Every offseason, there are a handful of contracts that look foolish by the time free agency has ended. Even with the economic downturn, this offseason is no different. While the numbers have deflated, the questionable deals still remain prevalent. I'm not saying that the following players suck, but instead the contracts they were given do not fit the market conditions or were simply excessive. Simply put, teams could have done better.
Without further ado, here are my top 8 worst free agent contracts from this offseason (in no particular order):
Edgar Renteria (2 year/$18.5 mil):
Giants signed Renteria, who was coming off a down season, very quickly into free agency. Because they signed Renteria so fast, they did not let the market develop and grotesquely overpaid for the declining Renteria. To put this one into context, Orlando Cabrera, who is a much better player, got stuck with a 1 year/$4 million dollar contract because the market was so bad and his type A status.
Casey Blake (3 years/$17 mil):
Blake is a good player, who drew strong competition from the Twins and Dodgers because of the weak (at the time) third base market. As a result, Blake was able to parlay a few good seasons into a three year contract during an economic downturn. Seems a bit excessive, right? Well, the contract looks even worse to me when you consider that Ty Wigginton only received a 2 year/$6 million dollar contract. Blake is a better defender that Wigginton, but you can make the case that Wiggy is a better offensive player, especially against lefties. Blake was the beneficiary of good timing and I bet the Dodgers will regret giving the 35 year old Blake three years.
Juan Rivera (3 years/$12 million):
The Angels must be real high on Rivera because this is a contract that I just don't get. Rivera is a decent player, who can definitely be serviceable for the Angels. But three years? Really? Rivera missed most of the 2007 season because of a broken leg and played in only 89 games in 2008 because he was still recovering from the broken leg. The power potential is there for Rivera (12 hr in 89 games in '08), but giving a guy three years coming off a major injury is risky in my eyes. Will Rivera ever put up his 2006 numbers again?
Damaso Marte (3 years/$12 million):
In most offseasons, this contract would have been in line with other top relief pitchers. However, the market for left handed relief pitchers has been so bad this offseason that the Yankees look foolish because they gave Marte 3 years and a contract worth $4 million per season. No other free agent left handed relief pitcher got three years this offseason and only one (Affeldt) got a deal worth $4 million annually. Damaso Marte is a good pitcher, but there is nothing about Marte that STRONGLY separates him from Beimel, Ohman, or Dennys Reyes (all of whom remain unsigned). This was all about timing (sign early) and the Yankees ($).
Raul Ibanez (3 years/$30 million):
I still like this move...alot. I think Ibanez will be a great fit with the Phillies in 2009 and beyond. However, there is no denying that after seeing what Pat Burrell (2 yr/$16 mil), Adam Dunn (2 yr/$20 mil), and Bobby Abreu (1 yr./$5 mil) got on the free agent market, that Ibanez was vastly overpaid. Even though Ibanez is older than those three, he was the only one to get a three year contract and received the more money than any other free agent outfielder this offseason. Is Ibanez a better player than Abreu, Dunn, or Burrell? Probably not. Ibanez struck it big because of his opportunistic timing and the Phillies strong desire to add the aging outfielder.
Kyle Farnsworth (2 years/$9.25 mil):
How in the world did Kyle Farnsworth get more money than any other FA right handed middle relief pitcher? Farnsworth was no where close to being the best middle relief pitcher on the market, yet the Royals felt the need to give Farnsworthless a two year deal! What crazy world are we living in? Well, we're living in the crazy world of elias rankings, where Farnsworth becomes more valuable than guys like Juan Cruz and Brandon Lyon because teams do not have to forfeit a draft pick for his services. I guarantee the Royals will experience their fair share of headaches with Farnsworth over the next two years...just ask any Yankee fan.
AJ Burnett (5 years/$80 million):
I don't have a problem with AJ Burnett. I think he's a fine pitcher with tons of potential and a 95+ MPH fastball. But Burnett is 32 years old with a major injury history. How in the world could the Yankees feel comfortable giving Burnett a five year contract? The odds of Burnett getting hurt are rather high, don't cha think? And the Yankees are paying Burnett $16 million per season on a hope and a whim that he finally achieves his potential at age 32 and somehow stays healthy. But that's the Yankees for ya-swimming in cash.
Burnett is the lone exception to the "team could have done better" idea. Whoever signed Burnett was going to have to pony up, despite my begging and pleading not too.
Willie Bloomquist (2 years/$3.85 mil):
Somehow in a market where Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu had to settle for one year, Bloomquist was able to get a two year contract from the Royals. Huh? The 31 year old Bloomquist is nothing more than a utility man with limited upside. So why did GM Dayton Moore feel the need to give Bloomquist two years? Does he love his hustle? Was he bidding against some strong competition? Was this a joke? Either way, I don't get it.
So did I leave anyone off the list? Feel free to make your case in the comments section.