New York Mets: Oliver Perez and the 12 Worst Contracts in Team History
Bad contracts are like bad haircuts—they're embarrassing, annoying and don't go away fast enough.
The Mets, like all teams, have certainly had their share of bad haircuts.
Checking out the history of bad deals the Mets have given out over the years and you come up with a wide range of names. Some guys were big-name players who just never lived up to their contract, while others were no-namers who collected a pay check and disappeared like a thief in the night.
But what makes a contract "bad?" Is it simply the level of production measured by the amount of the contract?
Does $100 million entitle the team to 40 home runs each season?
What about injuries? Nobody has a crystal ball when drawing up these deals, and like all things, there's always going to be some level of risk.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the worst contracts the Mets have ever had the misfortune of handing out.
Keep in mind, hindsight is 20/20, so if you disagree, feel free to let me know.
2005: Julio Franco, Two Years, $2.2 Million
What do you do with the oldest player in the majors? Sign him to a two-year contract of course. That's what the Mets did in December 2005.
Let me get one thing out of the way: I loved watching Franco play for the Mets because everything he did, he became the oldest player in baseball to do that thing. It was hillarious.
In retrospect, this was a bad deal.
Franco was 47 years old at the time and 2006 marked his 29th professional season.
"I have admired Julio Franco for years," said Mets General Manager Omar Minaya at the time. "Julio can help us off the bench as a pinch-hitter and in the field at first base. He brings a legendary workout routine and a positive energy to the clubhouse."
Franco appeared in 95 games for the Mets that season, hitting .273 with two home runs and 26 RBI. On April 20, he became the oldest player in Major League history to hit a home run. In July, he became the oldest player to punch run. He also made his first start at third base in 24 years that September.
The Mets designated Franco for assignment on July 12, 2007, after just 50 at-bats and a .200 batting average.
2007: Guillermo Mota, Two Years, $5 Million
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Poor, poor Guillermo Mota. Well, not so poor; that's the point after all.
In late August 2006, as the Mets were marching towards the NL East title, they acquired Mota after the Cleveland Indians designated him for assignment. At the time the Mets got him, he was 1-3 with a 6.21 ERA.
En route to New York, something must have changed for Mota (you could take an educated guess now if you want).
In 18 innings with the Mets, Mota posted a stellar 1.00 ERA and became one of the primary setup men for Billy Wagner.
He picked up the win, pitching two innings of relief, in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite giving up three earned runs.
For his services, the Mets rewarded Mota with a two-year, $5 million contract.
$5 million for two years? Not so bad, right?
Well, this contract is bad not because of the amount, but because of the timing.
The Mets gave Mota this contract after he was issued a 50-game suspension by the MLB for performance-enhancing drugs.
Not only did Omar Minaya not seem to care much about Mota's use of PEDs, but he actually wanted to keep him around for two years after that. Mota is definitely one of Minaya's "Greatest Hits".
In 2007, he went 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA and was absolutely demolished by boos as soon as he walked onto the grass at Shea Stadium. Ripped to shreds in the newspapers and hated by the fans, the Mets eventually traded Mota to the Milwaukee Brewers for catcher Johnny Estrada.
2007: Scott Schoenweis, Three Years, $10.8 Million
In 2006, Schoenweiss finished the season 4-2 with a 4.88 ERA. In 51.2 IP, he gave up 48 earned runs with just 29 strikeouts.
Again, playing loosey-goosey with their checkbook, the Mets signed Schoenweis to a three-year, $10.8 million contract in January 2007.
In his first season in Queens, Schoenweis pitched in 70 games, finishing the season 0-2 with a 5.03 ERA. Like most lefty relievers, Schoenweis owned left-handed hitters to the tune of a .202 BAA. But his numbers against righties were terrible (.307 BAA, 1.84 WHIP and 4.68 BB/9).
After the season, it was revealed that Schoenweis pitched with a severed tendon in his left knee.
In 2008, he was significantly better, appearing in 73 and posting a 3.34 ERA, but he was still vastly overpaid.
According to FanGraphs.com, Schoenweis was worth a total of $3.7 million in his two seasons with the Mets. He was paid more than twice that amount.
