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Monday, September 26th, 2016

BAD CONTRACTS: NL EDITION

25

Time for a look at some of the NL’s worst contracts. First though, I’d like to thank Rob Neyer of ESPN and River Ave. Blues for linking to my post on the AL’s worst contracts. Those 2 links brought in thousands of visitors. And once again, all of the contract info was found at Cot’s Baseball Contracts, a tremendous resource. Let’s get to the burdens…

Juan Pierre, Dodgers

I suppose this might be construed as burying the lead. But what you may not have known is that Pierre was named after the great Juan Marichal. We can debate which one is the better hitter. Jokes aside, Pierre isn’t a bad hitter; he just doesn’t hit for any power and he has no patience. His average is usually decent and he can steal bases. You just don’t have to pay $9 million a year to get that.

Pierre is the prime example of my favorite baseball game show: “Who Were They Bidding Against?” Look through the Dodger contracts–it also seems to be a favorite game of Colletti’s. After the 2006 season, Colletti gave Pierre a 5-year, $44 million deal. The funny thing is that they had Kenny Lofton on the roster in 2006 and probably could have re-signed him for about 1/10th of what he paid Pierre. Lofton probably would have better then. He probably would be better now.

Chris Carpenter, Cardinals

I have a feeling this selection might rub some people the wrong way, but I believe Carpenter’s contract should definitely be on this list. Nobody can deny his impact with the Cards. They won a World Series, he w0n a Cy Young and he was a legit ace for a few years. The problem is that when STL gave him the extension, Carpenter still had 2 years left on his contract. Knowing his history and knowing that he had thrown over 460 innings in the last 2 seasons, I wrote that it was a bad deal at the time. Unfortunately for Cardinals fans, I was right.

What he will provide in 2009 is anyone’s guess, and he’s pitched only 21 innings during the last 2 seasons. I understand that the extension could be viewed as a reward. Cardinals fans will likely call it that. The rest of the world will refer to it like this: bad business and an albatross preventing the Cards from obtaining other players.

Adam Eaton, Phillies

The good news is that the signing of Eaton did not substantially hurt the Phillies. They won the division in ’07 and then won it all last year. The only role Eaton played was moving out of the way. He wasn’t on either postseason roster and he was actually sent to the minors last year.

Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has said that Eaton will not be a candidate for the 5th starter this year, and Eaton expects a spring training release. “It would be kind of prudent not to trade for me,” Eaton said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist for another GM to maybe wait and take your shot at getting me for less than a trade would be.” If that release happens, the Phillies will have paid Eaton almost $500k per game pitched. And those games had average game scores of just over 40 and ERAs over 6.

Luis Castillo, Mets

The Mets traded for Castillo at the trade deadline in ’07. “He was going to be a guy that this winter we were probably going to look at as a free agent,” Omar Minaya said at the time. “Now we have a better opportunity to look at him.” Castillo was an aging middle-infielder with declining numbers.  But interestingly enough, after that ‘look’ Minaya chose to offer him a 4-year, $25 million contract.

Castillo couldn’t stay healthy last year and morphed into a double-play machine. He struggled to slug over .300. and hit just .245. Oddly, Jerry Manuel recently stated in his first spring presser that he’d like to bat Castillo leadoff instead of Jose Reyes. So riddle me this: who will be the first out of New York, Manuel or Castillo?

Barry Zito, Giants

You have to wonder if going across the Bay was like a trip to the island of “Lost” for Zito. I’ve read that his ‘fastball’ has been repeatedly clocked in the low 80s. Whatever the case, Zito signed a deal that at the time was the biggest contract ever awarded to a pitcher. We all know the numbers: 7 years and $126 million.

The crazy thing? His numbers aren’t really all that different than when he was on the A’s. As Rob Neyer said at the time of the signing, “The only thing this deal does is make the Giants look ridiculous…based on the facts at hand, this looks to me like one of the dumber free-agent signings ever. Zito just isn’t very good.” And that was before he lost some of the zip off his fastball.

Now Zito is kind of like a glorified Jim Parque, if you’ll allow the vague White Sox reference. He takes the mound and gives you some innings, but he can’t or won’t throw the ball over the plate. And when he does it gets hit hard. Last year Zito regressed to 120 Ks and 102 BBs. He’s not fooling hitters anymore. Stack the lineup with righties and you’ll do well.

Alfonso Soriano, Cubs

Soriano replaced Corey Patterson as my favorite whipping boy on the Cubs, but with good reason. You’ll have to pardon me for demanding dominant numbers from a guy that signs an 8-year, $136 million contract. Some things I’ve gathered by watching him everyday here in Chicago: he doesn’t run well anymore, he’s an awful baserunner and apparently he MUST bat leadoff. You can’t run on him (props for that), but he is a terrible fielder with limited range. He’s also looking old and injury prone. Why anyone throws him a strike is beyond me.

The bottom line though? You pay a guy money like that to be the star player that carries the team through postseason series. All he’s done is absolutely crap on himself in the playoffs. 3-28 with no homers and no RBI in 2 Cubs postseasons. Does anyone see that getting better?

