Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jason Bay and the Worst Mets Free Agents of the Last Decade

Jason Bay clubbed his eighth double of the season this weekend, that's right, 8. As in, less than 10. As in, not even half of the 20 he smacked last year in only 95 games. He already has the same six homers he managed in 2010, but he is slugging a paltry .333 and hitting a limp .238 overall. With just two months left in the regular season and Bay's tenure as a Met not even halfway finished, it is fair to say that the Bay signing has been an outright disaster.

It is not just Bay's performance in a Met uniform that has been so distressing. Rather, it's the track record he established for Pittsburgh and Boston and how his talent seemingly dried up the moment he stepped to the plate on Opening Day 2010. Take his home run numbers since his first full year in 2004: 26, 32, 35, 21, 31, 36. In two years and 175-plus games with the Mets, Bay has managed just 12 home runs. He has hit .249 with the Mets, with an OPS of just .700, all for the low, low price of $32,000,000 so far.

He will almost certainly be put on waivers this month, the real question is whether anyone will claim him, even for free. One of the premiere power hitters since 2004 could not have a lower value right now, and the Mets are stuck footing the bill for at least two more seasons.

Is he one of the worst Met free agent signings in recent memory? Absolutely, but there are some worthy contenders for the title of worst in the last decade.

Oliver Perez/Luis Castillo

Roll these two into one for two reasons: they both would eventually doom Omar Minaya's tenure as GM, and they were both (mercifully) jettisoned this year during Sandy Alderson's early days in charge. Castillo's abbreviated 2007 for the Mets, wherein he hit .296/.371/.372 with 10 SB in 50 games after a midseason trade from the Twins, earned him a too-high $25 million over four years. Ollie's 180/105 K/BB ratio and 4.22 ERA in 2008 somehow made him worth a staggering $36 million over three years.

Both signings were inexplicable, but while Castillo had his painful dropped popup at Yankee Stadium last season, no Met in recent memory has inspired more hatred than Oliver Perez. Castillo was a light hitting, poor fielding second baseman who seemed like a nice enough guy and just could not stay on the field. But Perez drew vicious boos and constant headlines - maybe the flashes of brilliance managed to piss off Mets fans even more. Not simply content with outright stealing money, Perez refused minor league assignments, nursed phantom injuries and was so bad when he actually stepped on the rubber that the Mets had to pay him just to go away.

Mo Vaughn

Mo Vaughn was a terrific hitter once he won the MVP in 1995 with a .300/.388/.575 line, 39 homers and, uh, 11 stolen bases? That can't be right. Because Mo was Mo-stly remembered for his ballooning waistline in his later years, especially by the time he signed with the Mets. I pity the poor club house attendants who had to stay up nights sewing belts together to keep up with Mo's considerable girth.

By the time Mo arrived in New York, he was all washed up. He managed to hit 26 homers his first year in NYC, albeit with a .259 average. Injuries washed out his 2003 season and forced him to retire. He hit .190/.323/.329 in just 27 games his final season, and was paid $34.3 million for that production. He also stole 0 bases as a Met.

Kazuo Matsui

Matsui's career began with a bang, he hit the first pitch he ever saw for a home run, and never looked back! Wait, yes he did. He was the first Japanese infielder in MLB history, and possibly the worst, bouncing around the middle of the field before eventually finding a nice spot on the bench. He hit .272/.331/.396 in 114 games his first season, for an underwhelming OPS+ of 88. Next year he barely stayed on the field for half the season, and in 2006 he played in 38 games for the Mets with an OPS+ of 31, which is quite the accomplishment. For that sterling production, the Mets payed Kaz $20 million, which he probably spent on hair dye. Matsui would miss time in 2008 after surgery to repair an anal fissure, which probably let Matsui know what it felt like for Mets fans to watch him botch grounders at second base for three years.

Tom Glavine

Stay with me here. Glavine was a terrific pitcher for the Braves - a five time 20-game winner, two Cy Young awards and four other top-3 finishes - but he never quite felt right in a Mets uniform. Glavine made a ton of starts during his five years on the team, but managed only a 61-56 record, 3.97 ERA, and nearly 1400 baserunners allowed in 1000 IP. He had his ups and downs, but his final start as a Met was a disaster - seven runs allowed, all earned, while recording only a single out against the Marlins with the Mets needing a win to avoid a historic September collapse. Maybe that last start left a bad taste in my mouth, but Glavine's tenure in Queens was hardly worth the close to $50 million he was paid.

Kris Benson

No doubt about this one. Benson came over from the Pirates at the trading deadline in 2004, at the cost of Ty Wiggington and some guy named Jose Bautista. Benson went 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA for the Mets, clearly worth the three years and $22.5 million he earned that winter. Benson earned his money the next year by striking out just 95 batters in 174 IP, before he was traded to Baltimore the following offseason.

Bobby Bonilla

Duh. Slightly cheating here since Bonilla's contract is from the 1990s, but the Mets sent their first $1+ million dollar payment to Bonilla last month - the first of twenty-five individual payments. It sure is fun being a Met fan sometimes.

Follow Evan on Twitter @Evan_S_S and read more at Umpire State.

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