Pavano, Beltre haven't lived up to contracts
Every year major league teams spend millions of dollars on players who are almost always injured, who don't take their clubs to the next level or who simply don't live up to expectations.
The majority of these "busts" were either free-agent signings, traded in the middle of big contracts or started their declines after they were given mega-extensions.
There's no doubt Kevin Brown was one of the worst deals ever from a team's point of view. Brown signed with the Dodgers for seven years and $115 million before the 1999 season, and ended up averaging nine wins and $15 million in salary per year for Los Angeles and the Yankees.
A couple of years later, the Rockies did practically the same thing with left-hander Mike Hampton -- a $121 million deal for eight years -- and since then, the left-hander has gone 53-48 with Colorado and Atlanta, and has not pitched since September 2005, when he had Tommy John surgery. Atlanta is paying Hampton $13.5 million for not pitching this year, and owes him another $29.5 million for 2007 and 2008. Atlanta assumed a total of $48.5 million of Hampton's deal when it acquired him from Colorado, and has a $20 million option for 2009.
Brown and Hampton are two examples of deals gone bad in the last five to seven years. But what about more recent history? Here are the biggest busts since the end of the 2004 season.
New York signed Pavano for four years and $39.5 million, after the right-hander won 18 games for Florida in 2004. Pavano was a disappointing 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA last year, and has not pitched in 2006. His four victories have cost the Yanks $17 million. The latest medical report indicates that New York could have Pavano back on the mound at some point in the second half. What no one knows is whether he'll regain the form he showed two years ago.
After a monstrous 2004, when he was in the final year of his contract with the Dodgers, Beltre got a five-year, $65 million deal from the Mariners. Beltre, who hit .334 with 48 home runs and 121 RBI in 2004, has hit .254 with 26 HR and 122 RBI in a season and a half with Seattle. He has struck out 174 times in 244 games as a Mariner.
In his first year with the Mariners, Sexson hit 39 home runs and drove in 121, but his .263 average was far from ideal for a guy who signed a four-year, $50 million deal. This year Sexson has declined, even in power numbers. The first baseman was hitting only .218 with 16 home runs and 59 RBI at the All-Star break, but even worse, he has not shown the kind of leadership that makes people believe he can carry this team on his shoulders. Sexson led the American League with 167 strikeouts last year, and with 92 at the break in 2006, he's on pace to set a personal high in that department.
Like Pavano, Wright signed with New York before the 2005 campaign. Despite having just one solid year (15-8, 3.28 ERA in 2004 with Atlanta) and a long history of injuries, the Yankees decided to ink the right-hander to a three-year, $21 million deal. In 2005, Wright went 5-5 with an ERA of 6.08, and the first half of this season he was 5-5, 4.23.
Although many might have missed it, Weaver has been one of the most overvalued pitchers in baseball in the last five years, during which he has made $31.5 million. The right-hander, who was released by the Angels after going 3-10 with an ERA of 6.29, is making $8.3 million this year. Now in St. Louis, Weaver has averaged 12 wins since 2002, but went 10-19 in his last two American League seasons with the Yankees and Angels, while compiling a record of 27-24 with the Dodgers in the National League between those stints. He has a lifetime mark of 81-97, and only once (14-11 in 2005) has he been an over-.500 pitcher.
The right-hander won 25 games with the Orioles in 2002 and 2003, and was rewarded with a three-year contract for $22.5 million. In addition to shoulder problems, which forced him to forget about using his effective forkball and also affected his overall velocity, Ponson was involved in a series of off-field incidents that made him a general headache for the Baltimore organization. In the winter of 2005, Ponson was accused of punching a judge on a beach in his native Aruba, and then was stopped for drunk driving twice in the U.S. The Orioles terminated his contract, and Ponson signed with St. Louis, where he went 4-4 with an ERA of 5.24 before being released and then being signed by the Yankees. The right-hander will make $8.5 million this year, and the Yankees are banking on his turning things around.
The Nationals signed Guzman to a four-year, $16.8 million deal before the team's move from Montreal to Washington. It couldn't have been a worse move so far for the Nats. Guzman hit .219 with 76 strikeouts in 140 games in 2005, and a shoulder operation shelved him for the entire 2006 season.
His 37 homers and 110 RBI with Colorado in 2004 were the launching pad for Burnitz to make big money. This year, making $6.6 million, he's hitting just .228 with 12 home runs and 37 RBI with the Pirates. Last year he hit .258 and had 24 HR with the Cubs, who paid him $5 million. Pittsburgh has an option for $6 million in 2007, and would have to pay him $700,000 if the team declines.
Closing for the Mets in 2005, Looper blew eight save opportunities and had a 3.94 ERA. But the Cardinals gave him a three-year, $13.5 million deal anyway. Looper, with a 3.96 ERA, has given up 40 hits in 38 innings, and has not been any better as a setup man than he was as a closer.
The right-hander pitched 200 innings and won 12 games for the surprising Nationals last year, and raised his free-agent value considerably in the process. Interestingly, the usually thrifty Athletics invested $21.3 million over three years to get Loaiza. In the first half of this year, Loaiza was 3-5 with a 6.43 ERA. And after missing all of May with a rib cage injury, Loaiza pitched two good games before being arrested for speeding and suspicion of drunk driving in Oakland.
Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.
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