[tags]Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs, Barry Zito, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets[/tags]

  • dhaab

    Nice list, but you forgot Fukodome. ;)

  • http://www.baseballreflections.com Peter

    Isn’t the file still open on Fukodome? After all, it’s only been 1 year.

  • Giants Fan

    When the Giants signed Zito, they let Jason Schmidt go to the Dodgers. While the Zito signing has been terrible – the Schmidt signing belongs on this list as well.

  • http://www.rightfieldbleachers.com Jack

    No Jeff Suppan? I mean, it’s no Zito, but at least Soriano produces SOMETHING when he’s in.

  • http://zonersports.com The Zoner

    Suppan and Schmidt were VERY close to being added, and they are definitely bad deals.

  • http://passion4baseball.blogspot.com/ William

    Great list. Not great for those who signed them. Just saw a new article about Pierre that he wants to start. Guy just doesn’t get it does he?

  • james wilson

    What does Ned Colletti have on Frank McCourt? Naughty pics, tax evasion, drugs? Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt, Andrew Jones. He coulda bought Rhode Island for that, and thrown in free beer.

  • http://www.theadwizards.com Windier E. Megatons

    It’s certainly hard to argue that Soriano has delivered regular season value, but if you look at the last two seasons, the team is certainly better off with him. And yes, he’s done nothing in the postseason – but really neither has anyone else, and 28 at-bats is a vanishingly small sample size, especially for a hitter of Soriano’s streakiness. That said, it’s not a great contract.

  • http://zonersports.com The Zoner

    “What does Ned Colletti have on Frank McCourt? Naughty pics, tax evasion, drugs?”

    Hilarious!

    As for Soriano, I agree with you. I think the postseason sample may be small, but he’s been a flake in the postseason his whole career. If A-Rod and Barry Bonds can be ripped for it, certainly Alfie can be too.

  • Dmitri Young

    Ahem.

  • Michael Ford

    Good article but I’ve got some questions about Soriano. I’ll start off by saying that 8 years for Soriano was way, way too risky. Six more years for a player past his prime is a very poor investment. It’ll probably end up being a bad contract, but so far, even in limited playing time, he’s been worth the $24 million paid to him in his two seasons.

    You’re ripping on him for 30 postseason ABs where anything can happen in a sample size that small. Do you have any quotes or anecdotal quips to back up the notion or insinuation that there’s more to it than SSS noise? Even Derek Jeter has gone twice that long in a postseason slump.

    As for his defense, the stats say it’s not a whole lot to complain about; they rank his range at just about league average for a corner (UZR and the Fielding Bible). And your mention of his arm still underrates him because he’s the^ best^^ at kills and holds for three years running according to two reputable sources (Mitchel Lichtman, co-author of “The Book” and John Walsh of THT). Overall, he’s a plus defender in a corner.

    And base running? There may be more to it than stealing bases and if you’ve watched him every day then you’ve certainly seen more of him than I have, but he’s been awfully good at it. Even in limited playing time he’s stolen 38 bases with an 81% success rate.

    ^ http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/page/2/
    ^^ http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/best-outfield-arms-of-2008/

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  • http://zonersports.com The Zoner

    I’m definitely not talking about stealing bases. But since you brought it up and he is a lead-off hitter, he stole more bases in 2006 than he has in 2 seasons as a Cub. And while 81% is good, 38 steals in 2 season isn’t that notable. He no longer freaks pitchers out when he is on first.

    Plus he gets picked off too much and his mind wanders on the basepaths. He’s not a good baserunner.

    As for his left-field play, I’d love to see the numbers on air-mailing the cutoff man! And it’s left field. And left field at Wrigley. Heck, Henry Rodriguez looked good when he played left for the Cubs.

  • http://www.mlb162.com Justin

    Funny – I recently emailed a friend w/ my analysis of the worst MLB contracts in history. The guy I came up w/ at the top (Andruw Jones) isn’t even on this list.

    But this article inspired me to paste that email at a new baseball site I recently started w/ that friend, if interested:

    http://mlb162.com/?p=36

    Like I said, if interested. If not, no worries – it’s just a site to talk baseball.

  • Michael Ford

    Yes, he stole more bases before signing with the Cubs, but at 33 years old a drop off is to be expected. But on a per game basis, he’s still among tops in the league at stealing bases. 81% is very good and in a full season he would accumulate SB totals in the low to mid 20s.

    Although, we are definitely in agreement that he shouldn’t be batting leadoff. He seems like the perfect #3 hitter to me (they lead off innings less often than any other batting position, so it’s the best spot for a high power/mediocre OBP hitter if you have one).

    “As for his left-field play, I’d love to see the numbers on air-mailing the cutoff man!”

    The details of this would be under the scouting or observational side of analysis. Bad throws and opposing base advancements are certainly accounted for in the arm ratings of UZR and John Walsh’s studies, but apparently they are significantly trumped by kills and opposing the baserunners’ fear of advancing.

