Friday, September 30, 2005

Worst Mariner Free-Agent Signings Ever?

From Bob Finigan in the Times:

By late August, Bloomquist was also injured and Spiezio was dumped to the relief of all, ending a free-agent signing that wiped out Greg Hibbard and Milt Wilcox as the worst in club history — unless one counts (or even remembers) [Pokey] Reese.

Really? Scott Spiezio is the worst Mariner free agent of all time? My first thought was that if that's true, the M's haven't done too badly avoiding terrible free agent signings. So I did some reasearch (the operative word being "some").

Most of the really bad contracts we remember were indeed trades: Jeff Cirillo, Al Martin, and Kevin Mitchell all come to mind. But what are the worst free-agent contracts, bad from from start to finish, in Mariner history?

Here are some candidates:
PlayerContract ValueYear(s) Comments
Milt Wilcox$150,000198610 games started, 0-8, 56 IP, 5.50 ERA
Greg Hibbard$8.3M1994-1997In '94, was 1-5 in 14 starts with a 6.69 ERA; was injured and never played again after that.
Pete O'Brien$7.6M1990-1993In four years (all as a starter), O'Brien managed a .237/.304/.366 line in a position (1B and DH) where most teams get their hitting and power
Scott Spiezio$9M2004-2006Sandfrog's leading man averaged .198/.283/.340 as a corner infielder over 414 ABs before being released this year.
Mike Felder$850,0001993Suggested by Peter White's inclusion of Felder in the worst Mariner seasons ever, Felder hit .211/.262/.269 in 342 ABs.

So how do we pick the worst? If I had calculated Win Shares, Hibbard's has undoubtedly got to be the worst dollar-per-win-share there, since he played so little. However, and argument could be made that its worse to both pay AND play a bad player, because it makes your team worse and costs you a lot of money. Pete O'Brien's scores high in this regard.

So I don't have a diffinitive answer, but I think a few things are clear:
1) The M's don't have any Mike Hamptons or Derek Bells on their rap sheet. Their conservative approach to contracts--well, that and their history miserly owners--has help them avoid castastrophically bad contracts.
2) Milt Wilcox, while certainly bad, can't come close to qualifying as a "worst free agent in M's history, even if the average MLB salary in 1986 was $411K. (in 2002, it was $2.4M).
3) Scott Spiezio does belong on this list, though $9M dollars today isn't as bad as O'Brien's $7.6M in the early 90s.

Am I forgetting anyone? Are there more factors we should consider? This is one I'd really appreciate some feedback on.

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