12 MLB Teams That Imploded After Huge Offseasons
Front offices try to contain their payroll as much as feasible, but MLB teams regularly need to pay many millions of dollars to build a World Series contender.
They do so various ways during the offseason. It could be re-signing a homegrown talent who's become a franchise cornerstone. In other years, this might be landing a marquee free agent or trading for a star. Sometimes, it's both.
And the unfortunate truth is many of these well-intentioned moves fail miserably—perhaps even disastrously.
The following list explores a dozen franchises that put their money where their mouth is but ended up with a horrible season. The focus is on nine specific teams that had a worse year-to-year winning percentage than the previous season.
The 'Improved' Implosions
2005 Seattle Mariners: After winning 93 games in 2003, the Mariners plummeted to 63 in 2004. They hoped for a swift rebound, signing Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson to big-money deals, but they improved their win total by only six games.
2012 Los Angeles Angels: The 2011 Angels posted an 86-76 record, so they already had a formidable roster with superstar talent Mike Trout preparing for his rookie year. Add in free-agent signings Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and the franchise saw a World Series on the horizon. Instead, the Angels went 89-73 and finished third in the AL West, missing the playoffs.
2015 Boston Red Sox: Boston signed both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval for $88-plus million, hoping to recover from a 71-win season that followed 2013's World Series. But the 78-84 Red Sox ended fifth in the AL East for the second straight year.
2001 Colorado Rockies
Known for the hitter-friendliest park in baseball, the Colorado Rockies tried to complement a talented lineup and 82-win team with a stronger pitching staff for the 2001 season.
Mike Hampton signed an eight-year, $121 million pact—the largest in MLB history at the time—and Denny Neagle agreed to a five-year, $51 million deal. Hampton had finished second in American League Cy Young voting in 1999, and Neagle was a two-time All-Star.
Both players struggled in the Mile High air.
Hampton and Neagle each posted an ERA above 5.00, giving up a combined 60 home runs in their 62 starts. Colorado dropped to 21 games below .500 in early August and mustered a 73-89 record.
2002 New York Mets
Perhaps it would be easier to list the players whom the New York Mets didn't move before the 2002 season.
The Mets dealt Robin Ventura to the New York Yankees for David Justice, then shipped Justice to the Oakland Athletics for Mark Guthrie and Tyler Yates. The Mets sent several players to Cleveland for Roberto Alomar, acquired Jeromy Burnitz and Jeff D'Amico from the Milwaukee Brewers and added Shawn Estes from the San Francisco Giants. They signed Pedro Astacio and David Weathers in free agency, too.
Add them to a roster with Mike Piazza, Mo Vaughn, Al Leiter and Steve Traschel, and surely the 82-win Mets would improve, right? About that.
Bobby Valentine's final season in New York concluded with a 75-86 record and last-place finish in the NL East.
2004 Arizona Diamondbacks
Two years after celebrating a World Series triumph, the Arizona Diamondbacks won 84 games. In an effort to protect their future, the D-Backs unintentionally began a teardown.
Arizona made two blockbuster deals, sending Curt Schilling to the Red Sox and landing Richie Sexson from the Brewers.
The short version: Absolutely miserable.
In return for Schilling, the Diamondbacks added Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge de la Rosa and Michael Goss. And to acquire Sexson, they shipped every infielder but the shortstop—Chad Moeller, Lyle Overbay, Junior Spivey and Craig Counsell—future All-Star pitcher Chris Capuano and de la Rosa to Milwaukee.
Lyon made a serviceable impact, but Fossum didn't accomplish much, and Goss never cracked the majors. Worst of all, Sexson played only 23 games in an injury-wrecked season and left in free agency that winter.
To recap, the D-Backs traded Schilling for little and unloaded the infield for even less. They floundered to 51-111, which is tied for the 32nd-worst winning percentage in league history.
2010 Seattle Mariners
This, unfortunately, is a take-your-pick scenario with the Mariners. Along with the disappointing 2005 season, they also endured declines of 24-plus wins in both 2008 and 2010.
We're focusing on the latter because it happened after a flurry of activity.
