Every winter, baseball teams wheel and deal as they attempt to improve their team for the upcoming season. The two most common strategies clubs employ are trading with one another and signing free-agents to play for them. Sometimes, it works out great, like when the Nationals signed Daniel Murphy and he became their best player this season. Other times, it fails miserably and fans want to rip their hair out as they watch a recently acquired player battle to stay above the replacement level status. This column is an ode to those players that face-planted in their first year with a new team, either from trade or free agency.
First things first, this list will account for the expectations of the player heading into the season. A below average inning eating sponge signed by on non-contending team isn’t as big of a flop as a highly regarded player that stinks up the joint for a team trying to make a run at the playoffs, even if the sponge has worse stats. The value that was given up also matters, so someone struggling after signing a mega contract is inherently more disappointing than a player signed for one year for $3 million, even if mega contract players' numbers are better.
Finally, this article is being written in mid-August, after each team has played roughly 120 games. There is still about a fifth of the season left, so if one of these players catches fire and leads their squad on a deep postseason run, no one will view their debut as a flop, regardless of how poorly they had played up until this point. Still, we have a decent sample size to make assessments of how well the club’s decision to acquire them worked out, even if there is some time left to flip the script.
Without further ado, here are the 15 players who have flopped with their new team.
15 Alfredo Simon - Cincinnati Reds
Remember that comment about below average inning sponges for a non-contending teams? Meet THE underwhelming sponge. Alfredo Simon signed with the Reds on a one-year, $2 million contract. It was a quiet signing by a team that wasn’t going to be very good this year. Sadly, it’s hard to imagine a pitcher playing worse than Simon did this year. His current ERA sits at a jaw-dropping 9.45 and he is sporting a WHIP over two. Those two stats are the worst in the league from any pitcher that has thrown more than 50 innings by a good margin.
14 Alexei Ramirez - San Diego Padres
This is the position player version of Simon, a bad veteran signed to fill out a roster that somehow turned out worse than the front office imagined. Ramirez has been horrendous this year, batting a lackluster .241./.276/.334 and having a poor glove at one of the game's premiere positions. According to Fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement stat, Ramirez has been worth -1.9 wins. That is the worst in the major leagues. Essentially, Ramirez is the worst everyday player in baseball.
13 Joaquin Benoit - Seattle Mariners
After a flurry of offseason moves, Jerry Dipoto had remade the Mariners roster. This included overhauling the bullpen by trading for Joaquin Benoit, a veteran reliever who sported a sparkling 2.34 in 65 innings with the Padres in 2014. He slotted in as a solid veteran presence and a reliable 8th inning guy. Sadly for the Mariners, what they got was an injured and ineffective 39-year-old reliever.
12 Jeff Samardzija - San Francisco Giants
Heralded as one of the prime bounce-back candidates, Jeff Samardzija has been nearly as bad as he was last year. This year, he’s posted a lackluster 4.24 ERA over more than 150 innings. He had has been particularly bad lately, with a 5.35 ERA in the second half. His horrible play has been directly tied to the collapse of the Giants, who have seen a six-game lead over the Dodgers turn into a one and a half game deficit as of this writing.
11 Ben Revere - Washington Nationals
In an attempt to solidify the top of their lineup, the Nationals traded their former closer Drew Storen for the accomplished lead-off man, Ben Revere. He would start the season on the DL before coming back to be one of the worst regular players in baseball. He’s slashing an embarrassing .211/.258/.297 with only 11 steals. He’s on pace to set career lows in every major category since becoming an everyday player.
10 Steve Cishek - Seattle Mariners
In one of many buy low moves, the Mariners' new general manager, Jerry Dipoto, inked the fallen Miami closer to a two-year, $10 million contract. Sadly, the move didn’t work out the way fans had hoped, with Cishek blowing six saves, tied for the most in the big leagues as of this writing. He’s currently rehabbing on the DL and has watched a new closer rise to take his role in the form of Edwin Diaz. The electric rookie has struck out a staggering 43 percent of the batters he has faced and is perfect in save chances.
9 Denard Span - San Francisco Giants
The longtime National came over to the west coast after signing a three-year, $31 million contract with the Giants. While the contract was heralded as a steal, Span’s tenure as a Giant has been a mixed bag. In his final season in DC, Span slashed an impressive .301/.365/.431. His numbers in San Francisco have plummeted to a paltry .263/.329/.361. It’s a pretty precipitous drop and something to worry about after locking up a 32-year-old player through his age 35-season.
