Risky business

When it comes to free agent signings, it’s often a crapshoot for baseball’s general managers. For every successful signing, it seems there are a handful of deals that don’t pan out. Of course, depending on the amount invested, free agent busts can produce a significant negative impact on a franchise.

Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman has compiled his list of the 10 worst free-agent contracts in the last 10 years, a list that includes Albert Belle, Kevin Brown and Mo Vaughn, to name a few. Fortunately, there are no Toronto Blue Jays’ signings on that list. Make no mistake, though — When it comes to free agent deals, the Blue Jays certainly aren’t without their own horror stories. Consider the following …

Ken Dayley — Jays GM Pat Gillick was looking to bring in a left-handed reliever for the 1991 campaign when he began discussions with Dayley, who had spent the previous six seasons as the setup man for the St. Louis Cardinals. Dayley was perhaps the most appealing reliever in the 1990 free agent class, and Gillick landed his services with a three-year contract worth $6 million. Unfortunately, that was the start of Dayley’s demise. The left-hander was hit by a number of injuries and ailments during his time with the Blue Jays, including an ear infection that caused vertigo. Dayley pitched in only eight games in 1991, missed the entire ’92 season, and appeared twice in ’93 before the Blue Jays released him on April 15. Though he was signed by the Dodgers shortly thereafter, Dayley never pitched in the majors again.

Danny Darwin — Coming off a dismal final season with the Red Sox, the 39-year-old Darwin signed a one-year deal to be the Blue Jays’ fifth starter in 1995. It should be noted that Toronto got the veteran for just $300,000 — though that doesn’t necessarily excuse his performance. In 13 games (11 starts), Darwin went an awful 1-8 with a 7.62 ERA before the Jays released the struggling hurler in mid-July.

Erik Hanson — Gord Ash landed another ex-Red Sox hurler prior to the ’96 campaign. This time it was Erik Hanson, who was coming off a career year (15-5, 4.24 ERA in 29 starts). Ash tabbed him as Toronto’s new No. 1 starter, dishing out $9.4 million for a three-year contract. The right-hander made a career-high 35 starts for the Jays in ’96, but finished 13-17 with a disappointing 5.41 ERA. In the process, he set a new single-season franchise record by allowing 129 earned runs. And that was pretty much all she wrote for Hanson. Because of injuries, the ‘ace’ right-hander made just 14 appearances (10 starts) over the next two seasons, going a combined 0-3 with a 6.61 ERA to end his career.

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4 Responses to “Risky business”

  1. mulliniks Says:

    I’d have to throw Bill Caudill’s five year deal in to the mix. Despite one successful season he only played three of the five-year, $7.5 million deal (also first multi-million dollar deal negotitated by Scott Boras) the Jays gave him. He was terrible in ’86 as arthritic shoulders got the best of him and ended up with the A’s after he was released. But his career was truly done ’87 when he punched some guy in a parking lot and broke his hand.

    For the mid eighties, the Jays sure paid Bill the big bucks to do a lot of nothing when the rest of their payroll was only just over 11 mil.

  2. TD Says:

    Good call on Caudill. That’s interesting that the deal was Boras’ first biggy. I wonder what he rakes in a year? More than many players, I bet.

  3. mulliniks Says:

    Good article in the New Yorker:

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/10/29/071029fa_fact_mcgrath?printable=true

    No doubt, his take home must be huge (don’t forget about all the prospects/draftees he represents). It should also be noted that Bill, who launched his sports agent career, I believe still works with him to this day. Coincidence, i think not.

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