Jason Bay and the 10 Worst Free-Agent Signings in Mets History
After the Mets' very unsuccessful season in 2009, former general manager Omar Minaya made the pursuit of a high-profiled free-agent left fielder his top priority. This ended with the Mets paying Jason Bay $66 million over four years to patrol left field.
So far, this has become one of the worst free-agent contracts given in Mets history. Bay has yet to eclipse 20 home runs and 80 RBI in a season as a Met. He was paid to hit home runs, drive in RBI and give David Wright better protection in the lineup. Instead, he has looked lost at the plate quite often, suffered a concussion that ended his 2010 season, and has endured the Citi Field boo birds.
Many of the more veteran Mets fans may have already begun to reminisce on other poor free agent signings that the Mets have made in their history. The Mets have even become known as a team that makes poor free agent decisions, which is unfortunate because many of these players simply declined, their poor performance having nothing to do with the team they played for.
With this being said, here are the 10 worst free agent signings in Mets history.
10. Moises Alou
When Moises Alou signed a one-year contract for $7.5 million with the Mets prior to the 2007 season, he was expected to provide a solid veteran presence and to help the Mets win another NL East title. However, despite the great numbers he put up when healthy, he was barely healthy for the two seasons he played, and as a result, his contract became worth a lot less than expected.
Alou batted .318 in the first month of the 2007 season, but in May, he tore a quadriceps muscle and missed the next three months of the season. During his absence that year, nine other players played in left field, and aside from defensive specialist Endy Chavez, none of the others were regular outfielders by any means. Alou finally returned in August and batted .345 upon his return, which included a 30-game hitting streak that set a new Mets record. It was basically that alone that led the Mets to pick up his option for 2008. For the 2007 season, Alou batted .341 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI. He also had a .524 slugging percentage and a .392 OBP.
If having Alou not play for a full season in 2007 was bad enough, keeping him around another year was even worse. In 2008, Alou ended up being limited to just 15 games and 49 at-bats, but he did hit .347 in that span. Nonetheless, Alou had hernia surgery in Spring Training and played for a few weeks in May before a calf strain brought him back to the disabled list. While rehabilitating in the Mets' minor league system, Alou tore his right hamstring on July 9, which set him back further and ultimately cost him the rest of the season, and his career for that matter.
The fact that the Mets counted upon a 40-year-old outfielder (42 by the end of the 2008 season) to be one of their bigger offensive contributors for full seasons in 2007 and 2008, was one of the many reasons as to why former GM Omar Minaya was fired after the 2010 season. More reasons relating to Minaya's firing will appear shortly.
9. Bernard Gilkey
For the record, Bernard Gilkey's presence on this list does not relate to his entire tenure as a Met. Gilkey of course was the Mets' left fielder from 1996-1998, but his appearance here only has to do with the portion that occurred after he re-signed with the Mets as a free agent. Hence, only Gilkey's 1997 and 1998 seasons will be represented.
Gilkey originally came to the Mets in a trade with the Cardinals right before the beginning of the 1996 season. 1996 was Gilkey's contract year, so he knew he had to hit well in order to make more money in the future. As a result, Gilkey hit .317 with 30 home runs, 117 RBI and 44 doubles out of nowhere.
Baseball was the never the same after that for Gilkey.
Thanks to his career season, Gilkey was rewarded with a new four-year, $20 million contract from the Mets. He was expected to continue to put up similar numbers in 1997, but thanks to these expectations, his 1997 season looked more disappointing than it actually was.
Gilkey struggled during the early portion of the season but still had 18 home runs and 78 RBI. However, his average dropped significantly to just .249. Gilkey's 1998 season was much worse, though, and he ended up getting traded to the Diamondbacks in July after batting .227 with four home runs and 28 RBI. He never found his 1996 success again for the rest of his career.
8. Roger Cedeno
When the Mets originally acquired Roger Cedeno prior to the 1999 season, it turned out to be a great move, as Cedeno batted .313 and stole 66 bases that season. He was a catalyst for one of the Mets' best offenses ever and proved his value to be good enough to be included as part of the package that brought Derek Bell and Mike Hampton to New York a year later.
