With the recent signings of Prince Fielder and Japan’s Yu Darvish finally complete, the biggest of the free agent fish have finally been reeled in. In the case of some of the bigger names like Fielder, the asking price was a ridiculous amount (nine years, $214 million), making plenty of us doubt whether the overweight first baseman is worth it.
It’s impossible at the moment to know how much worth this year’s class will bring to their teams in the seasons to come. So instead we’ll look back and grade the free agent class that followed the 2007 season.
Since the worthiness of the signings are based on how much production each team receives versus the liability their investment created, we’ll list the top 10 contracts signed that year by total amount and see whether the investment paid off four years later.
1. Alex Rodriguez, 32 years old (when 2008 season started), 3B, New York (AL): 10 years, $275 million; Awards/Honors: 1 Silver Slugger, 3 All-Stars; Hitting stats: .284/.375/.521 (average/on-base/slugging), 111 home runs, 100 doubles, and 390 RBIs.
Was it worth it? No. Who the Yankees thought they were bidding against (themselves?) when they promised Rodriguez mega-dollars through his 42nd birthday is unknown, but they did and soon they’ll pay the price. Although A-Rod has put up good (not great) numbers through four somewhat injury-plagued seasons, they haven’t been worth the $20-plus million that his contract calls for on an annual basis. In addition, at age 36 and with injuries/age to soon reduce him to DH-duties, the next six years make this contract look pretty bleak.
2. Torii Hunter, 32 years old, OF, Los Angeles (AL): 5 years, $90 million; Awards/Honors: 2 Gold Gloves, 2 All-Stars, 1 Silver Slugger; Hitting stats: .279/.349/.465, 89 home runs, 123 doubles, 340 RBIs.
Was it worth it? Yes, but barely. Most thought the Angels reached a bit with this deal, but Hunter has hit more than 20 home runs in each of the first four seasons of his contract. That, combined with his stellar defense at a premium position (center field) for the first 2–3 years made this a good buy. Even in 2011 when the Angels moved the 36-year-old to right field exclusively, Hunter finished fourth in assists (15) and fielding percentage (.989). Unless he has a woeful 2012, the Angels made out alright.
3. Aaron Rowand, 30 years old, OF, San Francisco: 5 years, $60 million; Awards/Honors: None; Hitting Stats: .253/.309/.394, 43 home runs, 101 doubles, and 189 RBIs.
Was it worth it? No. Rowand turned his lone All-Star season of 2007 (.309 average, 27 home runs, 89 RBIs) into a deal he wasn’t able to live up to. The center fielder hit just .233 and .230 in 2009 and 2010 respectively while playing in less than 110 of a possible 162 games each season, and there’s still one year left on this contract. Even Rowand’s best two seasons of this deal (2008–09), where he averaged 14 home runs, 67 RBIs, and a .266 average were not worth the $12 million annual salary this deal compensates him with.
4. Jorge Posada, 36 years old, C, New York (AL): 4 years ,$52.4 million; Awards/Honors: None; Hitting stats: .258/.349/.454, 57 home runs, 75 doubles, 204 RBIs.
Was it worth it? No. After a career year in 2007 (.338 average, 20 home runs, 90 RBIs) was parlayed into this generous contract, Jorge managed one decent season in 2009 (.285 average, 22 home runs, 81 RBIs). Otherwise, he played in just 51 games in 2008, hit just .248 in 2010, and last year the Yankees deemed his defense at catcher to no longer major-league worthy, relegating him to DH duties; he was a liability there as well, hitting just .235.
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