Daisuke Matsuzaka and the 10 Worst Signings in Boston Red Sox History
According to ESPN's Gordon Edes and Yahoo!'s Tim Brown, Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to opt for Tommy John surgery to repair a significant tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. If he follows through and goes under the knife, it's quite possible that we've all seen the last of Dice-K in a Red Sox uniform.
The average recovery time following the procedure is between 12-15 months, so under the rosiest scenario, Matsuzaka could be back on the mound after the 2012 All-Star Break. But in my opinion, the Red Sox should end it here and now.
By the time he's ready to return, assuming everything goes according to plan, Boston will have had to find a permanent starting replacement. And since he'll be a free agent after next season, on with a zero percent chance of coming back to the club, there's really no motivation to work him back into the rotation. Adding to the bullpen might be an option, but would it really benefit the Sox?
Dice-K has taken a great deal from this franchise and given precious little in return. I'm not inclined to give him any more opportunities. Let's call it good and go our separate ways, shall we?
In fact, thinking about this being the potential end of Dice-K's Boston tenure got me thinking about the worst signings in Boston history. How does the Matsuzaka deal rank?
Let's find out by going over the team's top 10 worst acquisitions in recent memory.
No. 10: John Lackey
Ok, I know what you're thinking. It's too early to fairly judge the Lackey deal. He could end up being a solid pitcher in Boston.
That may be true, but if we're being honest with ourselves, Lackey is never going to be worth the $85 million that Boston paid him. It was a reach at the time, and in retrospect, looks like an ever-worsening blunder.
After posting a career year in 2007, Lackey's numbers declined substantially over the next two season in Los Angeles. But that didn't stop Boston from offering a five-year deal. Last season, his Red Sox debut resulted in a 4.40 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. And yes, that ERA was slightly below league average.
Thus far in 2011, Lackey is building on that sparkling mediocrity with some dazzling failure. He was pounded early before doing on the D.L. with elbow problems and has been a major liability to date.
This signing was a poor one because aside from 2007, Lackey was never a great pitcher. Good? Sure. But on his best days, he flirted with a 4.00 ERA and allowed far too many baserunners.
His reputation as a workhorse was somewhat overstated as well; though he did have three straight years of 200-plus innings, they were followed by 2008 and 2009 campaigns complete with nagging injuries that held him to fewer than 180.
Lackey still has time to turn things around and work his way off of my list, but for now, I'm not hopeful.
No. 9: Tony Clark
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Clark wasn't really a free agent signing, as Boston claimed him off of waivers from the Detroit Tigers. The Red Sox then paid him $5 million for his services in 2002. How did the 6'8" first baseman respond?
He appeared in only 90 games, which marked his lowest total since becoming a full-time player. He compiled a ghastly .556 OPS and managed a pathetic three home runs in 298 plate appearances.
Clark was beyond dreadful; when you break down the numbers, he earned nearly $90,000 per hit in Boston. Of course, there was no way of knowing that he would be that bad. But there was also no real reason to ink him at all.
Clark hadn't played anything close to a full season since 1999, and the power he flashed in his prime had dwindled dramatically. The team would have been far better off letting DH Brian Daubach man first.
Looking back, I can think of about five million better ways to spend $5 million. At least it was only one year.
No. 8: Matt Clement
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For sheer futility, the Clement deal ought to be higher on this list, but I'll cut the team some slack because no one could have foreseen such extensive injuries.
Clement spent more time hurt than healthy while in Boston, and had that not been the case, he might have been more effective.
Even so, it's hard to find anything positive to say about his tenure. Over the course of a three-year deal, Clement earned just shy of $26 million. For that, Boston got a grand total of 44 appearances. That's nearly $600,000 per start. What an investment.
Clement added insult to injury, so to speak, by being lousy on the mound. So even when he wasn't on the D.L., the team failed to benefit.
2006 was even worse, an injury-riddled year that ended with 12 starts and a 6.61 ERA. Clement capped off the deal by missing 2007 entirely.
No. 7: Jose Offerman
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Offerman will forever plague my memories with his ludicrous batting stance and his insufferable replacement-level play. But at the time they brought him on board, the Red Sox had some reason to be hopeful about the acquisition.
Offerman's 1997 campaign was marred by injury, but his 1996 and 1998 seasons were actually solid. He posted OPS totals of .801 and .841, swiped a combined 69 bases, led the league in triples in 1998, and flashed excellent on-base skills.
And in fact, his first year with the Sox was similarly strong. He hit .294, had a .391 OBP, and led the league in triples yet again while scoring a career-best 107 runs.
Sadly, it was all downhill from there.
Offerman turned out to be mostly useless as his speed diminished and niggling injuries ate into his playing time. His average took a nose dive into the .250 range and his production at the plate suffered a similar vanishing act. His defense, which had never been great, seemed to get worse with each passing year.
For the privilege of his deteriorating skills, Boston ended up paying him nearly $24 million before shipping him to Seattle midway through 2002.
No. 6: Steve Avery
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Avery, perhaps more than any other player in baseball history, was great by association.
Pitching for the Atlanta Braves rotations of the 90s gave him the cachet that he never could have earned anywhere else, almost as if just being next to Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine imparted some kind of special prowess.
Unfortunately, Boston ignored his numbers from the 1995 and 1996 seasons when they brought him on board in 1997. Those two years featured ERAs of 4.67 and 4.47, and 1996 was particularly ugly in terms of peripheral stats.
Nevertheless, Boston was enamored of his skills and proceeded to fork over nearly $9 million for his services over the next two seasons. The reward? A collective 5.64 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, and more walks than strikeouts.
