Dec 212010

In the wake of the Yanks missing out on Cliff Lee, I wanted to take a look at some of the worst contracts the team has handed out during Brian Cashman’s tenure as GM. Some observers felt Cliff Lee would be the next bad Yankee deal due to his age and the length of the deal, others (myself included) thought he’d age well but the Yanks would still be lucky to break even on it.

When a deal goes bad, many fans consider how much it cost and how little production they got in return. I’m only looking at contracts the Yanks have handed out themselves (not traded for) so players like Javier Vazquez and A-Rod’s first 4 seasons in pinstripes won’t be on the list. I don’t want to go too far back to guys like Steve Trout or Ed Whitson, because you run into issues of monetary inflation, which is frankly way above my pay grade. I also won’t be getting into calculating any values, I’m simply going to use Fangraphs WAR Calculations and divide the amount of money the Yanks paid the player by the Total WAR he contributed to the team. This will give me a Cost per WAR added that will apply no matter what the length of the contract is. Negative total values will be treated as zero, since the Yanks don’t pay any more for a player’s services if he subtracts from win probability. I know it’s not perfect, and that WAR has its own inherent value calculations that I’m not taking into account. I’m just seeking a simple answer to a simple question, what did the Yanks get back in value on the field for the millions they invested. With that out of the way, here is your Top 10 Worst Yankee Contracts since Brian Cashman took over as GM in 1998:

#1-Kei Igawa (2007-11) $46 mil cost per WAR

5 yr/20M plus 26M posting fee 46 mil Total WAR as Yankee: -0.2

To no one’s surprise, the undefeated champion of bad contracts. He signed it on December 19th four years ago. Had he only signed his contract 12 days earlier, then December 7th could have ‘lived in infamy’ for more than one reason in the hearts and minds of patriotic Yankee fans.

#2-Carl Pavano (2005-2008) $35.45 mil cost per WAR

4 yr/39 mil   Total WAR as Yankee: 1.1

Another one which comes as a shock to no one, the American Idle spent more time crashing his Porche and rehabbing from numerous injuries than he ever did pitching for the Yanks. Funny how those 1 year deals with the Twins have kept him healthy.

#3-Steve Karsay (2002-05) $17.50 mil cost per WAR

4 years/21 mil Total WAR as Yankee: 1.2

A truly disastrous signing. A career that was already marred by two elbow injuries was for all intents and purposes ended by a shoulder injury one year into the deal. He pitched just 12.2 innings for the Yanks from 2003-2005 before he was mercifully released. First of the ‘one good year in Atlanta’ signings, none of which worked out well.

#4-Damaso Marte (2008-11) $12 mil cost per WAR

3 years/12 mil Total WAR as Yankee: -0.2

Contributed -.1 WAR in each of his two seasons with the Yanks, and is expected to miss the 2011 campaign entirely. Total sunk cost, the only reason he isn’t higher on the list is his contract wasn’t that big to begin with. At least Karsay gave them one productive year.

#5-Roger Clemens (2007) $10.38 mil cost per WAR

1 yr/18.7 mil (28 mil pro-rated) Total WAR as Yankee: 1.8

Roger came riding in to save a battered Yankee rotation to much fanfare and adulation, but the magic was gone from his 44 year old body. He went 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA and was clearly not the same pitcher in the AL East that he was those 3 years in Houston. As bad as his finale in pinstripes was, lasting just 2 innings in his only start in the playoffs, at least we can say his final year with the Yanks has gone better than his retirement has.

#6-Kyle Farnsworth (2006-08) $8.5 mil cost per WAR

3 years/17 mil Total WAR as Yankee:  0.5

Another from the ‘one good year in Atlanta’ category. In Brian defense, he needed a reliever and signed one of the best available in a weak year, but what happened next was all too predictable. Kyle always had great stuff and a knack for blowing up in big spots, and that pattern continued as a Yank.

#7-Jaret Wright (2005-06) $8.07 mil cost per WAR

3 years/21 mil Total WAR as Yankee: 2.6

Number three in the ‘one good year in Atlanta’ category, and it appears that Brian finally learned his lesson after this one. Oh wait, Javier Vazquez. Never mind.

#8 AJ Burnett (2009-10) 7.02 mil cost per WAR

4 yr/66 mil  Total WAR as Yankee: 4.7 (2 years)

Just two years into this deal, fans are already looking for an exit that’s nowhere to be found. He’s been paid 33 mil so far, and after almost breaking even on the deal his first year in pinstripes they got killed on it last season. Similar to Farnsworth in always having better stuff than he did in terms of results. In Brian’s defense, he signed the 2nd best pitcher after CC and the other top options that were available that year (Derek Lowe, Ben Sheets) haven’t been much better.

#9-Alex Rodriguez (2008-10) $6.52 mil cost per WAR

10 yr/275 mil  Total WAR as Yankee: 24.5

At 3 years into his new deal, the injuries and dip in WAR are making it appear that the worst is yet to come. He started off good enough, putting up a 6.0 WAR season in 2008 after his monster 2007 campaign. But the Yanks have paid him so much money (94 mil in 3 seasons) that it was going to be hard for anyone to live up to that deal. This one’s not on Brian, he made it clear at the time (and this past year) that he would have never signed the deal.

#10-Nick Johnson (2010) $5.0 mil cost per WAR

1 year/5.5 mil Total WAR as Yankee: 0.1

I loved the signing at the time, but the unforeseeable happened. Nick got hurt. (shakes head) You just can’t predict baseball, Suzyn.