He was the losing pitcher in the final game at Shea Stadium, and was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Connor Robertston in December 2008.
1990: Vince Coleman, Four Years, $12 Million
In the late 1980s, Coleman was a prodigeous base stealer, swipping at least 100 bags for three straight seasons from 1985 to 1987.
At the time, the Cardinals were the Mets biggest competition in the NL East, and Coleman was a big part of St. Louis' success.
So what did the Mets do? They signed Coleman to a four-year deal.
Coleman just couldn't stay on the field while with the Mets, appearing in just 235 games in three seasons. And that great base stealing? Gone. He never stole more than 38 bases in a single season.
While he didn't contribute on the field, he certainly did off the field, participating in some of the most notorious moments in Mets history.
In 1993, Coleman accidentally hit Dwight Gooden with a golf club while swinging it around in the clubhouse. A few months later he threw a lit firecracker into a crowd of fans.
See, the Mets always give to their fans.
Coleman spent the rest of that season on the shelf and was eventually traded to the Kansas City Royals for Kevin McReynolds.
1996: Bernard Gilkey, Two Years, $20 Million
In January 1996, Gilkey was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Mets. Unlike most Mets additions, he didn't struggle in his first season in Queens. In fact, he had the best season of his career, batting .317 with 30 home runs and 108 RBI.
For his production, the Mets rewarded him with $20 million for the next two seasons.
Then, as with most things, he fell off—big time.
The following season, his average fell to .249 and his OBP fell 55 points to .338. He hit just 18 home runs and 78 RBI.
The following season the Mets traded Gilkey to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Gilkey is best known for his role in the movie "Men In Black." You know the scene (I'm assuming you've all seen this great piece of American cinema) where the space ship is leaving and it flies over Shea Stadium, distracting a Mets outfielder as the ball hits him in the head?
That's Gilkey in the picture on the left.
2005: Carlos Beltran, Seven Years, $119 Million
The Boston Red Sox might live to regret giving Carl Crawford seven years and $142 million, especially after witnessing what the Mets went through with this man.
In 2005, soon after inking Pedro Martinez (more on him later), the Mets stunned the baseball world once again by signing Beltran for seven years and $119 million, on top of an $11 million signing bonus.
He was one of the additions that helped the Mets win the 2006 NL East.
His first season was a mess. Bothered by a quadriceps injury all season, Beltran hit just .266 with 16 home runs and 78 RBI. In August 2005, Beltran collided with fellow outfielder Mike Cameron in one of the uggliest collisions you'll ever see.
In 2006, Beltan recovered his power stroke, crushing 41 home runs with 116 RBI and 127 runs scored. Throw in 18 stolen bases and it appeared the Mets had made the right choice to sign Beltran.
Between 2007 and 2008, Beltran combined for 60 home runs and 224 RBI.
Despite his production, Beltran was not loved by Mets fans. He earned a reputation for being a soft player who was never very friendly with the media.
He'll always be remembered for looking at a called strike three with the bases loaded in the ninth inning in Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, ending the Mets season.
In January of last year, Beltran underwent knee surgery, reportedly without informing the Mets prior to the procedure. He returned on July 15 and finished the season with seven home runs.
The Mets have moved Beltran to right field for the 2011 season to spare him some wear and tear on his knee. Entering the final season of his contract, the Mets are counting on big production from Beltran if they're going to have any chance at contending this year.
Beltran put up decent numbers during his time with the Mets, and he was worth much more than he was paid when healthy, but he'll always be remembered more for what he didn't do rather than what he did.
2002: Pedro Astacio, Two Years, $11 Million
Before signing with the Mets, Astacio had his moments. He posted positive WARs every season from 1992 to 2001. From 1997 to 2001, he struck out at least 160 batters, including collecting 210 in 1999.
Notice how all those stats end right before he signed with the Mets? Yeah, me too.
In his first season with the Mets, Astacio went 12-11, one win shy of Al Leiter's team-high that season, with a 4.79 ERA. He allowed a league-high 32 home runs.
It gets worse.
Astacio began the 2003 season on the DL and would pitch in only seven games, finishing 3-2 with a 7.76 ERA. He allowed 47 hits in just 36.2 innings with 18 walks.
