New York Mets: Kaz Matsui and the 10 Worst Free Agent Signings of Past 2 Decades

Jim MancariCorrespondent IApril 19, 2011

New York Mets: Kaz Matsui and the 10 Worst Free Agent Signings of Past 2 Decades

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    New York Mets’ left fielder Jason Bay is expected to make his return to the lineup this Thursday at Citi Field against the Houston Astros.

    After signing for four years and $66 million, Bay was sidelined with a concussion in late July after getting off to a poor start.

    Though it’s still too early to classify the Bay signing as a bust, he will need to provide some offensive punch to a Mets lineup that has struggled scoring runs.

    If things don’t work out for Bay, this signing will go down as one of the worst in recent memory.

    Until then, here are the 10 worst Mets free agent signings of the past two decades.

10. Moises Alou, LF

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    When healthy, Moises Alou was a productive member of the Mets. The problem was that he was rarely healthy with the team.

    Alou signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract with the Mets prior to the 2007 season. He hit .341, but in just 87 games.

    Omar Minaya should have seen the red flags that the 40-year-old Alou was finally wearing down after a 16-year career. However, Minaya exercised Alou’s option for 2008.

    Alou appeared in just 15 games that year after missing the start of the season with a hernia and the end with a torn hamstring.

    Alou joined the long list of players who came to the Mets when they were already way past their prime.

9. Kris Benson, SP

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    The Mets acquired Kris Benson from the Pittsburgh Pirates as a last-ditch attempt to make the playoffs in 2004.

    Not only did the team miss the playoffs, but they also parted ways with crowd-favorite Ty Wigginton and a prospect named Jose Bautista—the same guy that led all of baseball with 54 HR last year.

    Benson pitched decent enough down the stretch that the Mets locked him up to a three-year, $22.5 million deal prior to the 2005 season.

    He only lasted for one of those three years after posting a mediocre 10-8 record with a 4.13 ERA.

    Benson was shipped to the Baltimore Orioles before the 2006 season.

    The speculation will continue as to whether the Mets traded Benson because of his performance or to rid themselves of the distraction brought about by Kris’ wife, Anna.

    Her suggestive remarks and attire did not sit too well with the Mets brass.

8. Roger Cedeno, RF

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    Roger Cedeno was one of the centerpieces that led the Mets to a wild card berth in 1999. He hit .313 and stole 66 bases.

    Cedeno was included in the Mike Hampton trade with the Houston Astros prior to the 2000 season.

    The Mets re-signed Cedeno to a four-year, $18 million contract before the 2002 season.

    This second coming of Cedeno was nothing close to his breakout year in 1999. He hit just .263 and stole a combined 39 bases in two years.

    The Mets shipped him to the St. Louis Cardinals after 2003. He went from being a fan favorite to a goat in a matter of years.

7. Pedro Astacio, SP

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    Pedro Astacio was part of a dark period in Mets history. Coming off a World Series appearance in 2000, the Mets put together a string of putrid seasons from 2001-2004.

    The Mets signed Astacio to a one-year deal prior to 2002.

    He posted a consistent 12-11 record, but other than that he was a flop. He recorded a 4.79 ERA, and gave up a league-leading 32 HR and 16 HBP.

    Despite this ugly performance, the Mets chose to re-sign him for 2003. He only started seven games that year and pitched to a 7.36 ERA.

    Once again, the Mets organization failed to see the red flags.

6. Kelvim Escobar, RP

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    Omar Minaya, what were you thinking?

    Before last season, the Mets gave Kelvim Escobar a one-year deal worth $1.25 million guaranteed. However, he had only appeared in one game in 2009 for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

    He had been a consistent starter his whole career, but for some reason, Minaya viewed him as the team’s new setup man.

    Escobar never even threw a pitch for the Mets, as he injured his right shoulder before the season.

5. Vince Coleman, CF

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    Vince Coleman led the National League in stolen bases for six straight seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals in the late 1980s.

