I love this time of year—the lights, Christmas Eve service, all the free treats people bring to the office (there is nothing like having five cookies, a slice of fruitcake and popcorn out of a 50 gallon drum for lunch!) and the ridiculous free agent signings during MLB’s winter meetings (unfortunately, as a Twins fan, the winter meetings are not a season of much hope or a cause for too much excitement (although I would be quite pleased if we snagged Atkins to address third)). The free agent market has become like an old-school WWF battle royal—you knew that Hulk, Andre the Giant, maybe Big John Studd, Hillbilly Jim or Rowdy Roddy Piper would win, just like we all know that the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, maybe the Cubs, Dodgers or Angels will usually be the last team standing. I hate to break it to you, but Manny isn’t going to be leading the Pirates’ faithful in a 2009 reggaeton rendition of “We are Family” and CC was never going to be the horse the Royals have been looking for since Bret Saberhagen (although Appier and Cone did have some decent seasons). That said, there definitely is some truth to the old adage that money can’t buy you happiness (in October), just ask the Yankees. While I sit here, dejected, as the Twins remain on the sidelines, I can take solace in the fact that many free agent signings are about as successful as my well intentioned diets.
I found the following photo essay in si.com’s Vault: “Worst Free Agent Contracts of the Last 10 Years” (link found below). I think the respective front offices can probably justify all of the deals on the list, with the exception of one: Russ Ortiz for four years and $33mm. Ortiz’s WHIP the season prior to signing with the D-Backs was 1.51, which means Ortiz has about as much control as I do at an Indian buffet (buffets really are the true test of one’s manhood—can you eat through the pain, pressure and sweat, and more importantly, can you actually make it home without any major disasters). While not on SI’s list, my personal favorite is the $9mm, two year deal Derrick Bell some how coerced out of the Pirates following a 2000 season in which he hit below .200 in the second half. How did Bell repay the Pirates’ generosity—with a .173, five homer and 13 RBI campaign the first year and engaging in “Operation Slowdown” during spring training in 2002 after being told he would have to compete for a starting position. Maybe spending no money is the best investment the Twins can make.