing the 2009 season due to injury, Ben Sheets' all-world talent and impressive 2008 season with the Brewers made him a potential bargain this past offseason.
The Athletics, hoping to make a run at a wide-open American League West, signed Sheets to a one-year, $10 million contract. To put it mildly, Sheets did not live up to the $10 million price tag.
In 20 starts this season, Sheets was 5-5 for the Athletics with an ERA of 4.53 and with a K/BB rate under two. A midseason injury landed Sheets on the disabled list, ending his season.
You all know Rich Harden. Perhaps the best stuff in the league outside of Stephen Strasburg, yet unable to control the strike zone or, more importantly, stay on the field.
The Rangers hoped Rich Harden would provide them with a staff ace. Instead, he gave them a $6.5 million mistake. Battling injuries and ineffectiveness, Harden has made 18 starts this year with an ERA well north of 5.00.
Brian Cashman was praised this past offseason after trading Austin Jackson—a top-prospect whose star had dimmed—for Curtis Granderson, considered one of the best center fielders in the game.
Has Granderson lived up to expectations? Probably not. His home run output has dropped, his average has failed to improve, and his defensive played has suffered. Still, he hasn't been bad.
What makes this move such a poor one for the Yankees is Jackson's stellar play. A Gold Glove contender in center field, Jackson will finish the season with nearly 200 hits and nearly 30 steals.
He's had the better season of the two, he's much younger, and he's much cheaper. While the deal was not a bad one at the time, it doesn't look too good now.
The Yankees lost playoff heroes Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon following the 2009 season, and the acquisition of talented first baseman Nick Johnson was expected to help make up for this.
Johnson had finished second in the league in on-base percentage in 2009, and his left-handed power swing seemed the perfect fit for Yankees stadium.
But Johnson struggled in April, criticized by Yankees fans for walking "too much" as his batting average and power suffered. And injury in late April landed Johnson on the disabled list and ended his season before he had a chance to get back on track.
Coming off a World Series MVP award, Hideki Matsui seemed the perfect fit to replace Vlad Guerrero in Anaheim. Matsui was still a very good hitter who simply couldn't play the field at his age.
His season started off poorly, as he hit around .250 in the first half. He's picked up the pace since the All-Star break, OPS'ing over .900 in the second half and more than paying for his fairly cheap salary. So why the bad move?
The guy he replaced, Vlad Guerrero, spent the season proving that he was far from done. He's hit .301 with 29 homers and 112 RBIs for the Rangers while making the All-Star team.
This is one bad deal you simply can't blame on the GM.
Matt Kemp looked like a super star a few months ago. The young Dodgers center fielder was coming off a Gold Glove season in which he hit nearly .300 with a rare power and speed combo resulting in a near 30-30 season.
Kemp signed a large extension with the Dodgers over the offseason, and started the season off on fire. Yet as of today, Kemp is hitting .248 with 15 fewer stolen bases than in 2009. Kemp has also played abysmal defense, costing his team nearly 15 runs in the field according to UZR.
Kemp still might get things together, but even his GM questioned whether the large contract may have demotivated Kemp and led to his poor defensive and offensive play. This deal doesn't look all that good as of now.
Marlon Byrd was always a role player, until the Rangers gave him a full-time role last season. Byrd excelled, the Rangers considered it a fluke, and Byrd moved on in free agency.
While the Rangers outfield has played well this season, this was a mistake.
In 149 games for the Cubs this year, Byrd has hit near .300, with a .350 OBP, and Gold Glove caliber defense in center field.
The Rangers could have had Byrd for just $5 million a season, half what they paid Rich Harden.
Cliff Lee seemed to be running away with the Cy Young award this summer when the Seattle Mariners moved him to the Texas Rangers for stud prospect Justin Smoak.
Lee had an ERA well under three, and led the league with an insane K/BB rate of 14.83. Since then, Lee has gone 4-6 with an ERA of 4.25 for the Rangers, failing to live up to the hype that surrounded the blockbuster deal.