FanGraphs values his two seasons with the Mets at just $3 million.
Astacio's performance only illustrates just how bad Oliver Perez was, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
2004: Kaz Matsui, Three Years, $20.1 Million
Did you know that Matsui hit 33 home runs in the Japanese League the year before the Mets signed him?
He hit 10 home runs in his two seasons with the Mets.
Remember when Jose Reyes moved to second to accomodate Matsui at shortstop?
That was fun.
Matsui had his moments, like hitting a home run in his first at bat of the season for three straight seasons (2004, 2005,2006). But he never showed any of the power or defensive skills that earned him his reputation as a great player.
In his first season, Matsui played in just 114 games, posting a .272/.331/.396 line with seven home runs, 44 RBI and 14 stolen bases. He didn't fare any better in 2005, making just 87 starts and batting .255.
And so much for being a great defensive player. Matsui committed 23 errors in 110 games at shortstop in 2004 (.956 fielding percentage) and a .946 fielding percentage in 74 games at second base in two seasons.
Matsui was traded to the Colorado Rockies for Eli Marrero in mid-way through the 2006 season.
According to FanGraphs.com, Matsui was worth around $3.7 million in his two and a half seasons with the Mets.
2004: Pedro Martinez, Four Years, $53 Million
After signing his four-year deal in December 2004, Pedro became the face of the "New Mets."
Ticket sales went up and fans were excited about their team. Remember that feeling?
In his first season with the Mets, Pedro was excellent, finishing the season 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA, 208 strikeouts and a league-best 0.95 WHIP.
The Mets would never see that kind of production out of Pedro again.
In 2006, Pedro encountered a variety of injuries. First, he slipped in the dugout during a game against the Florida Marlins on May 26, injuring his hip. He'd go 4-7 with a 7.10 ERA after that, leading up to two stints on the DL.
Pedro tore a muscle in his left calf and a rotator cuff, which kept him out for most of the 2007 season. He even contemplated retirement.
He did come back though, and pitched well in just five starts (2.57 ERA). The success was short lived, however, as Pedro went down after just four innings, again against the Marlins, on Opening Day 2008.
He returned two months later but was ineffective.
In four years with the Mets, Pedro was 33-23 with a 3.88 ERA. Not terrible, but certainly not worthy of his contract.
According to FanGraphs.com, from 2006 to 2008, Pedro was worth a total of $13.4 million. The Mets paid him $40.7 million over that span.
Watching Pedro pitch well for the Philadelphia Phillies en route to their second consecutive World Series appearance was just salt in the wound for Mets fans.
2007: Luis Castillo, Four Years, $25 Million
If Oliver Perez was the Devil's right hand man, then Castillo was the left.
To be fair, he certainly had his moments with the Mets. When he was first acquired during the 2007 season from the Minnesota Twins, Castillo posted a .296/.371/.372 line in 50 games.
Then the injury bug hit Castillo. He appeared in just 87 games for the Mets in 2008, batting .245.
2009 was the only season the Mets had a fully healthy Castillo, one of the few Mets to stay healthy that season. In the only season the pro-Castillo people have to their credit, Castillo batted .302 with a .387 OBP and 20 stolen bases.
His defense, however, was atrocious. He posted a -11.2 UZR and a .982 fielding percentage in 135 starts at second base.
2010 saw a return to the 2008 version of Castillo, as he appeared in only 86 games for the Mets, batting .235.
When healthy, Castillo can still contribute, but he's just never healthy. Throw in a dropped pop up at Yankee Stadium that cost the Mets a game against the Yankees, and fans had had enough, as did Mets ownership.
Castillo was given a fair chance to win the second base job this spring, though he'll tell you otherwise, but GM Sandy Alderson thought it was best to eat the final $6 million and grant his release. Alderson admitted that fan perception played a role in his decision.
With the injury to Chase Utley, the Philadelphia Phillies signed Castillo to a minor league contract and he may find his way to their Opening Day roster. That means Castillo will probably hit .300 with a .389 OBP and 25 steals this season. That's how things go for the Mets.
