When you’re the Los Angeles Dodgers, you have many on top of many experiences signing good and not so good, players. Often, major contracts fall flat. We know this as fans. But when they hit right, they can be the glue to a team’s run in the postseason.
Luckily, these bad contracts have less impact on a major market like the Dodgers. But it still can affect them immensely, swallowing much needed salary cap and adding to the disintegration of team chemistry.
Below are some of the worst deals in their history. Most are current. Why? Because post 1990, is when the larger long term contract became more of a major reality. But you’ll notice some are not so large. These deals affected chemistry negatively, or pushed back a rebuilding plan. Either way, I’m sure many of these guys will remind you of the past, make you nostalgic, or angry. Sorry, if angry.
15 15. Jason Schmidt: 3 Years, $47 Million
Like Brown, Schmidt was a dominant pitcher. He played six years with Dodgers rival, San Francisco Giants, compiling 78 wins, a 3.38 earned run average and attended three All Star games.
It was during the Winter of 2006, when the Dodgers – in search of a true ace – inked Schmidt to the deal. They hoped and banked on Schmidt’s impeccable command and ability to eat up innings. But so was not the case. Over two years with the club, Schmidt started just ten games. He won three games and posted a plus six earned run average. He was unable to play out the last year of his deal, due to chronic shoulder injuries. Though the Dodgers forked over the $15 million.
14 14. Matt Kemp: 8 Years, $160 Million
Matt Kemp’s ceiling was short lived. It only lasted one year, a year that saw Kemp put up outrageous numbers: .324 batting average, 39 home runs, 126 runs batted in and 40 stolen bases. The Dodgers inked Kemp to a contract extension worth $160 million that Winter, making him one of the richest men in baseball.
He never lived up to the expectations, nor the contract. A year into the deal, Kemp’s numbers plummeted. His average fell to .270. Power numbers to six home runs and 33 runs batted in. He couldn’t stay healthy. He looked out of shape, lazy. Lost among that flurry of wealth.
Never gaining his old form, the Dodgers had enough, dealing Kemp to the Padres in 2015. He now plays for the Braves. His numbers are still serviceable, but the man is grossly overpaid.
13 13. Juan Pierre: 5 Years $44 Million
Juan Pierre was one of the league’s finest leadoff hitters, for fourteen years. His career batting line of .295, with a career 614 stolen bases, proves my point. He was never bad. He found ways to always contribute offensively.
What lacked, though, was his glove in the outfield. An average glove for the first half of his career, Pierre lost it the latter half.
When the wheels came off was when Pierre signed with the Dodgers. He became a liability. Twice in his three years with the club led the league in errors. His average and stolen bases were close to his usual output. Though his OPS and OBP well below his career numbers.
If you don’t believe me, consider his WAR over his three years with the club. 0.7, -0.2 and 1.1. Pierre was nowhere worth the nearly $9-million a year.
12 12. Kevin Brown: 7 Years, $105 Million
You could argue other than Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez, Kevin Brown was the best pitcher of the 90s. Over his crazy good 19-year career, one split between six teams, Brown won 211 games. He posted a lifetime 3.28 earned run average, attended six All Star games and twice finished top three in Cy Young voting. His career includes a World Series ring in 1997 with the Florida Marlins, and the first ever $100-million dollar man.
When the Dodger signed Brown to a gargantuan 7-year, $105 million-dollar deal, it was the first of its kind. Brown was the richest man in baseball, and the Dodgers go-to rotation guy. Here’s the thing about the deal: It wasn’t horrendous. But it was not worth that kind of money.
Over Brown’s 5 years with the club, he battled numerous nicks and bruises. The result, were limited starts. His best came the first year of the deal, when he finished, in classic Kevin Brown fashion, with 18 wins and led the league in quality starts. From that point, he was still good. But like I said, not on the mount enough to warrant the deal.