While I believe Lee has pitched at a higher level than the results may indicate, and that the poor ballpark and underperformed Rangers defense have certainly contributed to Lee's high ERA, this is not what the Rangers expected when they traded their top position prospect for the best pitcher in the American League.
Lessening the sting for Rangers fans is the fact that Smoak has hit just over .200 with the Mariners so far.
I will admit that when Josh Beckett signed this deal, I considered it a bargain. Beckett is in his prime, and has a long track-record of success. What could go wrong?
Injuries and poor performance have derailed Beckett's 2010 season. The Red Sox's former ace has won just five games with an ERA near six, and a strikeout to walk ratio of just 2.58, his lowest since 2006.
While I still believe Beckett may turn things around, it's not looking good.
Chone Figgins had a career year in 2009. The Angels' third baseman led the league in walks, stealing 42 bases, playing Gold Glove caliber defense, and even receiving some MVP consideration.
While the Angels were criticized for letting him go, it's the Mariners, who signed Figgins to a large contract, who are receiving the most criticism.
Figgins has had a solid year on the bases, stealing 42 bases again, but his average has dropped to .259, and his OBP to just .312. With the move to second base so Jose Lopez could take over at third, Figgins' defensive value has been basically eliminated as well.
Javier Vazquez's first stint in New York was a disaster, but his near Cy Young 2009 season with the Braves convinced many, including Brian Cashman, that a second tour of duty in pinstripes could work.
Well, it didn't. In fact, it couldn't have gone much worse.
From Day 1, Vazquez struggled. In 26 starts this year, Javy has an ERA well north of five. After striking nearly 10 batters per nine innings last season, he's struck out less than seven in 2010. His control has been nonexistent, and he's given up nearly two home runs per nine innings.
As bad as Lee to Texas might look, it has nothing on Lee to Seattle.
Cliff Lee helped the Phillies to the 2009 World Series, but after acquiring Roy Halladay for three of their five best prospects, the Phillies decided to move Lee to restock their farm system.
While this might sound okay when taken at face value, the Phillies ended up trading Lee to the Mariners for a bag of B and C level prospects with very cloudy futures. The Phillies then used the money they would have spent on Lee's 2010 salary to sign Joe Blanton. This did not turn out so well.
Bad couple of months or not, Lee has had a fantastic season with the Rangers and could have done a lot of good in Philadelphia, with Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt.
John Lackey looked like a dependable front of the rotation starter when the Red Sox signed him to a massive contract this offseason. So far, so bad.
The good: Lackey has thrown over 200 innings this year. He's stayed healthy. He hasn't burned Fenway Park to the ground.
The bad: Lackey has an ERA over nearly 4.50. His strikeouts are way down, his walks are way up. He's yet to complete a game, or throw a shutout, two things he did relatively well with the Angels.
But don't worry Red Sox fans. You still have a few expensive years left to try and squeeze something out of John Lackey.
The two biggest knocks against Jason Bay this past offseason were his subpar defense and the fact that he wasn't Matt Holliday.
A top of the line offensive contribute, the Mets bid against themselves, signing Bay to a ridiculous deal and sticking him in the middle of their lineup.
Bay has hit .259 this season with just six home runs, after a 36 home run, .921 OPS 2009 campaign in Boston.
Maybe this will finally cost Omar Minaya his job. Maybe.
A controversial pick, sure. But I have no doubt the worst player move of 2010 was the extension of Ryan Howard.
Howard is a good player and a fan favorite. He's actually having a solid year. But when the Phillies made him the second highest paid player, per season, in baseball history and extended him into his late 30s, it raised a few eyebrows.
Howard was never worth anywhere near the extension he received, and given the fact that he was under control for two more seasons, set to hit the free agent market in his early-mid 30s, the deal looked really bad from the start. But 2010 further proved how bad a deal the Phillies got.
Howard's power production further declined, as, after five straight years of 45-plus home runs, Howard has hit just 31 this year. His walk rate continued to plummet, and his OPS dropped to a career low .864.
The deal is bad now. Imagine how it will look in a few years, when Howard is an aging, overweight first baseman who hits .250 with 25 home runs and gets paid more money than Joe Mauer.