Adrian Beltre and Russell Branyan left in free agency, and Kenji Johjima returned to Japan. Seattle acquired Cliff Lee, Milton Bradley and Casey Kotchman, signed Chone Figgins and dealt both Brandon Morrow and Carlos Silva in separate trades. Ken Griffey Jr. also re-signed for what would be his final season.
But the new-look Mariners—who went 85-77 in 2009—plunged to the bottom of the American League. They traded Lee in July, fired manager Don Wakamatsu a month later and finished 61-101.
2012 Miami Marlins
Throughout their history, the Miami Marlins have consistently ranked among the MLB's lowest payrolls. The one exception is 2012, when the front office opened the checkbook to field a competitive team in their controversial ballpark.
Miami swiped Jose Reyes from the Mets, signing him to a six-year, $106 million contract. Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell joined for four years, $58 million and three years, $27 million, respectively.
The Marlins had the seventh-highest payroll in the league, but the hoped-for improvement didn't follow.
Instead, they dropped from 72-90 to 69-93. Reyes and Buehrle played well enough but couldn't carry the Marlins, and Bell converted only 19 of his 27 save chances.
Shortly after the playoffs ended, the Marlins sent Reyes and Buehrle to the Toronto Blue Jays and returned to their comfort zone of low-payroll losing seasons.
2012 Philadelphia Phillies
Looking back, the Philadelphia Phillies experienced a steady decline. They won the World Series in 2008, lost the Fall Classic in 2009, then bowed out in the 2010 NLCS and 2011 NLDS.
But at the time, 2012 had plenty of promise. Despite the NLDS exit in 2011, Philly tallied a franchise-best 102 wins.
As slugger Ryan Howard's $125 million extension kicked in, Philly re-signed shortstop Jimmy Rollins and added All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies also added Juan Pierre and bolstered the bench wih Ty Wigginton and Laynce Nix, too. Armed with aces Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, the Phillies eyed a deep playoff run.
Once the losing started in June, however, Philadelphia could not recover fast enough. The Phillies tanked from 28-25 to 41-54, and the prolonged skid ultimately cost them in a late-season surge. Philly threatened for a wild-card spot but finished 81-81.
2014 Atlanta Braves
After winning 94 games in 2012 and 96 games in 2013, the Atlanta Braves had an incredibly bright future because of their young core. That meant those players had earned a raise.
Prior to the 2014 campaign, Atlanta signed Freddie Freeman to an eight-year deal. Andrelton Simmons (seven years), Julio Teheran (six) and Craig Kimbrel (four) inked long-term extensions, and Jason Heyward landed a two-year contract.
Additionally, the Braves added a top-end starter in Ervin Santana. In total, they paid out approximately $300 million.
Rather than compete for a ring, Atlanta collapsed in the second half of 2014. The Braves finished 79-83, missed the playoffs and tore down the roster, trading Kimbrel, Heyward, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Evan Gattis and Tommy La Stella that offseason.
2014 Texas Rangers
In the five seasons before 2014, the Texas Rangers won 87-plus games each year. In both 2015 and 2016, they won 88-plus games.
In 2014, though, injuries hammered the roster. The misfortunate struck immediately after Texas signed Shin-Soo Choo for $130 million and acquired Prince Fielder—and his $214 million contract—from the Detroit Tigers.
Fielder played in only 42 games, and Choo missed about a quarter of the season. Combine those injuries with Mitch Moreland's long absence, Jurickson Profar's lost year and a battered pitching staff, and the result couldn't be surprising.
Texas tumbled from 91-72 to 67-95—the worst record in the AL.
2015 San Diego Padres
You can't fault the San Diego Padres' effort in the 2015 offseason. The execution, on the other hand, was a disaster.
San Diego traded for Derek Norris, Wil Myers, Justin Upton and Matt Kemp, then signed James Shields to a four-year, $75 million deal. One day before the regular season began, they acquired Craig Kimbrel—and inherited B.J. Upton's contract.
Slipping from 77-85 to 74-88 would've been disappointing enough, but the prospects San Diego traded make it even worse. The Los Angeles Dodgers landed Yasmani Grandal, the Washington Nationals acquired Trea Turner and Atlanta picked up Max Fried. All three have developed into excellent players.
Although a patient rebuild began to pay dividends in 2020, San Diego didn't surpass 71 wins in the next four seasons.