8 Jon Niese - Pittsburgh Pirates/ New York Mets
In an attempt to bolster their rotation for a run at a division title, the Pirates traded with the Mets to acquire Jon Niese. The results were pretty disappointing, with Niese struggling through 110 innings, posting a 4.91 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. His struggles were so pronounced that the Pirates decided to use him in a relief role. Needless to say, the trade was a bust and Niese really disappointed in his stint with the Pirates.
7 David Price - Boston Red Sox
One of the largest moves of the offseason was the Red Sox’s decision to try and bolster their rotation with a bona fide ace. They signed Price to a whopping seven-year, $217 million contract. This mega deal gives Price an average annual value of $31 million, which is tied for Miguel Cabrera for the highest in MLB history. Still, if it meant having someone anchor the rotation, the deal would easily be worth it for a World Series caliber team.
6 Yovani Gallardo, Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles have exceeded many pundits' expectations for them, as they currently sit in the thick of the race for the AL East. They have somehow done this with a dumpster fire of a starting rotation. Their starters' ERA sits at 4.81, far and away the worst of any division contender. One of the largest contributors to this fire has been Yovani Gallardo, who came over from Texas in the offseason.
5 Jason Heyward - Chicago Cubs
Regarded by many as the best free agent available this offseason, the Cubs threw an eight-year, $184 million contract to lock up Jason Heyward to their extremely talented young core. The 27-year-old joining a stacked Cubs roster was seen by many as the rich getting richer -- the best free agent joining the best team! Well, the Cubs have still been the best team in baseball this year, but it’s been in spite of Heyward, not because of him.
4 Zack Greinke - Arizona Diamondbacks
Continuing the trend of buyer's remorse, let’s spend some time talking about the recent $200 million man. Over the offseason, the Diamondbacks splurged on Zack Greinke, signing him to a six-year, $206.5 million contract. Not too many people worried about the money because Greinke was amazing the year before. He had a 1.65 ERA in 2015, which is one of the lowest in the history of baseball. He also led the majors in WHIP with an astounding .84. The man deserved a giant contract because he had been great.
3 Wei-Yin Chen - Miami Marlins
In an attempt to help Jose Fernandez, the Marlins went out and signed Wei-Yin Chen away from the Orioles. They were not expecting to sign an ace, just a quality big leaguer that would help them contend for the playoffs. The Marlins currently find themselves in the thick of a wildcard race, but Chen has been a net negative in getting them there.
2 Justin Upton - Detroit Tigers
In one of the most precipitous drop-offs in recent memory, we have the disaster that is Justin Upton. In an attempt to replace the punch lost from trading away Yoenis Cespedes, the Tigers threw a six-year, $132,750 million contract at the slugging outfielder. The results have been absolutely atrocious for the 28-year-old, who is slashing an abysmal .226/.281/.371. Those are easily the worst numbers he has ever had since becoming an everyday player. Upton, like Heyward, has been known to slump, but never like this before. Unlike Heyward, though, Upton doesn’t have the defense with which to save face.
1 Shelby Miller - Arizona Diamondbacks
In an attempt to build a contending team, the Diamondbacks pushed all their chips into the center of the table and traded for Shelby Miller. They gave up a king's ransom, sending over Dansby Swanson, the first overall pick in 2015, a promising young arm in Aaron Blair, and Ender Inciarte, a young, established major league player. The trade was rightly blasted from all corners of baseball. Most people wouldn’t want to do Swanson for Miller straight up, or Blair and Inciarte for Miller straight up, and yet the Diamondbacks for some reason DID BOTH!
Miller could’ve salvaged some dignity for the Diamondbacks if he came out and pitched well. The opposite happened. He was terrible, posting a 7.14 ERA and 1.75 WHIP. He was one of the worst pitchers in baseball, and was recently sent down to the minors. Remember that 1st overall pick I mentioned earlier? He has raced through the minors and is ALREADY IN THE MAJORS. It’s probably not fair to blame Miller for all of this. He didn’t ask to be involved in one of the worst trades in MLB history, but the success of Swanson and the smoldering crater of the debut Miller left has had to leave fans depressed.
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