Zack Greinke won the 2012-2013 hot stove lottery, signing a $150 million six-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite the financial expertise of billionaire owners, starting pitchers continue to be showered with big money, long-term contracts.
The history of pitchers signed to long-term contracts is poor. Here, for my money, is a starting rotation of the worst free agent pitching contracts in the last five years.
The Ace of the Staff
Johan Santana: New York Mets
The Mets epic collapse in September 2007 spurred Omar Minaya to sign Johan Santana to a $137 million seven-year deal. Santana broke down after a brilliant first season. Between 2010 and 2012 he delivered 17 wins, 306 innings pitched, and an E.R.A. in the mid fours. At a prorated $23 million per year, Santana cost the Mets about $200,000 an inning in 2012. From 2010 through 2012, each Santana victory has cost the Mets over $4 million. The only investment with worse returns for the Wilpons involve Bernie Madoff.
The #2 Starter
John Lackey: Boston Red Sox
Following the 2010 season, Lackey signed an $82 million, five year deal with the Sox. In 2011, Lackey made news for enjoying late game snacks and adult beverages while his team gagged away a playoff berth. His E.R.A. over his last two healthy years is above five, allowing the most earned runs in 2011. The Red Sox have compensated Lackey at a rate of $132 thousand an inning from 2010 to 2012. Lucky Lackey had offseason surgery and disappeared from the Bay State in 2012. Members of Sox Nation were hoping to dump him in the harbor.
The Crafty Lefty
Barry Zito: San Francisco Giants
Scott Boras is an evil genius. Boras convinced Giants G.M. Brian Sabean in 2007 to bid against himself and spend big bucks on a soft tossing junkballer. Despite the $126 million seven-year contract, the Fighting Bochys managed to win their second title in three years. Zito has made $1.8 million per win and a staggering $206,000 per strikeout in his Giants career. In 2013, Zito and Tim Lincecum may team up as the highest paid middle inning mop tandem in the history of baseball.
The Loose Cannon
Carlos Zambrano: Chicago Cubs
Zambrano throws hard and hits hard with 24 home runs and a knockout of Michael Barrett on his career ledger. The Cubs gave Zambrano a five-year $91 million contract in 2008. In four years at the Friendly Confines, Zambrano earned $1.6 million per win and $144 thousand per strikeout. The Cubs dumped Zambrano in 2012 but paid most of his salary. A free agent in 2013, the volatile Venezuelan is searching for a wealthy benefactor for future long-term employment.
The International Man of Mystery
Daisuke Matsuzaka: Boston Red Sox
Throwing the mysterious gyroball, Matsuzaka burst onto the scene at the World Baseball Classic in 2006. After paying a $51 million posting fee to the Seibu Lions, the Sox signed Dice K to a $52 million six-year contract. After 2007 and 2008, Matsuzaka faded and never pitched consistently for the Sox. The Red Sox paid Matsuzaka around $107,000 per strikeout. Amassing the sterling total of 17 wins over the final four years of the deal, he was paid $3.7 million per win from 2009-2012. John Henry should stick to the hedge fund and let the guys in Pawtucket develop young pitchers.
Other baseball articles by Kevin Feeney:
Mets Finally Make Wright Decision
Mets Should Trade R.A. Dickey and Build For the Future