11 11. Manny Ramirez: 2 Years, $45 Million
Traded the Summer of 2008, from the Red Sox to the Dodgers, Manny went bananas. In 53 games, he hit .396, with 17 home runs, 53 runs batted in and a .489 OBP. Dodger fans were chanting his name. He was adored. It made total sense to re-sign him that Winter to a short-term deal.
When the Dodgers inked Ramirez to $45-million over two years, they thought they’d be getting that superstar middle of the order bat, driving runs in and adding flare. But that’s when things went real south. Ramirez was slapped with a 50-game suspension for taking an illegal enhancement, and he never recovered. After the suspension, he struggled with injuries, chronic complaints, became more of a locker room cancer than a fun, loving humorist. His number weren’t horrible, but he wasn’t on the field enough to warrant his 22.5 million a year.
The Dodgers traded Manny to the White Sox for beans, in 2010. It was there, his career officially flatlined.
10 10. Nomar Garciaparra: 2 Years, $18.5 Million
Nomar warranted the deal. Sort of. Look at this way. Nomar had long been one of the better short stops in baseball. Over nine years with the Red Sox, Nomar went to five All Star games and put up two of the most dominant offensive seasons in league history. Until injuries took their toll, it was fair to compare him and argue his betterment, in relation to Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter. But that’s the thing…unlike the other two, injuries stole Nomar’s best years from us.
When the Dodgers inked him to the somewhat major deal, he had won Comeback Player of the Year. But he was no longer able to play short or even third base, making him nothing but a first baseman with limited lateral speed.
Nomar played just 55 games his final year of the deal, hitting .264 with eight home runs.
9 9. Jonathan Broxton: 2 Years, $11 Million
There are only a few no-no’s in Baseball. Only a few. One of those is simple: Don’t ever, I mean EVER sign a closer to mega money. As seen by recent history: Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell and Jonathan Papelbon, those deals rarely ever workout.
Well, Ned Colletti thought he was smarter than this general rule thumb, when he resigned Broxton – an average at best closer – to the $11 Million the Winter of 2009. Over those two years, he’d go on to save 29 games and posted a plus-five earned run average. He also got torched by the Phillies in both the 2008 and 2009 NLCS, arguably costing the Dodgers a shot at a World Series.
8 8. Andre Ethier: 5-years, $85 Million
Before the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles, Ethier was the club’s middle order bat, with above average pop and a clutch ability to deliver the big hit. You can literally mark the time those two arrived, when Ethier’s abilities plummeted.
Post the contract, Ethier would never attend another All-Star game. Hit only double digit home runs, twice. In fact, would soon become nothing more than a platoon outfielder in Coach Don Mattingly’s depth chart. In 2016, he played in just 16 games with a herniated disc. And is currently set to collect another $17 Million this year, despite his return questionable, with ongoing back problems.
7 7. Andruw Jones: 2 Years, $36 Million
Classic Colletti, right? Throwing money at players, who were nowhere near worth the money he offered them. Jones arrived to the Dodgers, an out of shape, slow, lazy veteran, with about as much drive as an inchworm.
Over twelve years with Atlanta, Jones went to five All-Star Games and won nine Gold Gloves. He hit 368 home runs, eighth most during that span. And was considered arguably the best defensive outfielder in baseball.
But his prime was clearly gone. A far flame fading in a tattering of fog. Which is why the $18 Million a year was such a shock. Jones took it, and the rest is history.
Over one year with the club, he missed 87 games. He was a shell of himself, hitting .158 with three home runs. His strikeout ratio, one of the highest in all of baseball.
6 6. Juan Uribe: 3 Years, $21 Million
Yoda and a frog made love, creating Juan Uribe. The slow paunchy third baseman, was an average defensive fielder and a sporadic at best hitter, with an awkward hitting style and swing. He had a decent October with the San Francisco Giants, winning a World Series ring in 2010. And like some teams do, they cash high foolishly on a player who’d been nothing but average his whole career.
