New York Yankees: 10 Pitchers Who Were Overpaid Busts

Mike Moraitis@@michaelmoraitisAnalyst ISeptember 15, 2011

New York Yankees: 10 Pitchers Who Were Overpaid Busts

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    When you spend $200 million dollars on your payroll every year, you're guaranteed to have a few guys who fail to earn what they make. 

    That's the story of the New York Yankees. Every year they dive into the free agent market or make trades. 

    A.J. Burnett is the most recent overpaid pitching bust for the Yankees, but he is certainly not the first. 

    Here are 10 former Yankees pitchers who were overpaid busts, in no specific order.

10. Kei Igawa

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    Kei Igawa was a top pitcher during his time playing in Japan, leading the Japanese league in strikeouts three different times. 

    In 2006, Igawa decided he wanted to try his hand at pitching in the MLB, a decision that turned out to be the wrong one. 

    The Yankees bid over $26 million just to talk to Igawa, and later signed him to a five-year, $20 million contract to put on a Yankee uniform. 

    Putting on the Yankees uniform was all Igawa ever did right in pinstripes, and he was bad from day one.  In his first start for the Bombers in 2007, he allowed seven runs over five innings of work. It never got any better from that point on, as Igawa bounced around from the minors to the majors and back, never becoming a relevant part of any Yankee team.

    Record with Yankees: 2-3 with a 6.25 ERA in 13 starts.

9. Hideki Irabu

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    Now I never like to speak ill of the dead, but this one is unavoidable. Don't worry, I'll make it quick.

    Hideki Irabu was one of the best pitchers in the Japanese league before arriving in New York to play for the Yankees. Irabu was known as the "Japanese Nolan Ryan," and carried a ton of hype and expectations with him to the MLB. He never lived up to any of them. 

    The Yankees made a deal with the Padres in 1997, sending over two players, along with $3 million, for Irabu's services. Irabu made it clear that he would only pitch for the Yankees, and he got his wish. The Yankees inked him to a four-year, $12.8 million contract.

    After an exciting performance in his first start against the Detroit Tigers, Irabu went downhill from there.  At the height of his failures with the Yankees, Irabu was even called a "fat toad" by former Yankee owner George Steinbrenner because of his unathletic frame. Irabu never lived up to the hype.

    Record with the Yankees: 29-20 with 5.33 ERA in 64 starts

8. Jaret Wright

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    Jaret Wright impressed the baseball world early in his career as an upstart young righty with the Cleveland Indians in 1997. He even got a chance to start Game 7 of the 1997 World Series at the tender age of 21. Wright left the game after 6 1/3 innings with a 2-1 lead for the Indians and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Wright was plagued by shoulder injuries up until his time with the Atlanta Braves. In 2004, Wright was the Braves' best pitcher. He went 15-8 with a 3.28 ERA in 32 starts. It was a season that would fool the Yankees into believing he was a solid starter again.

    Boy, were they wrong.

    In 2004, the Yankees signed Wright to a three-year, $21 million contract, and he never lived up to the money. It was only two years into his contract before the Yankees decided to trade him to the Baltimore Orioles.

    Record with the Yankees: 16-12 with 5.29 ERA in 40 starts

7. Jose Contreras

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    Jose Contreras first became a notable commodity in 1999, when he pitched against the Baltimore Orioles as a member of the Cuban national team. In that game, Contreras pitched eight shutout innings, while striking out 10 batters. Scouts were salivating at the prospect of signing Contreras.

    Contreras defected from Cuba in 2002, and the Yankees jumped all over him, signing Contreras to a four-year, $32 million contract.

    Contreras was solid in his first season in 2003, posting a 7-2 record with an ERA of 3.30. Despite being out for two months with injuries, Contreras was certainly showing promise.

    In the spring of 2004, the Yankees inserted Contreras into the rotation, but the Cuban-born pitcher proved inconsistent. 

    In 2004, the Yankees traded Contreras to the White Sox for pitcher Esteban Loaiza. Contreras turned out to be a bust in every sense of the word.

    Record with the Yankees: 15-7 with 4.64 ERA in 27 starts

6. Kyle Farnsworth

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    Coming off a great year in 2005, it looked like Kyle Farnsworth would be a perfect fit for the Yankees setup man role in front of Mariano Rivera. It was a role he would take over from Tom Gordon.

    In 72 appearances in 2005, a year before joining the Yankees, Farnsworth recorded 16 saves while recording a 2.19 ERA.

    When he actually joined the Yankees, it was a different story. The Yankees signed Farnsworth to a three-year, $17 million contract following the 2005 season. The only thing memorable about Farnsworth's time in pinstripes were those hideous goggles he would wear on the mound.

    After only two years into his three-year contract, the Yankees traded Farnsworth to the Tigers during the 2008 season, receiving catcher Ivan Rodriguez in return. The only thing good that came from that deal was that Farnsworth was no longer pitching for the Yankees.

    Record with the Yankees: 6-9 with a 4.27 ERA in 181 appearances

5. Kenny Rogers

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    In 1996, Kenny Rogers was signed by the Yankees to a four-year, $20 million contract. When the Yankees paid Rogers that money, they were expecting to get the 17-game winner for the Texas Rangers from 1995. This wish never came true.

    Despite being on the Yankees' 1996 World Series Championship team, that was about all Rogers would accomplish. In three starts in the 1996 postseason, Rogers failed to win a game, while pitching only seven innings. His playoff ERA that year was 14.14, and he failed to earn a postseason appearance for the Yankees in 1997. 

