MLB: Derek Jeter, Jayson Werth & the 10 Most WTF Deals of 2010-11 Offseason
Even if it's not as much fun as the actual season, there's nothing quite like the winter MLB Hot Stove.
Trade rumors, free agent gossip, blockbuster deals—there's always a major storyline to follow and speculation about the big names will be come Opening Day.
But for every major deal that creates a buzz throughout the game, there's at least a couple that just make people scratch their heads and arch their brows.
These are the Barry Zitos, the Mike Hamptons, the Alfonso Sorianos—the stupid trades and wasteful free agent signings that make every John Q. Fan think he could run his favorite team better than the GM.
In this slideshow are the 10 most questionable additions MLB teams have made this offseason.
Honorable Mentions: Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
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Two of the most recognizable players in New York Yankees history, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, combined for five years and $81 million this winter.
Under normal circumstances, both would be considered idiotic contracts.
Jeter is a 36-year-old shortstop with no range who managed just a .710 OPS last year. Rivera, 41, is seemingly ageless, but even he has to decline eventually, and $15 million a year is way too much for a reliever.
But the Yankees' payroll is virtually limitless and the New York media would have screamed bloody murder had either gotten away from the Bombers, so they miss this list. At least their deals were understandable.
No. 10: Juan Uribe, Los Angeles Dodgers
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Juan Uribe earned a nice payday after hitting 40 homers with 140 RBI, a .781 OPS, and 6.0 WAR over the last two seasons and helping the San Francisco Giants to a World Series championship in 2010.
But while a seven million per-annum salary is pretty reasonable, giving him more than a year or two seems a pretty risky investment.
This is a guy who averaged 125 games a season with a mere 80 OPS+ for the first eight years of his career. He turns 32 this month, so one has to wonder how long his late peak can last.
No. 9: Joaquin Benoit, Detroit Tigers
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The Detroit Tigers set the terms of a weird relief pitching market by handing three years and $16.5 million for Joaquin Benoit after he posted a 1.34 ERA and 11.2 K/9 rate in 2010.
It's a big payday for one good season. In 591.1 innings prior to last season, he posted an unremarkable 4.79 ERA and an ugly 1.42 WHIP.
Benoit missed the entire 2009 season recovering from rotator cuff surgery. In 2008, the 33-year-old right-hander was below replacement value, posting a 5.00 ERA and walking seven batters per nine innings.
Maybe Benoit really can maintain his success over the next few years, but why are the Tigers so sure?
No. 8: Austin Kearns, Cleveland Indians
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The Cleveland Indians didn't really need another outfielder this offseason—they've got plenty of young guys who could fill a bench spot. They brought Austin Kearns in to provide veteran leadership.
So what did Kearns do? Not only did he get busted for a DUI in Kentucky a few days before reporting to Spring Training—he then hid the incident from the team.
After a local newspaper reported the incident last week, Kearns had the gall to blame his lawyer for his silence. Did I mention that he's likely to do jail time?
I know the Indians didn't know this when they signed him, but it's not often that a player fails so spectacularly before the season even starts.
No. 7: Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers
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Call me a biased Indians fan—we Clevelanders were predisposed to distrust whoever replaced Omar Vizquel at shortstop—but what the Tigers see in Jhonny Peralta is beyond me.
Peralta smashed 24 homers with an .885 OPS and 4.5 WAR as a 23-year-old in 2005, but hasn't done anything special since. In 299 games over the last two seasons, he's hit .252/.313/.383 with 2.6 WAR.
The Tigers became enamored with him after he hit two homers in his team debut last July, and didn't seem to care that he put up a meager .665 OPS in his other 56 games with Detroit.
Now, they're moving him back to shortstop, where he has a career -5.4 UZR/150, and giving him $11 million over the next two years. Yeah, good luck with that.
No. 6: Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs
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Yes, Matt Garza is a good pitcher, and he'll instantly improve the Chicago Cubs' rotation in 2011 and beyond. But was this really a worthwhile move?