Over his time with the Dodgers, Uribe became more of a joke, than a seriously respected piece of their flowering future. He averaged 90-games per year. Hit a combined 28 home runs, with a sickly thin OBP. Fans weren’t sad to say goodbye.
5 5. Brett Tomko: 2 Years, $9 Million
You’re wondering why Tomko and his menial contract are on this list. I’ll tell you why. Because Tomko really wasn’t worth a deal. Nor a chance at starting. It was during a time when Colletti just threw money at anyone, hoping they’d hit big.
But this isn’t Las Vegas.
Tomko’s two seasons with the Dodgers caused some serious problems. His $9 Million cost the team more than that. He won just ten games with a plus five earned run average. In fact, his nickname around the league became “Bombko,” because he was known for giving up home runs late in big game moments. “Bombko,” was so bad the second year of the deal, the Dodgers designated him for a lengthy assignment.
4 4. Darryl Strawberry: 5 Years, $22.5 Million
When the Dodgers signed Mets star Darryl Strawberry the Winter of 1990, it was a very big deal. Strawberry was a posterchild in New York and equally as a big a star, as anyone in the league. To this day, one could argue the Strawberry signing is the biggest in Dodgers history, because of his magnificent popularity. Which is why his bust in a Dodgers uniform, is so damn bad.
Strawberry’s list of accomplishments with the Mets was impressive. He played in seven straight All Star games. Won the 1983 Rookie of the Year. Won a World Series in 1986. Over his eight years with the club, he hit 252 home runs, and was arguably the best left handed bat in all of baseball.
But that’s when all crap hit the fan. Strawberry quickly succumbed to cocaine problems. Was busted for beating his girlfriend. The Los Angeles lifestyle too much for his longstanding addictions. His first year with the club, he hit 28 home runs. The next two, Strawberry hit just ten. Was in and out of rehab. His issues so bad, the Dodgers bought his contract out May of 1994.
3 3. Darren Dreifort: 5-Years, $55 Million
Dreifort never did anything to earn his mega deal the Winter of 2000. Up to that point, he’d won a total of 39 games over eight years, with a borderline five earned run average. Why he got the deal is difficult to make sense of.
He’d go on to play four more years, missing one with an injury. While battling injuries the other three. Over those four years, he won nine games and pitched a total of 200 innings. Dreifort would retire thereafter, sighting many emotional scars for his underperformance. Considering he was drafted second overall behind A-Rod, his emotional spiral is understandable.
2 2. Rafael Furcal: 3 Years, $39 Million
Here’s the thing about the Furcal deal: It made total sense. I was a huge Furcal fan. He was easily a top five shortstop with a high average and an ability to steal bases. Up until his deal with the Dodgers, he did those things AND stayed relatively healthy.
When he arrived in Dodgers blue the Winter of 2005, high expectations were among them. He filled in a solid lineup, was a sure glove. The 2000 Rookie of the Year and one time All-Star poised for big things.
But that is right when the injuries started. Furcal, slight of frame, couldn’t stay on the field. When he was on it, he was brilliant. Hit .357 in 2008, but did so in just 38 games. The deal became a major blight, despite Furcal’s abilities.
1 1. Fred McGriff: 1 Year, $3.75 Million
The Crime Dog McGriff, one of the best first basemen of all time, had a resurgence late in his career with the Chicago Cubs. In 2002 with the Cubs, the then 37-year-old, hit 30 home runs with 101 runs batted in. Because of this, the Dodgers sought him out to fill in for the loss of long running franchise favorite, Eric Karros.
But the man was old. His old bones too brittle to do any damage. It was as if he used all his last energy on the season prior. McGriff was a shell of the legend he’d been. The five time All-Star and future Hall of Famer, his .249 with 13 home runs in 86 games.
It wasn’t that the deal was bad, it was that it was meaningless. It pushed the Dodgers rebuilding efforts back another year, and soured the end of a legend’s illustrious career.
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