Despite trading him away, General Manager Steve Phillips still wanted Cedeno to return to the Mets and eventually signed him to a four-year, $18 million contract in 2002. That was the real mistake.
Cedeno had somehow lost his speed and gained weight during his second stint as a Met. He batted .260 with seven home runs and 41 RBI in 2002, with 25 stolen bases and a surprisingly low .318 OBP. 2003 was not much different as he finished with a .267 average, seven home runs, 37 RBI, 14 stolen bases and a .320 OBP. He was expected to continue being the catalyst he once was in 1999, but he failed to be that player in both seasons.
The Mets ended up trading Cedeno to the Cardinals right before the start of the 2004 season, but they had to eat a good chunk of his remaining contract as well. All in all, bringing Roger Cedeno back was certainly one of many moves that the Mets would later regret.
7. Jason Bay
The most recent poor free-agent signing for the Mets has been Jason Bay, whom the Mets signed to a four-year, $66 million contract prior to the 2010 season in order to bolster their offense. In the first half of his deal, Bay has not lived up to his expectations at all.
Bay batted .259 with just six home runs and 47 RBI in 2010, before a concussion ended his season in late July. He did not produce any better in 2011 with a .245 average, 12 home runs and 57 RBI.
To Bay's credit, he has always hustled and played good defense, but the offensive numbers just haven't been there. Hopefully, this improves in the next two seasons, otherwise this could become one of the worst contracts the Mets have ever doled out.
6. George Foster
Former NL MVP George Foster was one of the bigger disappointments for the Mets in the 1980s, and by far the worst Mets free-agent signing of the decade.
After having great seasons with the Reds in the middle and late 1970s, Foster was traded to New York before the 1982 season, and the Mets subsequently signed him to a five-year, $10 million contract, which was a lot at the time. Foster responded that season by hitting .247 with 13 home runs and 70 RBI. Foster of course was expected to carry the Mets' offense, but he certainly did not do the job that year.
In 1983, Foster's production increased with 28 home runs and 90 RBI, despite a .241 average. He then batted .269 with 24 home runs and 86 RBI in 1984, which was followed by a .263 average, 21 home runs and 77 RBI in 1985. Again, these numbers were not completely atrocious, but certainly not up-to-par with the numbers Foster put up with the Reds earlier in his career.
By 1986, Foster was clearly declining more and more, and the Mets had a young center fielder named Lenny Dykstra, whose presence caused Mookie Wilson to move to left field. As a result, Foster spent a lot of that year on the bench, which upset him a lot. He finally got released in August and did not receive a ring following the Mets' 1986 championship.
George Foster did not pan out as a great free-agent signing for the Mets. He wasn't able to put up the same numbers he did in the earlier part of his career, and will forever be remembered by Mets fans as more or less a failure.
5. Bobby Bonilla
10 years after the Foster mistake, the Mets made another critical mistake when they recruited Bobby Bonilla to sign a five-year, $29 million contract. Despite the decent numbers he put up at first, this turned out to be one of the worst personnel mistakes in Mets history.
Like Foster, Bonilla at the time was expected to carry the Mets' offense the same way he did with Barry Bonds and Andy Van Slyke as a member of the Pirates. His 1992 season, though, only included a .249 average, 19 home runs and 70 RBI as the Mets that year became the "Worst Team Money Could Buy". In one game that season, Bonilla had gotten charged with an error and after the inning ended, he immediately called the press box to complain about being charged with the error. This only led to more unneeded controversy around Bonilla and the Mets.
Although Bonilla's best season as a Met occurred in 1993 when he batted .265 with 34 home runs and 87 RBI, it was also Bonilla's most controversial season. He verbally threatened sports writer Bob Klapisch in the locker room by saying, "Make your move, because I'll hurt you" as a result of the book Klapisch and John Harper wrote about the 1992 Mets, which of course was titled, The Worst Team Money Can Buy.