Again, based only on actual performance, this deal might need to be higher on this list. But at least Avery had some legitimately good seasons under his belt, and at least the Red Sox only went two years on the successive one-year deals.
No. 5: Andre Dawson
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The Dawson deal was the epitome of bad timing. Had the Sox gotten to the Hawk ten years earlier, they would have been geniuses, but waiting until he was 38 years old made them look stupid.
Time had robbed the one-time slugger of his power as he hit only 29 homers for Boston over the course of 196 games. Admittedly, he was doing okay in 1994 before the strike killed the season. But his body of work in Boston was rather pedestrian.
He would earn nearly $9 million for less than two years of service despite being substantially below average at the plate. As a DH, hitting was his only contribution to the team, and by failing to do it well he made himself a liability rather than an asset.
At least this gaffe ended in short order.
No. 4: J.D. Drew
J.D. Drew. The name is synonymous with under-achieving. Baseball has probably never seen a player with such a high ceiling miss out so badly on reaching his potential.
He had that reputation before he came to Boston, but it apparently didn't scare the Red Sox. Maybe they thought they could change him.
They were wrong.
To be fair, it's not like Drew has been horrible. His career .375 on-base percentage in Boston is actually very good, and his .841 OPS makes him an above-average player. Then there was his unbelievably unlikely grand slam off of Cleveland's Fausto Carmona in Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS.
But Boston didn't ink him to a five-year, $70 million deal to be above-average. They expected him to play like an All-Star. And Drew has routinely refused to do so.
He's also suffered through constant injuries, rarely willing to tough anything out on the field. In short, Drew has been a guy who just gets by, doing the bare minimum and consistently frustrating Sox fans everywhere.
And by the way, his name is David Jonathan. The "J.D." comes from his choosing to go by first his middle name, and then his first and last initial. So yes, the "D" in J.D. is essentially his last name. Annoying, right?
No. 3: Matt Young
photo by John Iacono/ SI
What were the Red Sox thinking when they brought Young to town in 1991? Obviously they believed that a decent 1990 season, with a 3.51 ERA but a 1.35 WHIP, outweighed a career's worth of mediocrity.
Young was consistent only in his inconsistency, with numbers that yo-yoed between good and terrible from year to year.
Still the Sox paid him roughly $5 million over two seasons to be, well, himself.
In 1991, he was lousy, posting a 5.18 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in 19 appearances. In 1992 he was only slightly better, with totals of 4.58 and 1.57 in 28 games. He was an occasional starter who appeared mostly in relief during the second season.
Young is remember for one of history's strangest no-hitters, but that game aside, he's best forgotten.
No. 2: Julio Lugo
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I toyed with making Lugo No. 1 overall, because he really was unforgivably awful in Boston. Lugo was the worst disaster in the long series of disasters that succeeded Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop for the Red Sox.
There was Pokey Reese, Edgar Renteria, Alex Gonzalez...it really was that bad. Only Orlando Cabrera's 2004 numbers offered any respite.
Lugo compiled a .664 OPS over the course of two-plus years with the Sox. He hit a combined .251. He was a spectacular failure in the field and an offensive black hole at the plate. And worst of all, there was really no reason to sign him.
Lugo had never been anything more than an average player. At best. And yet, Boston inked him to a four-year, $36 million deal. It was an indefensible decision, and one that still haunts the Fenway Faithful to this day.
No. 1: Daisuke Matsuzaka
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Well, I telegraphed this one, didn't I? You knew it was coming. And chances are you disagree with me. But I firmly believe that Matsuzaka was Boston's worst signing.
It's easy enough to look at his career numbers and say that they aren't all that bad. A 4.25 ERA and 1.40 WHIP over five seasons? Surely things could have been worse. And in fact were worse with some of the other names on this list.
I admit that Dice-K wasn't all bad on the mound, but he was mostly bad. Even his best campaign was more luck than skill.
That 2.90 ERA in 2008 looks great until you realize how fortunate he was to sustain it. His 1.32 WHIP was grossly high for such a low ERA total. He had allowed baserunners at the same rate the previous year and earned a 4.40 ERA for his troubles.
Take 2008 out of the mix, and Dice posted ERAs of 4.40, 5.76, 4.69, and 5.30. Those numbers are bad. Now consider that he was making an average of $8.5 million per year under his 6-year, $51 million deal.
Perhaps you still don't think that's such a bad value. But remember that the $51 million is only half of what he truly cost the Red Sox. The team paid another $50 million just for the right to sign him in the first place, and in fact, has spent nearly $103 million on him overall. What has Matsuzaka ever done to warrant $17 million per year?
The answer is nothing.
But what makes Dice-K Boston's biggest mistake are the factors surrounding his contract. For the first time in nearly a century, Boston was regularly competing for World Series titles. For the first time in memory for most of us, Boston was on equal footing with the vaunted Yankees. And in fact, part of why the club negotiated so hard to win Matsuzaka was to keep him out of New York.
As it turns out, the Sox should have let the Bombers have him.
And the expectations for his success were so high that his subsequent failures are made all the more crippling. Dice-K was a bust not simply because he flopped, but because he flopped when he was supposed to bring ace-like stuff to the rotation. He wasn't brought in to be a role-player. But as it turned out, he was never more than a marginal back-end starter.
Now, if he has the surgery, he may be done as a Red Sox. But the team will still owe him the remainder of this year's $10 million and another $10 million for next year.
If only we had been able to trade him out of town before the injury, something might have been salvaged from this wretched mess. Instead, Matsuzaka will move on and the Sox will have little to show for his time with the team. Other than some large red numbers on the account balance sheet.