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2006 Free Agent Signings - How'd They Work Out?

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On a morning where there's really nothing cooking in Yankeeland, I've decided to take a trip down memory lane. It's been five years now since some notable players cashed in during the offseason in 2006. Using the glorious benefits of hindsight, I want to display just how hit-or-miss long-term contracts can be. 

Quick note: While WAR is not the know all, end all statistic, I'm using it in this post just for the sake of swift comparison. However, there are plenty of variables that are accounted for in WAR that make it the optimal number for me to reference. 

The players (with age at time of signing contract next to their name): 

1) LF Alfonso Soriano (30) - 8 years, $136 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. Through the first five years of his contract, Soriano has equated a bRef WAR of 15.5 (averaging out to 3.1 per year) while earning an average paycheck of $15,800,000 per year. In other words, the Cubs are paying slightly over $5 million per individual WAR. That's a fairly horrific contract considering the unfortunate fact that Soriano put up a 7.0 WAR in his first season with the Cubs, therefore only putting forward 8.5 WAR over the past four seasons (510 games). 

2) SP Barry Zito (26) - 7 years, $126 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. At the time, this signing was the largest contract a starting pitcher had ever graced with his signature. Barry Zito had accumulated a WAR of 28.4 through his seven season tenure with the Oakland Athletics. Despite an xFIP that continually climbed as his career progressed, the Giants willingly threw a king's ransom at Zito. While it's been addressed before, Barry Zito may be the biggest free agent flop of all-time. His 6.6 WAR over the past five seasons is no better than the average fifth starter for a MLB team's rotation. He's made $80 million since the start of the 2007 campaign, a whopping $12,121,212 for one WAR! He compiled 768 innings pitched from 2007-2010, but merely 53.2 innings last year. He's still owed $57 million over the next three years, with a $7 million team buyout in 2014. 

3) LF Carlos Lee (30) - 6 years, $100 million deal with the Houston Astros. "El Caballo" was known for his ability to generate the long ball, averaging 27 dingers per year before signing a deal with the Houston Astros. Despite still slugging 27 homers per year, he's only put together a total WAR of 10.4 since joining Houston (2.1 WAR per). Having earned $81.5 million already, that comes out to $8,150,000 per WAR. 

4) RF J.D. Drew (31) - 5 years, $70 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. This would have been a relatively good contract if Drew had remained healthy throughout. In five years, he played in 606 games (approx. 121 per year). His WAR of 13.3 in the first four years was decent, but looks worse with the -0.3 tacked on from a poor 2011 season. Boston paid nearly $5,400,000 per WAR. 

5) CF Gary Matthews Jr. (32) - 5 years, $50 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Okay, THIS was the worst deal. It was a bad marriage that lasted three years with the Angels before he was traded away to the New York Mets. Matthews Jr. played less and less as his contract played out and totally lost his ability to hit homers. He had a -0.5 WAR in three seasons with the Angels and a -0.1 WAR in 36 games with the Mets before being designated for assignment and becoming a free agent. I remember him best for striking out swinging to end the 2009 ALCS, but that's just me. 

6) SP Jason Schmidt (33) - 3 years, $47 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Having proved to be a highly effective starter in the weak hitting NL West with the San Francisco Giants, Schmidt seemed like a great fit for the rival Dodgers. However, can't help but feel bad for Schmidt as well as the Dodgers here. A badly hampered right shoulder only allowed for him to make 10 starts at the MLB level over the life of his contract. His total WAR was only -0.1 and the Dodgers completely missed with this signing. 


Hopefully we won't be looking back a few years from now and be regretting contracts tendered to Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia


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