Things did not get any better for Bonilla. He batted .290 with 20 home runs and 67 RBI in the strike-shortened 1994 season, and batted .325 with 18 home runs and 53 RBI in 1995 before getting traded to the Orioles at the trade deadline.
Altogether, Bonilla's numbers weren't terrible, and were even some of the best among the team in 1992 and 1993, but his attitude and off-field issues made this bad situation for the Mets a whole lot worse. Bonilla instantly became a player that Mets fans rarely cheered for, if at all.
The exclamation point on Bonilla's Mets legacy was shown when he was brought back in 1999. This time around, Bonilla did virtually nothing on the field. He batted .160 with four home runs and 18 RBI, and spent most of the season complaining on the bench. At the end of the 1999 NLCS, it was revealed that Bonilla and Rickey Henderson were playing cards in the clubhouse right before the Mets lost the series that night. The Mets then ultimately decided to waive Bonilla's $5.9 million salary for 2000 by placing it in an annuity and having the payment deferred from 2011-2035.
Had Bonilla's numbers been terrible throughout his time as a Met, he would have easily taken the top spot on this list. But he, along with Eddie Murray led the Mets' futile offenses in 1992 and 1993, and that of course had to be taken into consideration. Regardless, Bonilla's time as a Met is now something that every Mets fan wishes they could forget.
4. Luis Castillo
One of the biggest causes to Omar Minaya's downfall as general manager was the four-year contract he gave to Luis Castillo in 2007.
Once Jose Valentin got hurt in 2007, Minaya pulled off a trade to acquire Castillo as the Mets' new second baseman. He batted close to .300 and had a .371 OBP at the end of the season. Following that year, the Mets gave Castillo a four-year, $25 million contract that the aging Castillo never deserved in the first place.
Castillo's 2008 season was not good at all. He was hurt for half of the year, and when he was healthy, he batted .245 with three home runs and 28 RBI. By then, Mets fans were calling for Minaya to find a new second baseman. Minaya shopped Castillo in the following offseason, but did not find any takers.
During an altogether lost season in 2009, Castillo was actually one of the Mets' better hitters that year. He actually stayed healthy and batted .302 with a .387 OBP. It was unfortunate though that this performance had to come during a forgettable season overall.
The Mets then became optimistic that Castillo had turned the corner, but still shopped him in the offseason, and once again found no takers.
In 2010, Castillo started the season at second base, but due to injuries and poor numbers, he got sent to the bench in favor of Ruben Tejada. Castillo was not happy and was outspoken about the way he felt his team was treating him. His average slipped to just .235 and he never found much of a groove offensively.
By the end of 2010, Mets fans wanted Castillo gone, no matter what. And the new general manager, Sandy Alderson, did just that when he released Castillo during the 2011 Spring Training. The Mets had to eat the remaining $6 million of his contract that year.
Castillo briefly signed a minor-league contract with the Phillies shortly after his release, but the Phillies themselves released him days later and he never made a major league appearance throughout all of 2011.
3. Kazuo Matsui
Luis Castillo was not a good signing at all for the Mets at the time, but one of his second base predecessors was an even bigger headache for the Mets from 2004-2006. That person's name was Kaz Matsui.
Heralded as a premier power-hitter in Japan, the Mets signed Matsui to a four-year contract to become the team's new shortstop.That signing became the beginning of the end for General Manager Jim Duquette.
As a result, Jose Reyes was moved to second base for the 2004 season, and this move was not good for either Matsui or Reyes. While Reyes got hurt and struggled at second base, Matsui struggled himself at shortstop. He committed a lot of errors and did not look comfortable at all that year. He batted .272 with seven home runs and 44 RBI.
Matsui and Reyes then switched positions in 2005, but Matsui was hurt during part of that season and only played in 87 games. He batted just .255 with three home runs and 24 RBI. By the end of the season, Matsui was splitting time with Marlon Anderson and Miguel Cairo at second base.
