MLB Free Agency: Predicting the 20 Biggest Bust Signings of 2012

Dan Tylicki@DanTylickiAnalyst IDecember 15, 2011

MLB Free Agency: Predicting the 20 Biggest Bust Signings of 2012

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    Every year, there are players that a team either takes a big risk on/spends too much on, or that a team presumes is a sure thing for the duration of the player's contract. In both cases, there are free agents that end up being terrible signings.

    Last year, Jayson Werth fit into the former category, while Adam Dunn fit into the latter. If Carl Crawford doesn't improve on 2011's performance, he will end up there as well.

    This year, there will undoubtedly be a slew of free-agent busts, and while some are easy to predict, others will be nigh-impossible. After all, no one saw Adam Dunn's horrendous season coming.

    Here are the 20 free agent busts for next year.

20. Manny Ramirez

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    It's hard to consider Manny Ramirez a bust given how low expectations would be, but anyone signing him is going to be disappointed. He'll miss a season and 50 games before even having an at-bat.

    Once that happens, what are the odds he'll be any good? His short stint at Tampa Bay suggests he was done anyway.

19. Yuniesky Betancourt

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    Yuniesky Betancourt is one of those players that somehow manages to get a decent contract with nice surface offensive numbers, despite the fact that more advanced metrics show him to be a bad player.

    His 2010 season with the Royals is as good as he gets offensively, and defensively he's not a good shortstop at all, so anyone acquiring him is wasting their money.

18. Jason Marquis

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    Jason Marquis is one of those guys that manages to get a good contract despite not being a good pitcher. His 2010 season was terrible and last season was not as decent as the stats make it look.

    Some team will hope he can return to his 2009 form, but I don't see any chance of that happening.

17. Jose Lopez

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    Jose Lopez was a good power infielder for the Seattle Mariners, yet in 2011 he completely disappeared. Despite playing badly with Colorado and Florida, a team is likely to grab him as a bargain pick.

    A bargain is what they're going to get, as I see him continuing to have stats like he did last year, rather than returning to Seattle form.

16. Ryan Ludwick

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    Ryan Ludwick is one of those players, like Lopez, who someone will sign to a nice contract in hopes that he will return to form, as he has not been good since the St. Louis days.

    They will be disappointed as well, since his hitting seemed to get worse after leaving San Diego. That's never a good sign.

15. Casey Kotchman

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    After a nice 2011 season, Casey Kotchman has picked up steam as a nice alternative to Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols for small market teams at first base.

    In reality, his .306 batting average and nice offensive numbers were a fluke this year. Normally he's a solid defensive first baseman but a mediocre hitter.

    He'll return to form next year, to the disappointment of whoever signs him.

14. Vladimir Guerrero

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    I like Vladimir Guerrero, and his staying power despite somewhat diminishing skills has been great. Even his weak 2011 season was still a nice one for a DH.

    Having said that, I can tell he is running out of gas. While he will still get a nice one- or two-year deal, 2012 will be when he starts fading out and wrapping up his career.

13. Johnny Damon

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    Like Vladimir Guerrero, I think Johnny Damon's had a great career that is now wrapping up. He's been a very consistent DH for the past few years, which makes it hard to cull him a bust.

    He will be 38 during the 2012 season, and his .261 batting average last year—nearly his career low—is not going to be getting any better.

12. Kelly Johnson

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    Kelly Johnson was a quality second baseman who became great for one season with Arizona in 2010. This past season, however, he struggled, and is now looking at getting a lesser contract than he would have liked in free agency.

    He will get a nice deal, but I think it will take a couple of seasons for him to bounce back. He should rebound defensively, but I have a gut feeling that his offense will be lacking in 2012.

11. Matt Capps

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    I've never been high on Matt Capps, finding him too inconsistent to be a quality closer. Still, he got a nice deal to re-sign with the Minnesota Twins.

    That's a move they will regret. A close look at his stats tells me that he should be a solid reliever, so he could break out and have a great year, but I still think he will struggle like he did in 2011.

10. Jon Rauch

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    Like Capps, Jon Rauch has been inconsistent in his relief career. He can be great as a regular reliever, just not as a closer necessarily. Since that's what he will be on the Mets, what puts him on the list?

    The Mets seem to have terrible luck at free agency, and at least one signee will end up being a bust. This year, I think it's going to be Rauch, who has had up-and-down ERAs the past few years.

9. Coco Crisp

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    Coco Crisp seems to reinvent himself every so often. He was a speed demon this past season, and had been a five-tool guy and a defensive specialist before that.

    While he should be a solid pickup, he's never reached that 150-game mark. He could be good for whatever team lands him, but I don't think he will be healthy enough to make an impact.

8. Grady Sizemore

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    The Indians re-signing Sizemore to an incentive-based contract was a smart move, as he has shown greatness when healthy, but has been unable to be just that recently.

    However, even when healthy, Sizemore's numbers have not been good the past couple years, and I don't think we are going to see a return to his prime levels at all.

7. Josh Willingham

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    Putting up 29 HR and 98 RBI in Oakland is no small feat, so Josh Willingham will likely get a nice contract.

    It would be a bad move for several reasons. He is not a good defensive outfielder, his strikeouts were way up and his batting average way down last year, and there are better options for the money he would require.

6. Ryan Madson

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    Ryan Madson has been a consistently great reliever for the Phillies, and as a Scott Boras client he's of course going to get paid.

    Madson has only been a full-time closer one season though, and spending big money on a closer with that lack of experience generally ends up blowing up in the other team's face, which it could do here.

5. Heath Bell

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    Heath Bell has been an elite closer for the past few seasons for the San Diego Padres, as well as one of the most consistent.

    Why would he end up on a bust list then?

    How many great Padres pitchers have made it out of San Diego alright? Jake Peavy failed, as did Chris Young and others. Heath Bell will likely follow that trend, and even if he doesn't, he's not going to put up the numbers he once did.

4. Michael Cuddyer

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    Michael Cuddyer's versatility and reliability have catapulted him to marquee free-agent status this year. As a result, he'll be getting a big contract.

    I think he'll play decently, but he won't be able to live up to it. He had a career year at the right time money-wise, but he's not going to have the numbers he did with Minnesota, as he seems to thrive when having to carry a team.

3. Edwin Jackson

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    Both young pitching free agents I can't seem to like. I don't care for Capps on the relief end and I don't care for Edwin Jackson on the starting end.

    Why he's a top-five free agent on some lists I don't know.

    He had one great season with Detroit in 2009 and was good for the Cardinals this year, but who knows how he'll perform once he's actually on the same team for a good length of time.

    If it's anything like his three years with Tampa Bay, it'll be mediocre.

2. Roy Oswalt

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    Roy Oswalt has been an unappreciated pitcher in his career, putting up great numbers, but has been stuck in Houston for most of it. He's now a free agent after a rather strange 2011 season with Philadelphia.

    The way that his past season went down doesn't sit too well with me, and I'm not sure if he's mentally ready for the 2012 season. If he is, he'll be an amazing pickup, but until then I think he could be a shocking bust.

1. Jose Reyes

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    Jose Reyes is this year's quintessential player who has an incredible year and becomes a free agent. As a result, he gets a huge contract that looks like too much on paper.

    In Reyes' case, it will become too much in reality as well. His health has been a concern, as he has not played a full year since 2008.

    When he's healthy and playing at 100 percent, he's an asset to any team, but if the Marlins are looking for an MVP year in and year out, that's not what they will get.