2009: Oliver Perez, Three Years, $36 Million
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Okay Mets fans. Take a deep breath. I'll try to make this quick; like pulling off a band-aid.
One thing I do want to do, is post a few comments written by Mets fans at the time they gave Perez his contract. It gave me a few laughs.
"If the deal really is 3y and 36m, the Mets got a decent deal, far better than [Derek] Lowe at 4y and 60m. The Mets paid market for Perez, the Braves over-paid for Lowe. The Mets now have a solid rotation."
"He's won 25 games over the past two years. He's a proven reliable starter. Maybe if the Mets give him a three year or more contract he will buckle-down and start pitching up to his potential, which is vast."
"That's great news.. Just got to hope this kid can focus and concentrate more, he is very talented..Now lets get Many [Ramirez]."
Did you laugh?
Perez was terrible. All Mets fans are aware of this fact. I will admit, however, that at the time they signed him, I was in support of the deal. Why? Because the other two starting pitchers available at that time, Derek Lowe and Randy Wolf, were asking for way too much money, and both were older then Perez.
Look at what Lowe and Wolf have done since that year, and tell me it would have made any difference.
The best thing I can say about Perez is that, in 2009, he was the lesser of three evils. Well, that, and he owned left-handed batters.
Perez was just a throw in when the Mets sent outfielder Xavier Nady to Pittsburgh for Roberto Hernandez (does anyone else wonder where the Mets might be now had Duaner Sanchez not taken that ill-fated cab ride?) during the 2006 season.
Perez actually pitched well in the 2006 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, picking up a win in Game 3, and pitching six innings of one-run ball in Game 7.
From 2007 to 2008, Perez went 25-17 with a 3.89 ERA and 354 strikeouts. His BB/9 rate over those two seasons was 4.44. A sign of things to come right?
Fast forward two years and Perez is arguably the most hated Met in recent memory. I mean, it was bad. I can recall several moments watching Perez pitch at Shea Stadium/Citi Field and hearing some of the most horrible, vile things you can imagine yelled at him.
Perez was released earlier this month, with the Mets eating the final $12 million on his contract. He finished his time with the Mets with a 29-29 record, a 4.71 ERA and a downright ugly 1.48 WHIP.
1991: Bobby Bonilla, 5 Years, $29 Million / 2012: 25 Years, $1.2 Million Per
Extra credit for Mr. Bonilla. Not only did he get his sticky fingers into the Mets' pockets in 1991, but he gets to start doing it again next year.
Jesse James, Al Capone and Bobby Bonilla. I don't see a difference.
Bonilla's initial contract in 1991 is easily the worst in Mets history. Like most free agents, Bonilla's production dropped once he came to the Mets. His five-year, $29 million contract made him the highest paid player in baseball at that time.
By today's standards, that seems rather tame, but it certainly wasn't then.
Over Bonilla's first three full seasons, the Mets were a combined 75 games under .500. Bonilla, who hit at least 30 home runs in each of the previous five seasons and drove in at least 100 in three of those , hit more than 20 just once while with the Mets (34 in 1993).
His high-water mark for RBI during that time? 87, again in 1993.
His four and a half years with the Mets were marred by controversies and unmet expectations. Sound familiar?
As fast as the Mets traded Bonilla to Baltimore in July 1995, they brought him back just as fast in 1998 for relief pitcher Mel Rojas.
Bonilla hit just .160 with four home runs in 60 games during the 1999 season, and is singlehandedly responsible for the rule banning decks of playing cards in the Mets dugout that stands to this day.
Okay, that's not true, but it should be.
They wanted Bonilla gone, but still owed him $5.9 million. What is a team to do? That's where the second contract comes into play.
As basically every Mets fan knows, Bonilla goes on the payroll starting next year for $1,193,248.90 per year for 25 years. That's right, Bobby Bonilla officially has the easiest job in the world. I bet Bonilla, Perez and Castillo meet to play cards together and talk about the good ol' days.
Thanks to the deferment, the Mets were able to make several moves that brought them to their first World Series appearance since 1986. But Bonilla's contract in 1991, and his payments that start next year form the one-two punch of the worst contracts the Mets ever gave out.