In 2006, Matsui got off to a terrible start and was only batting .200 with one home run and seven RBI before getting traded to the Rockies in early June for short-lived Met Eli Marrero. By then, the booing had only kept increasing and Matsui had clearly become a failure with the Mets.
The only notable achievement Matsui accomplished as a Met was hitting a home run in his first at-bat in each of his three seasons on the team. In fact, his first at-bat in 2006 was an inside-the-park home run—the first on Opening Day since 1975.
2. Vince Coleman
Bobby Bonilla may have represented what was bad about the Mets in the early 1990s, but the real goat those years was fellow outfielder Vince Coleman, who was an even bigger disappointment.
After playing six seasons for the Cardinals in which he became one of baseball's best base-stealers, Coleman's numbers decreased significantly after signing a four-year, $11.95 million contract. In 1991, Coleman batted just .255 with one home run, 17 RBI and 37 stolen bases, which may sound like a lot, but was not equal to the stolen bases he racked up in the past.
Coleman's numbers as a Met never got any better.
In 1992, he batted .275 with two home runs, 21 RBI and 24 stolen bases. A year later, Coleman batted .279 with two home runs, 25 RBI and 38 stolen bases. These numbers may have been better had Coleman not been sidelined from the playing field due to various injuries and suspensions.
Speaking of suspensions, it was Coleman's off-field behavior that made his presence on the team even worse. In Spring Training of 1991, Coleman, along with Daryl Boston and Dwight Gooden were all mentioned in a complaint made by a woman in Florida, but charges were never pressed. In September 1992, he got into a fight with his manager, Jeff Torborg and got suspended without pay for the remainder of the season.
But it was 1993 that everything fell apart for Coleman. In April of that year, Coleman injured Dwight Gooden's arm by swinging a golf club in the clubhouse. A few months later, Coleman threw a firecracker into a crowd in Los Angeles that was near Dodger Stadium looking for autographs. The firecracker injured a few people, and once the Mets heard about it, Coleman never played another game for the franchise.
After the 1993 season, Coleman was shipped to the Royals in return for Kevin McReynolds, who spent a brief second-stint with the Mets in 1994 before retiring.
1. Oliver Perez
All of the previously mentioned players were very poor free-agent signings, but none came anywhere close to how bad Oliver Perez was for the Mets.
Acquired from the Pirates in 2006, after the Duaner Sanchez taxi cab accident, Perez did not pitch particularly well for the rest of the season, but had two solid starts in the NLCS against the Cardinals, with the latter occurring in Game 7. The Mets did not win that game in the end, but Perez certainly gave them a chance.
Perez then went 15-10 with a 3.56 ERA in 2007 and surprised a lot of people while doing so. He had a knack for pitching well against good teams and pitching poorly against teams that were not as good.
In 2008, Perez went 10-7 with a 4.22 ERA. However, he led the National League in walks with 105, and had more control issues than before.
Perez was a decent pitcher at that time, but after the Mets decided to overpay him with a new three-year, $36 million contract, he instantly became the most useless pitcher, if not player, in baseball.
Perez's 2009 season was mostly lost due a recurring knee injury, but when he was on the mound, it was not a pretty sight. In just 14 starts, he went 3-4 with an alarming 6.82 ERA. The Mets even tried to not have him pitch often, but when he did, the games were forgettable.
After the 2009 season, Mets fans were hoping that Perez would get released or traded. Neither of the two happened in the following offseason and Perez remained a Met in 2010. He was moved to the bullpen in May of that year, and became clearly selfish when he repeatedly refused any minor league assignments, which only made his teammates and the fans dislike him more and more.
After refusing an assignment for the second time, Perez was placed on the disabled list. After being activated, he only made six more appearances after July 21, all in relief, and all in blowout games. He was fittingly the losing pitcher in the final game of the season.
Once Sandy Alderson became the new general manager, he finally took action during the 2011 Spring Training and released Perez, thus ending Perez's time as a Met. The Mets ate the remaining $12 million left on his contract while doing so. Perez later signed a minor league contract with the Nationals, but did not make a major-league appearance in 2011.