Just missed the cut:

Jason Giambi (2002-08) $4.90 mil cost per WAR

7 yr/120 mil  Total WAR as Yankee: 24.5

Jason started out great for the team, putting up a nice, fat 7.5 WAR his first season in pinstripes back in 2002.  But that would prove to be his best year, and by 2004 (0.4 WAR) the Yanks were already getting killed on the deal. He was reasonably productive as a Yankee, but that contract was so big and his body so broken down towards the end (allegedly by PEDs) that it wound up being a bad deal. This is another one Brian was against, George did this contract on his own. But Brian can’t get too much credit, he wanted to re-sign Tino for a year or two and wait for Nick Johnson to develop, and we all know how Nick’s career turned out.

Randy Johnson (2005-06) $3.65 mil cost per WAR

30 mil paid on 3 yr/45 mil contract extension 8.2 WAR in 2 seasons with the Yanks.

Gave the Yanks everything he had, but like Roger he learned that the AL East isn’t the NL West. As with Giambi it wasn’t an awful deal, but it certainly didn’t work out as they hoped at the time.

and just in case you were wondering:

Javier Vazquez – 2010 $11.5 mil cost per WAR

1 yr/11.5 mil. Contributed a -0.2 WAR as a Yankee. The only reason why he’s not on the list is that Brian Cashman didn’t give him that contract, the Braves did.

13 Responses to “10 Worst Yankee Contracts”

  1. I’ll follow this up with a ‘Best Contracts’ post, and if anyone has a suggestion for a better way to calculate this let me know.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  2. I disagree on Jason Giambi. Yeah, he was injured frequently and all that, but he had lots of productive years. He hit .260/.404/.521 as a Yankee, which is better than anything Mark Teixeira will do. Considering that the Yankees got Giambi ages 31-37, I can’t complain.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    T.O. Chris Reply:

    To be fair Teixeira doesn’t have to put up anything like those numbers because his defense is so much better than Jason’s, I mean Jason does carry a -7.7 UZR/150 from 2002-2010 and even thought Mark hasn’t had his best two defensive seasons for us according to UZR but he hasn’t come close to the -16.5 UZR/150 or the -26.3 UZR/150 Giambi put up in back to back seasons between 2005-2006.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  3. First off, the “cost per WAR” for Igawa, Marte, Farnsworth, Nick Johnson and Vazquez are all wrong.

    If you treated the negative values as zero like you said (instead of 1, like you did), Igawa, Marte and Vazquez should be infinity.

    Since Farnsworth and Johnson had fractional WAR, they should be $34M and $55M per win, not $8.5M and $5M, respectively.

    Also, your rationale for not putting Vazquez on the list doesn’t hold water. Cashman may not have given him the contract, but he not only took it on willingly, gave up players in order to do so.

    And finally, comparing Kei Igawa to Pearl Harbor because the anniversaries are 12 days apart is not only painfully unfunny but borderline offensive given his ethnicity.

    Seriously though, keep up the good work.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Damian Reply:

    On a technical note, if you treat negative values as zero, Igawa, Marte and Vazquez should be undefined. The limit of (number)/x as x approaches 0 is infinity, but (number)/0 is undefined.

    On a general note, if something is only borderline offensive, it isn’t worth complaining about.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Greg Reply:

    Thanks for the clarification re: the technical note.

    As far as the other part goes, I guess I was complaining that it was painfully unfunny and felt it was necessary to note that it could be construed at offensive.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Steve S. Reply:

    It’s also necessary to note that I never brought up race or ethnicity, you did. The reason I didn’t bring it up is because it never entered my mind. But if any of our readers took it that way, I want to clarify that point for them. I’m here to talk sports and have some fun, not offend any our readers.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    T.O. Chris Reply:

    It’s clear you were being racist Steve you do it all the time 😉

    No seriously though if you think Steve was trying to be offensive here you are looking for offensive material at every turn, I’m sure if the Germans had bombed Pearl Harbor he’d make the same joke.

    I’ve read this blog for a while now and I have never known any of the authors to ever be racist or personally offensive on any level.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Steve S. Reply:

    Since Farnsworth and Johnson had fractional WAR, they should be $34M and $55M per win

    I’m well aware of that, but since their entire contracts were for less than that amount it doesn’t work. From a purely practical standpoint the total can’t exceed the amount of the actual deal, which at worst would be a completely sunk cost. That’s why I acknowledged in the open that this method was imperfect, and asked the readers in the first comment to suggest a better method.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  4. Arod’s injuries have not “started to pile up” there was one season with one month where he had a hip injury that he miraculously came back from and absolutely killed it! He had a down year last year, but doesn’t he just seem to have amazing years every odd numbered year anyway? If he provides another MVP type season this year I wouldn’t be surprised  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    T.O. Chris Reply:

    He hasn’t played 140 games in 3 seasons… Although he has become the only man to ever have 3 consecutive seasons of less than 140 games and 30 HRs and 100 RBI though so he has still maintained production from the two areas we pay him for.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  5. At what point do we say that Brian Cashman has issues with being able to target and acquire good pitching depth? I mean, when eight of the 10 of the worst Yankee contracts are pitchers, it sure catches your attention.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    T.O. Chris Reply:

    At what point was he given real control of the orginization? How was he able to stop George from trading whoever for whatever and then having to sign pitcher after pitcher after pitcher to make up for the lack of system.

    Not to mention the simple answer that pitching is much harder to judge and much riskier over long term contracts than hitting.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

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