Garza's 4.42 FIP last year and 3.97 career ERA show him as a decent starter, but he's far from an ace. Moreover, his strikeout rate dropped from 8.4 K/9 in 2009 to just 6.6 in 2010—not a good trend for a 27-year-old.
He may be a bargain at just under $6 million this year, but as a Super Two player, he's due arbitration raises in 2012 and 2013. By the end of his team-controlled seasons, he probably won't be worth his salary.
Throw in the fact that Chicago dealt a prospect package that Keith Law called better than the one the Milwaukee Brewers gave up for Zack Greinke and you've got yourself a head-scratcher.
No. 5: Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
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When the White Sox signed Adam Dunn to anchor their lineup through 2014, it seemed to signal the end of the Paul Konerko era in Chicago.
Konerko's had his great moments with the Pale Hose; he's smashed 358 homers with an .863 and accumulated 29.5 WAR in 12 years with the team. He's coming off the best offensive year of his career, in which he hit .312/.393/.584 with 39 homers and 4.2 WAR.
Still, can we really expect the 35-year-old to keep up that pace after hitting a more modest .260/.350/.475 over the previous three seasons? With Dunn in the lineup, the painful separation made sense.
But then the White Sox handed him $37.5 million for the next three years—in other words, they're paying him as though he can maintain his career-best pace as his career is declining.
I'm betting Chicago will start to regret this deal by the end of June.
No. 4: Javier Vazquez, Florida Marlins
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Perhaps looking to lose his reputation as stingy, Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria opened his wallet to give Javier Vazquez a deal I have to assume was an attempt to curry favor with the players' union.
Vazquez, 34, led all of baseball with his 2.82 xFIP in 2009, but completely fell apart last year, seeing his walk rate more than double (1.8 BB/9 to 3.7) and his strikeout rate tumble (9.8 K/9 to 6.9).
His nauseating 5.32 ERA last year was actually lucky, looking at his .269 BABIP. Both FIP and tERA have him at an ugly 5.56 mark.
If he can get $7 million, who can't?
No. 3: Rafael Soriano, New York Yankees
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Investing three years in a reliever is silly. Giving anyone but a truly elite fireman an eight-digit salary is misguided.
Committing to pay $14 million to a bullpen arm three seasons from now? That's ludicrous.
And yet, it's exactly what the New York Yankees did, signing Rafael Soriano to a $35 million contract this winter, over the objections of GM Brian Cashman.
The worst part? Soriano won't even close—Mariano Rivera is still the Yankees' relief ace.
No. 2: Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals
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Analysts' jaws dropped when the Washington Nationals announced they had signed right fielder Jayson Werth in December.
It wasn't just that the Nationals weren't supposed to be major players for Werth—it was the massive contract they gave him: seven years at $126 million.
Werth, 32 in May, didn't nail down a full-time MLB job until he was 28. He has a long history of injuries, including a wrist problem that cost him the whole 2006 season.
He's been great over the last three years—he's hit .279/.376/.513 with 87 homers, 277 runs, 251 RBI, 52 steals, and 15.0 WAR—but does that really justify a deal of this magnitude?
When 38-year-old Werth is struggling to keep an everyday starting job in 2017, the Nats aren't going to be happy about paying him $21 million.
No. 1: Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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Two months ago, one might have described Vernon Wells' contract as an "albatross," "a huge mistake" or perhaps even "the worst in baseball."
Without a doubt, one would have called it "untradeable." Or so we thought.
When it was announced that Los Angeles had dealt Juan Rivera and (more importantly) Mike Napoli for Wells, it seemed the Angels front office had gone completely insane.
It had already been a disappointing offseason for the Halos, who had missed out on both Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre. And suddenly, it had gotten a lot worse.
Despite an encouraging rebound of sorts in 2010, the 32-year-old Wells has been worth 8.0 WAR over the last four seasons—the definition of average. And he's due $86 million through 2014.
Supposedly, money isn't an issue to the Angels (or so we've heard from people trying to rationalize the trade). But if that's the case, why didn't they instead sign Crawford?
This deal wouldn't have made any sense even if they hadn't given up one of the most underappreciated catchers in the game to get arguably the most overpaid player in baseball.