The 20 Biggest Busts in the History of MLB Free Agency

Mark MillerCorrespondent INovember 1, 2012

The 20 Biggest Busts in the History of MLB Free Agency

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    We may be less than a week into the offseason, but free agency is in full swing as teams begin to move past the 2012 season and prepare to start fresh in 2013.

    New destinations will surely be in order for a number of top free agents this offseason, and, while a great deal of these moves will pay off for their teams, others certainly won't. 

    Some teams' moves will prove to be massive wastes of money, as we will see is often the case. Here are some of the worst contracts ever handed to hitters who failed to live up to expectations.

Ken Caminiti: Two Years, $9.5 Million

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    The Texas Rangers signed Ken Caminiti to a two-year, $9.5 million contract prior to the 2001 season in hopes that he could return to his slugging ways and complement Alex Rodriguez in doing so.

    Caminiti would only play 54 games with the Rangers, hitting nine home runs while batting lower than .235.

Bobby Bonilla: Five Years, $25 Million

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    The New York Mets thought they were making a brilliant move in making Bobby Bonilla the highest-paid player in baseball in 1992.

    They didn't get the superstar they thought, as Bonilla's stats didn't match up and he failed to play well enough to earn MVP consideration as he had done in his previous four seasons in Pittsburgh.

    To make matters worse, the Mets are still paying deferred funds from his contract in excess of $29 million.

Mo Vaughn: Six Years, $80 Million

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    After coming over from Boston, Mo Vaughn gave some early returns to the Angels, hitting 69 home runs and driving in 225 runs during his first two seasons on the West Coast.

    He wouldn't play another game with the Angels after 2000, however, as they would eventually deal Vaughn to the Mets after he gained extreme amounts of weight after sitting out 2001 due to injuries.

Jeffrey Hammonds: Three Years, $21 Million

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    The Milwaukee Brewers thought they were adding a solid offensive player when signing Jeffrey Hammonds to a three-year, $21 million contract before the 2001 season.

    Hammonds was coming off a season with the Rockies in which he batted .335 and drove in over 100 runs while posting an OPS over .900.

    Things didn't go as planned for the Brewers, as Hammonds would only play in 49 games in 2001 due to injury and would never reach the potential he showed in Colorado.

Oliver Perez: 3 Years, $36 Million

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    In what was a deal questioned by many from the start, the New York Mets signed Oliver Perez to a three-year, $36 million contract in February 2009 as the team headed into spring training.

    Perez would only pitch two years of that contract with the Mets, going 3-4 in 2009 and 0-5 in 2010, posting a 6.81 ERA during that time frame.

Milton Bradley: Three Years, $30 Million

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    The Chicago Cubs were clearly aware of the risk in signing a player like Milton Bradley, but despite the risk, he was coming off a solid 2009 campaign with the Rangers, when he led the league with a .436 on-base percentage.

    He didn't last long in Chicago, as his temper and erratic behavior proved to be too much for the team, as they'd send him to Seattle in exchange for Carlos Silva.

Nick Johnson: 3 Years, $16.5 Million

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    Despite still being under control in 2006, the Washington Nationals still signed Nick Johnson to a three-year, $16.5 million deal just before the start of the season.

    It would be his best season with the Nationals, as he would go deep 23 times on his way to a 77-RBI performance.

    Johnson would sit out the entire 2007 season and play only 38 games in 2008 before moving to the Florida Marlins during the 2009 season.

Julio Lugo: Four Years, $36 Million

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    While the contract wasn't nearly the same as Carl Crawford's, the Boston Red Sox did dip into the same Tampa Bay talent pool when signing Julio Lugo.

    He batted only .237 in 2007 and would eventually lose his starting job before being sent to St. Louis.

Scott Spiezio: Three Years, $9 Million

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    After four average seasons with the Los Angeles Angels in which he batted .268 while averaging 13 home runs per season, Scott Spiezio was given a three-year, $9 million contract with the Seattle Mariners.

    He batted only .215 in his first season with the Mariners and managed only a .064 average in short use the following season before Seattle cut ties with the struggling infielder.

Jake Westbrook: 3 Years, $33 Million

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    In April 2007, the Cleveland Indians rewarded Jake Westbrook's early returns with a three-year, $33 million contract.