    In 1998, the Yankees traded Rogers to the Oakland A's, who were looking to revamp their starting rotation. Over eight years later, Rogers would come back to haunt the Bombers as a member of the Detroit Tigers. In the 2006 ALDS, Rogers threw a gem in Game 3, pitching 7 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, while striking out eight Yankees. He became the oldest pitcher in MLB history to record his first postseason win.

    Yankees fans were sitting there, scratching their heads and wondering, "Where the hell did that come from?"

    Record with the Yankees: 18-15 with a 5.17 ERA in 52 starts

4. Roger Clemens

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    Don't forget, Roger Clemens had two stints with the Yankees. One was great, while the other, was not so great. It's Clemens' second stint with the Bombers that has my attention in this slide.

    This was the one when Yankees announcer Susan Waldman almost had a heart attack at the sight of Roger Clemens walking into George Steinbrenner's "bawx!"

    The Yankees were in need of pitching, so they signed Clemens to a ridiculous one-year deal, prorated at around $28 million for the season. It amounted to about $4.7 million per month,and  ended up totaling $18.7 million for the season. It averaged out to about $1 million per start, and turned out to be an expensive mistake.

    Clemens posted a 6-6 record for the Bombers that season with a 4.18 ERA—not exactly the numbers of a $28 million pitcher.

    Clemens did make a start in the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians, which was a game I actually attended. Fortunately for the Yankees, Clemens reaggravated a hamstring injury and was pulled from the game early for Phil Hughes, who ended up saving the game. Clemens left the game after 2 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits. 

    It was an ugly, disappointing end to a great career.

3. Kevin Brown

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    In December of 2003, the Yankees made a trade with the Dodgers, bringing Kevin Brown over to the Bronx. In 32 starts with the Dodgers in 2003, Brown went 14-9 with a 2.39 ERA. So he was definitely worth trading for, at least up until that point.

    Brown was the first player in MLB history to receive a $100 million contract, which he signed with the Dodgers before the 1999 season. It was a seven-year deal, some of which the Yankees ended up having to pay.

    Brown suffered injuries in his first season with the Yankees in 2004, making 22 starts with a 10-6 record while also posting a 4.09 ERA. Later in the year, Brown left manager Joe Torre's office in anger, punching a wall outside the office. He would miss the remainder of the regular season.

    Brown would make starts in the postseason, and after a six inning gem against the Twins in the ALDS, Brown didn't fare as well against the Red Sox in the ALCS. Brown got the start in Game 7, surviving less than two innings, and allowing five runs. It was the clinching game that finished off the biggest collapse in MLB playoff history.

    In 2005, Brown was even less involved on the field. Brown only made 13 starts that year, going 4-7 with a 6.50 ERA for the Yanks. He would later retire in February of 2006, never making another start.

    Record with the Yankees: 14-13 with a 5.30 ERA in 35 starts

2. Randy Johnson

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    When the Yankees traded for 41-year-old Randy Johnson in 2005, they had hoped to get the dominant Randy Johnson that had proven himself with the Mariners and Diamondbacks. He was thought to be the missing link that the Bombers needed to get them over the hump. That never quite panned out.

    After signing Johnson to a two-year extension, the Bombers were on the hook for about $57 million for the Big Unit.

    Coming off a 16-14 season with a 2.60 ERA with the Diamondbacks, Johnson didn't get off to such a great start in the first half of 2005 with the Yankees. Hope returned during the second half of the season, as Johnson returned to form, ultimately going 5-0 against the Red Sox during the season. He finished 17-11 with a 3.79 ERA and 211 strikeouts.

    So where was the bust?

    During the 2005 ALDS against the Angels, Johnson started Game 3, allowing five runs over two innings and didn't get the job done.

    During the 2006 season, Johnson was worse. He went 17-11 with a 5.00 ERA, reportedly battling injuries the entire season. He waited until his second to last start of 2006 to get the injury looked at, and ended up missing his last start. He was back in time for the 2006 ALDS in which he made one start, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing five runs.

    Johnson would be traded back to the Diamondbacks the next season, and that was the end of his Yankee career.

    Record with the Yankees: 34-22 with a 4.40 ERA in 77 starts

1. Carl Pavano

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    The name alone bring anger, frustration and several expletives to the minds of Yankees fans around the globe.

    That is none other than Carl Pavano, the biggest bust of this past decade.

    Pavano came over from the Florida Marlins as a free agent after an 18-8 season where he posted a 3.00 ERA.  He signed a four-year, $39.95 million contract.  Pavano was to headline the Yankees' rotation in 2005 alongside Randy Johnson for a dominant 1-2 punch. 

    Pavano never came close to panning out for the Bombers. 

    In his first season with the Yankees, 2005,  Pavano started off well.  He was 4-2 with a 3.69 ERA in his first 10 starts for the Bombers.  Pavano would hit the disabled list in June and he hit it hard.  Pavano would end up making 17 starts the entire season and finished 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA.

    In 2006, Pavano didn't make a single start for the Yankees.  He started off the season on the DL with a bruised buttocks.  On August 15th of the same year, Pavano got into a car accident, breaking two of his ribs.  He didn't inform the Yankees until August 28th, the same day he was due to come off the DL and make his first start.  Pavano never made that start.

    Pavano would only make nine more starts the next two years of his Yankee career and never even came close to what the Yankees imagined him to be.  In fact, he probably made more rehab starts then actually major league starts.

    Wisely, the Yankees did not resign him after the 2008 season but incredibly it was reported the Yankees considered signing him as a free agent a few years later, but thought the better of it.

    Record with the Yankees:  9-8, 5.10 ERA in 26 starts over four seasons.