Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports put this off-season’s signings under a microscope yesterday, sorting the free agent contracts into categories; think good, bad and ugly, but more specific.
Tony Armas didn’t make the top 10 list of worst signings, nor the top five of “good thing [the contract’s for] only one year.” Really, sinking $3.5 million into an iffy starting pitcher isn’t that horrible of a move on its own.
Sure, a mid-market team like the Pirates should be making every attempt to earn a solid return on its investments. And of course, missing on Armas hurts more when put into context with Burnitz, Randa, et al.
But what stings the most is passing over the players who were eminently signable—guys even the Pirates could’ve inked—who’ve gone on to put up respectable stat lines with their new clubs:
- I would’ve rather spent an extra $7-8 million on Ted Lilly or Gil Meche than sign Armas. Hindsight is 20-20, but with either of those two in the Pirates’ rotation (all else equal) we’d be approaching .500.
- At two years and $2.5 million, Hideki Okajima looks like a steal. Not that I don’t appreciate Masumi Kuwata, but we picked up the wrong middling Japanese bullpen arm.
- As Passan notes, Eric Gagne’s trade value alone is worth the $6 million contract he signed. If Salomon Torres had been working in middle relief, would he have been more effective?
- Mark DeRosa or Kaz Matsui would’ve fit nicely at second base. Freddy could’ve stayed at home at third with Jose Bautista shifting to center. The upgrade would only be slight, perhaps, but at $2-4 million, the investment wouldn’t have been huge, either.
- As mentioned when the Devil Rays won the right to negotiate with him via the posting system, Akinori Iwamura could’ve been playing in Pittsburgh should the organization have been willing to take the risk. Tampa Bay did, and it’s paid off.
The money was there and it went unspent. Granted, a lot of these guys are playing over their heads, and Dave Littlefield would’ve caught a lot of flak for the deals. And who’s to say we would’ve gotten the same performance out of those players?
All things considered, though, you hate to see us missing the boat on free agency year after year after year. When you’re not selecting top talent in the draft, you’ve got to spend the money to improve your club in the hot stove season.