Reviewing Last Year’s MLB Free-Agent Signings

Photo Credit: DG Associated Press

Photo Credit: DG Associated Press

THE UGLY

Hanley Ramirez – First Base (for now), Boston Red Sox (Age: 32)
Deal:
4 years, $88 million ($22 million in 2019 vests with 1,050 Plate appearances in 2017 + 2018)
Annual Salary Remaining:
2016: $22.75 million
2017: $22.75 million
2018: $22.75 million
2019: $22 million *(vesting year)

The Skinny: Ramirez’s return to Boston was a tough one to say the least. He came to camp out of shape and proceeded to hack his way through a half-season experiment in left field. He managed just 92 games in left field, and it could be argued he was the worst defensive player in all of baseball before a shoulder injury effectively ended his season in early August. This season Ramirez will bring his talents back to the infield and give it a try at first base.

It’s tough to imagine this experiment going well, before he transitions to a full-time DH after David Ortiz retires. Ramirez, in theory, could still have some tread on his tires, as he is just 32 years old. It is not unheard of for players to have career rebirths in their early 30s. It remains to be seen if Hanley has the work ethic, and health to prevent this contract from being a complete disaster.

Grade: D

James Shields – Starting Pitcher, San Diego Padres (Age: 34)
Deal:
4 years, $75 million (player option after 2017 & 2018, $2 million team buyout for 2019)
Annual Salary Remaining:
2016: $21 million
2017: $21 million (player option)
2018: $21 million (player option)
2019: $16 million (team option or $2 million buyout)

The Skinny: When I think of the San Diego Padres, I think of the 1980s classic movie Money Pit, starring Tom Hanks. General Manager A.J. Preller just couldn’t help himself, and now he is the proud owner of three baseball’s most untradeable contracts in Shields, Melvin Upton Jr., and Matt Kemp.  The warning signs were there for Shields, as he struggled in the 2014 Postseason for the Kansas City Royals, and he continued his downward trend into 2015.

Shields has pitched over 200 innings in nine consecutive seasons and the wear and tear is starting to take its toll on the once-dependable pitcher. The artist formerly known as “Big Game James” struggled for much of the year in his new digs posting a 3.91 ERA. His ERA is “acceptable” by today’s starting pitching standards, but certainly not a price tag of $21 million per year. The Padres are still on the hook for three years and $63 million for Shields; it’s going to get worse before it gets better in San Diego.

Grade: F

 

Max Scherzer – Starting Pitcher, Washington Nationals (Age: 31)
Deal:
7 years, $210 million ($105 million deferred from 2022 – 2028)
2016: $22,142,857
2017: $22,142,857
2018: $22,142,857
2019: $37,405,562
2020: $35,920,616
2021: $34,503,480

The Skinny:  There are many experts who would argue that signing a pitcher in his thirties to a $200 million contract is extremely bad business. I agree whole-heartedly with those people.

In his first season in Washington, Scherzer was outstanding, providing exactly the type of workhouse campaign the Nationals were expecting and throwing two no-hitters in the process. He posted career-best numbers across the board in ERA, WHIP, innings pitched and strikeouts. But to fully comprehend the atrocity of this contract you have to look beyond last year or even this year.

The Nationals agreed to defer a Major League record $105 million of his contract to the years 2022–2028. This means the Nats will be paying Scherzer $15 million per year for those seven years and he in all likelihood will even not be on their roster.  Couple those numbers with the astronomical payroll hit of over $35 million for 2019-2021 there is no way this contract can be viewed as a good one. When Bryce Harper leaves Washington after the 2018 season, the Nats front office will have to look no further than this terrible contract. Scherzer may well live up to this contract over the next few seasons, but in the end, it will tie the Nationals’ hands for future free-agent signings, if it has not already.

Grade: F-

*Salary calculations were acquired via www.sportrac.com

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