    Westbrook would only win six games in 30 starts between 2007 and 2008, and would miss all of 2009 due to Tommy John surgery.

Juan Gonzalez: Two Years, $24 Million

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    After a 35-home run effort in an All-Star season in 2001 with the Cleveland Indians, the Texas Rangers signed Juan Gonzalez to a two-year, $24 million contract to bolster their offense.

    He played in 152 games combined in two seasons and hit only eight home runs in 2002.

Gary Matthews Jr.: Five Years, $65 Million

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    After a very impressive 2005 season with the Texas Rangers in which he batted .313 and drove in 79 runs with 19 home runs, the Angels took a chance on Gary Matthews Jr. signing him to a contract worth $13 million per year.

    His years in Los Angeles were less than productive, however, as he batted .248 in three seasons, averaging only 10 home runs and barely 55 RBI per season.

Albert Belle: Five Years, $55 Million

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    Albert Belle's success in Cleveland gave the Chicago White Sox plenty of reason to sign him to a $55 million contract, which would prove to keep him as one of the highest paid players in baseball.

    He played two seasons in Chicago but would become a free agent after the White Sox opted not to pay him a raise his contract provided.

    He signed with Baltimore and had two subpar seasons by his standards before retiring.

Vince Coleman: Four Years, $12 Million

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    Vince Coleman's first season with the St. Louis Cardinals could have signaled the beginning of a long and storied career, as he showed his speed at the top of the lineup and earned himself Rookie of the Year honors.

    He earned himself a big raise prior to the 1991 season in signing with the New York Mets, but his tenure was less than stellar, as he never played more than 90 games in a season and was plagued by off-the-field issues that tarnished any legacy he could have hoped to build.

Danny Tartabull: 1 Year, $2.3 Million

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    During spring training of 1997, the Philadelphia Phillies brought in a veteran presence in signing Danny Tartabull to a one-year, $2.3 million deal.

    The price was relatively low, and Tartabull had proven the year before that he still had some gas left in the tank, hitting 27 home runs and driving in 101 runs with the Chicago White Sox.

    His tenure in Philly was virtually non-existent, however, as Tartabull would appear in only three games with the team, going 0-for-7.

Kenji Johjima: Three Years, $24 Million

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    The three-year, $24 million contract the Seattle Mariners gave to catcher Kenji Johjima would have made more sense had he not been slumping at the time. As it stood, he was a .200 hitter who was given a big payday from ownership.

    He did have some productive years prior to the extension but didn't produce even a fraction of the value he did one he signed it, and even though his opting-out saved the team some money, the signing was still a huge error on the part of the organization.

Manny Ramirez: Two Years, $45 Million

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    You'd have to believe that given a full 2009 season, Manny Ramirez could've proven he may have been worth the $22.5 million per year he was making, but as it stood, he was held to 19 home runs in just over 60 games after missing the first 50 games of the season due to a suspension.

    The following season, Manny played only 66 games with the Dodgers before finishing off the season with the Chicago White Sox.

Roger Clemens: 1 Year, $28 Million (Pro-Rated)

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    After a three-year stint with the Houston Astros from 2004 to 2006, Roger Clemens emerged in Yankees Stadium in May 2007, signing a one-year, pro-rated $28 million deal.

    He would go on to win six games that season with an ERA of 4.18, making for one of the highest dollar-per-win ratios you'll ever see.

Vernon Wells: Seven Years, $126 Million

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    Vernon Wells' first few seasons in Toronto yielded magnificent results for the Blue Jays, as he would become a consistent power hitter who showed promise in the outfield.

    He had a brutal season in 2007 with an average nearly 40 points below his standard, and his power numbers were down.

    The Blue Jays did, however, still opt to give him a seven-year, $126 million contract. Perhaps even more surprising, the Blue Jays got the Angels to take on the contract last offseason, a move the Angels have to be regretting, as Wells batted only .222 in his first two years with Los Angeles.

Andruw Jones: Two Years, $36.2 Million

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    Despite a brutal final season with the Atlanta Braves, the team he enjoyed so much success with, the Los Angeles Dodgers still felt compelled to sign Andruw Jones to a two-year contract worth more than $18 million per season.

    Jones would only play 75 games with the Dodgers, batting .158 with an OPS more than 200 points lower than any other point in his career.

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