    “And it’s left field. And left field at Wrigley. Heck, Henry Rodriguez looked good when he played left for the Cubs.”

    Both adjust for position. Yes, right and center fielders have a harder job throwing out runners, but it’s accounted and adjusted for and Soriano still comes out on top. The results show no favorability towards left fielders across the board. His arm is best suited for right field, but apparently the Cubs feel that his range is best utilized in left, which can be argued. I won’t get too far into the methods because it’s a whole ‘nother conversation (I can find you the links if you’re interested, though).

    As for park adjustments, Lichtman’s UZR does that while Walsh’s does not, but they have come up with similar results despite different approaches and methodologies (and not just regarding Soriano). But everyone puts more stock into UZR than THT.

  • Aaron W.

    Going back to when it was signed, was the Jason Schmidt deal really so awful? It looks terrible now, when we know that he would be injured. As it was, he got a year less than most people expected. He wasn’t paid much more than Vicente Padilla — not a bad risk; it just didn’t pay off.

  • http://zonersports.com The Zoner

    @ Justin- both the AL & NL lists were for contracts currently on the books. And I’ll definitely visit your site.

    @ Michael- I’ve read the THT articles and many others on defensive play and ratings. Again, the point is that it’s LEFT FIELD. Look at the list of players that play LF. Mostly brutal defensive players. And no one pays 136 million because you throw out 4 runners at home plate every year.

    And if you want to talk about “full season” numbers, that just points to his being older/injury prone. One time he hurt himself doing that stupid little hop he does to catch flies. One of his assets was that he seemed to play in almost every game, every year. He’s already missed more games in the past 2 years then he has in his entire career as a starter.

    He is still a force to be reckoned with. But he also isn’t what he used to be and that’s why he is on the list.

  • Michael Ford

    I agree he should be on the list because 8 year contracts are awful. I take issue because you seem to be evaluating in retrospective, which I don’t agree with. I brought up playing time to show his base running on a per-AB basis to show contrary with the notion that he’s a poor baserunner, not to say the ability to play should be disregarded in evaluation. As for left field, we seem to disagree on the value of defense of the position.

    It’s apparent neither one of us will sway the other, zoner. I’m happy to leave it at that.

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  • http://zonersports.com The Zoner

    Thanks Michael. A few things:

    I’m not trying to sway you, just enjoying the conversation. I love that he has a great arm in left. But he still misplays balls, takes bad angles and just isn’t that good of a fielder.

    And again, stealing bases at a high clip doesn’t make you a good baserunner. It makes you a good base stealer. I think there is a big difference.

    I’m also not evaluating in retrospect, per se. I’m saying he is on my list because what he produces is not equal to what he is being paid, in my opinion.

  • dhaab

    I really like the discussion going here.

    Jack, I have the same argument about Carpenter. Yeah, he’s been hurt these past two years, BUT when he pitches, he’s one of the best starters in the game. I know that I’m a biased Cards fan, but think he’ll have a damn good year in ’09. I also think the Cards knew full well that he would be injured at least one of the years when they signed him to the deal they did. They just didn’t think it would linger for two seasons. Overall, I think there are far worse signings than his in baseball right now.

    As for the argument about Fukudome only playing one season so far, I’ve seen enough to know what he is. He has very little power and his swing is so unorthodox that his timing has to be almost perfect to hit the ball consistently. He’s a great defensive player, no doubt. But you don’t pay 12 million bucks a year for defense in the outfield.

  • http://zonersports.com The Zoner

    “I also think the Cards knew full well that he would be injured at least one of the years when they signed him to the deal they did. They just didn’t think it would linger for two seasons.”

    I’ve written about this before so I don’t want to belabor the point, but if what you wrote is really true, why would any team offer a long-term deal to a player still under contract knowing he will be hurt? You’ve recently stated your opinion about Sheets here. And if the Cards had let Carp’s contract play out at least one of the 2 remaining years he would be in the same boat. If they really thought he would have been hurt they could have had him for a fraction of the price. That’s why I say it’s bad business.

    As for Fukudome, I’ll gladly put him on this list next year if he has another second half like 08. His first half was very good. If he platoons in CF and plays only against righties, I expect him to better in 09. Hideki Matsui and some other Japanese players did much better their second year.

  • dhaab

    What you say is bad business, the Cards and many other teams say is rewarding your best players. That’s one of the things that makes baseball so great. Everyone has different ways of doing business.

    “His (Fukudome) first half as very good”
    You mean his first 6 weeks. After the rest of the league found the weaknesses in his swing, he was AWFUL. And to think that bum actually started on the NL all-star team. UGGHHH!

    12 million per for a 4th outfielder. Viva la Cubbies!!

  • 20/20

    you also said you would rather throw money at Schmidt/Zito than Lilly (in your post referencing the Chris Carpenter extension), gotta tell the whole story or at least don’t link to a story with one decent prediction and two titanics.

  • dhaab

    Nice catch, 20/20. Good to see others call Zoner out sometimes. :)

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