    Sadly, the Mets have had a reputation in which a good player comes to the team and then completely tanks. Coleman was one of the first on this list.

    Coleman played in just 235 games over three seasons as a Met after signing a four-year, $12 million deal before the 1991 season.

    He stole 99 bases in those three years. However, before he became a Met, Coleman had three seasons of over 100 stolen bases for the Cardinals.

    He was eventually sent to the Kansas City Royals for Kevin McReynolds—which turned out to be one of the better trades in Mets history.

4. Bobby Bonilla, RF/3B

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    Is that Bobby “Bonilla” or Bobby “Boo-Nilla?”

    After a brilliant start to his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Mets signed Bonilla to a five-year, $21 million deal in 1991 to be their new power hitter.

    He hit 34 HR in 1993, but other than that, he didn’t live up his big contract. The Mets finally cut ties with Bonilla during the 1995 season.

    As if his first stint didn’t bring enough disappointment, the Mets traded for a 36-year-old Bonilla before the 1999 season.

    Though the Mets won the wild card that year, Bonilla had nothing to do with that success. He hit .160 with four HR in 60 games.

    To add further insult to injury, the Mets will begin paying Bonilla the remainder of the money they owe him after buying out his contract. He will earn $1.1 million each of the next 25 years.

    How fitting that a player who was such a headache during his Mets tenure will continue to plague the team in the future.

3. Luis Castillo, 2B

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    At the time, the trade of Luis Castillo from the Florida Marlins to the Minnesota Twins really had no bearing on the Mets except that a pesky hitter would be out of the N.L. East.

    Little did the Mets know that this trade would come back to haunt them.

    Castillo became good friends with Twins’ ace Johan Santana. The Mets signed Castillo to a four-year contract in hopes that Santana would want to follow.

    Santana did sign, but Castillo became nothing but a headache. He had one good year in 2009, but his Mets career will be remembered as one that was plagued by injuries and one unforgettable dropped pop-up.

    The Mets made the right call in releasing Castillo this spring, though they were three years too late.

    In the scheme of things, the Santana deal is looking like a bust as well.

2. Kazuo Matsui, SS/2B

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    When a player hits a home run in his first plate appearance of the season for three consecutive seasons, you’d think that player is something special.

    However, when that player is Kaz Matsui, you quickly realize that it was more of a fluke.

    After signing a three-year, $20.1 million contract, Matsui homered on the first pitch he ever saw in the majors to start the 2004 season. That was pretty much the only highlight of his Mets career.

    Though he was hyped as a power hitter and can’t miss defender in Japan, Matsui was nothing more than a singles hitter and average defender in the states.

    To think, the Mets actually moved a young Jose Reyes to second base to make room for this clown.

    After just seven seasons, Matsui is back in Japan playing for the Rakuten Eagles.

1. Oliver Perez, SP

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    After a car accident in August of 2006 left the Mets main setup man, Duaner Sanchez, out for the season, New York desperately needed a shut down reliever.

    The Mets dealt Xavier Nady to the Pirates in exchange for workhorse righty Roberto Hernandez. As a throw-in, the Pirates included promising young lefty Oliver Perez.

    Perez struggled big time in seven starts for the Mets, but wound up on the postseason roster.

    In Game 7 of the NLCS, Perez gave Mets fans a glimpse of the pitcher he could be. He pitched six innings of one-run ball—though he benefited from Endy Chavez’s miracle catch.

    He had a tremendous year in 2007, going 15-10 with a 3.56 ERA. He became a free agent after the 2008 season that saw him go 10-7 but lead the N.L with 105 walks.

    In typical Omar Minaya fashion, he outbid himself for Perez’s services. He gave a pitcher that had only won 55 career games a three-year, $36 million deal.

    Perez only won three games after signing that deal. What’s worse is that he refused to accept a minor league assignment last season to work on his control. His release this spring was inevitable.

    The Mets could have used that same amount of money—and maybe even less—to sign Derek Lowe, who has won 33 games for the Atlanta Braves in the same amount of time.