Bradley headlines worst free-agent signings; Teixeira tops best
It's hard to imagine Bradley will be back with the Cubs after a nightmare season
Mets lefty Oliver Perez has been astoundingly bad in his limited action
The Yankees' signings of Teixeira and Sabathia have worked out splendidly
Before agreeing to sign Milton Bradley as a free agent last offseason, Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry felt it imperative that he sit down face to face with the man who can be as tempestuous as he is talented. Hendry drove from the GM meetings in Dana Point, Calif., to Los Angeles for dinner with Bradley. The discussion centered on the usual subjects, but when it turned to Bradley's combustible behavior in the past that included charging an umpire, trying to go after a broadcaster and angrily confronting a fan, Hendry became equally direct. "I was very blunt and honest with him, and I was very pleased with how honest he was with me," Hendry said back in spring training. "That's all in the past."
Unfortunately for Hendry, Bradley and the still-suffering Cubs fans who will endure another championship-less year, it was still in their future, too. Bradley's disastrous season in Chicago has included an underwhelming statistical performance (.257/.378/.397, 12 home runs, 40 RBIs) and a cringe-worthy series of flare-ups both on-field (smashing his bat, forgetting the number of outs) and off (charging Cubs fans with being racist, a seasonlong battle with the media and public spats with manager Lou Piniella).
Bradley's year came to an end on Sunday when Hendry suspended him for the rest of the season. It's difficult to imagine Bradley will be back with the Cubs next season, but even harder to imagine any team that would want to take a chance on trading for him, especially after he so easily laid claim to being baseball's worst free agent signing from last winter. To be sure, Bradley is not the only big-name, big-money addition who has failed to earn their paycheck this year, just the most attention-getting.
Milton Bradley, Cubs
It doesn't seem possible that this marriage could be any worse, which is why it's a very good thing that Bradley's season is over. Hendry may have a difficult time finding a taker for Bradley this winter, but this isn't the first time a general manager has had to find a new home for Bradley after he wore out his welcome with his demeanor. In 2005, Ned Colletti, then the Dodgers new GM, was looking for a new home for Bradley after he had a run-in with a fan during a game. He eventually shipped him to Oakland and got a pretty decent young player in exchange: Andre Ethier.
Oliver Perez, Mets
The only thing keeping Perez from the top of this list is the spectacularly disastrous season Bradley is having in Chicago. Perez year has been better off the field, but far worse on it. Perez has made just 14 starts all season, has the highest ERA of his career (6.82), nearly a 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (fifth-worst among all starters in the game) and an astounding 1.92 WHIP. He has only three quality starts all year, matching the fewest of any pitcher in the majors who made at least 14 starts this season.
Pat Burrell, Rays
The size of the investment isn't prohibitive, but the return on that investment has been minimal. Burrell was added in the hopes that he would provide an offensive boost as a designated hitter, after the Rays got just 24 home runs and 78 RBIs from that spot a year ago while Burrell was putting together the seventh season of his nine-year career with at least that many homers and his eighth with at least that many RBIs. But he's been injured and ineffective in Tampa Bay, with just 14 home runs and 62 RBIs. He has the lowest slugging percentage of his career and his batting average and on-base percentage are the second-worst. He was also involved in a clubhouse confrontation recently with Carl Crawford, and although manager Joe Maddon dismissed the incident, it was yet another example of Burrell's lost year in Tampa Bay.
Ryan Dempster, Cubs
A career year in 2008 that included personal bests in wins, ERA and WHIP earned Dempster a sizable raise from the three-year, $15.5 million deal that expired last year. But so far he hasn't exactly justified that raise, regressing to a 10-8 mark with a 3.72 ERA. In fact, his numbers are down across the board. He's given up more hits, runs and home runs than he did a year ago, with a worse WHIP and fewer strikeouts per nine innings. He hasn't been terrible, but the Cubs were clearly expecting more this year from a pitcher who signed the fourth-highest contract of any free-agent starter last winter. With his salary increasing each of the next three years and with a $14 million player option for 2012, the Cubs can only hope that Dempster will soon resemble the pitcher who earned that large deal in the first place.
Edgar Renteria, Giants
This isn't the first time Renteria's been a free-agent bust, having previously flamed out in Boston after signing a four-year, $40 million deal with them before the 2005 season. His new deal is much more affordable, but he has once again struggled to produce after signing it. His .250 average, .307 on-base percentage and .328 slugging percentage are the lowest of his career, and he's provided just five home runs and 48 RBIs. His defense has been solid, but the Giants needed an offensive boost. Manager Bruce Bochy spent most of the year penciling Renteria into the No. 2 spot in his lineup, but he has received production more worthy of a No. 8 hitter.
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