With the season finally back and underway, fans will no doubt be looking with optimism or skepticism at the free agent signings their respective teams have made. With that in mind, this series will take an in-depth look at free agent signings that made fans pinch themselves, hoping it was a dream. These moves will be selected for each team in a division. For the first installment, let’s take a look at the worst moves for the teams in the AL West.
American League West – Worst Free Agency Signings
The Pick: Jim Clancy
Signed during the off-season that saw the Houston Astros in panic mode as they lost Nolan Ryan to their in-state rivals, the Texas Rangers, they signed pitcher Jim Clancy to a three year, $3.8 million dollar contract on December 16th, 1988. The year before the signing, Clancy pitched a 4.49 ERA with 118 strikeouts and an 11-13 record in 196.1 innings pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays. Not only that, but Clancy had only three winning seasons in 12 years with Toronto. If that wasn’t enough of a concern for Astros fans at the time, Clancy’s performance for the team would soon be that concern. In his first year with the Astros, Clancy would pitch a 5.08 ERA with 91 strikeouts and a 7-14 record in 33 appearances, 26 of which were starts, and a total of 147 innings pitched.
During his time with the Astros, Clancy would pitch a 5.02 ERA with 168 strikeouts and a horrendous 9-25 record in 278 innings pitched. Clancy would be traded during the 1991 season to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for a player to be named later (pitcher Earl Sanders), and pitcher Matt Turner. Clancy would finish out the year with the Braves, and that is where his career would end.
The Runner-Ups: Kaz Matsui, Woody Williams
Los Angeles Angels
The Pick: Josh Hamilton
Center fielder Josh Hamilton has one of the most unique and heartbreaking stories in MLB. After battling drug addictions for much of his career, his baseball career was too good to go unnoticed. After an MVP season in 2010, five consecutive All-Star nominations, and three Silver Sluggers, the Los Angeles Angels signed Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract on December 15th, 2012. Unfortunately, this contract is now considered one of the worst contracts in MLB history. In his first year with the Angels, he batted a career-low .250 batting average with 21 home runs. This was coming off a year of excellence with the Rangers, hitting a .258 batting average with 43 home runs. In his total time with the Angels, Hamilton hit an abysmal .255 with 31 home runs. He also relapsed once again in 2012 while with the team.
Not long into the third year of his contract was Hamilton traded by the Angels, along with cash, to the Texas Rangers in exchange for a player to be named and cash. Not soon after the trade, Hamilton would be released by the Rangers and has not played in MLB since.
The Runner-Ups: Gary Matthews Jr., Mo Vaughn
The Pick: Ruben Sierra
While his stats weren’t the worst ones on this list, the contract that the Oakland Athletics gave to right fielder Ruben Sierra is what makes this signing the worst for the A’s. After trading for Sierra from the Rangers, the Athletics signed him to a five-year, $30 million contract on December 21st, 1992. This contract made him the highest paid player on the team, over players like Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson, and Dennis Eckersley. His statistics with the Athletics included a .253 batting average and 60 home runs. These stats aren’t bad by any means, but the team didn’t have success while he was there, only making it to the ALCS in that time. On July 31st, 1996, Sierra, along with Jason Beverlin, was traded to the New York Yankees in exchange for Danny Tartabull. Sierra would go on to play until 2006 with eight more teams.
The Runner-Ups: Billy Butler, Dave Kingman
The Pick: Carlos Silva
The Seattle Mariners have had their fair share of sketchy free agent signings. The contract for pitcher Carlos Silva, however, takes the cake. Coming off a year with the Minnesota Twins that saw Silva pitch a 13-14 record with a 4.19 ERA in 202 innings pitched, the Mariners signed Silva to a four-year, $48 million contract on December 20th, 2007. In his first year of the contract, Silva pitched a 4-15 record with a 6.46 ERA in 153.1 innings pitched. His second year wasn’t much better, pitching an 8.60 ERA and a 1-3 record. His total statistics with the Mariners include a 5-18 record with a 6.81 ERA in 183.2 innings pitched.
On December 18th, 2009, Silva, along with cash, would be traded to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Milton Bradley. This trade would not work out for either team as Carlos Silva would only play for one year with the Cubs with a 10-6 record and a 4.22 ERA. After his year with the Cubs, Silva would not step onto an MLB mound again.
The Runner-Ups: Chone Figgins, Greg Hibbard
The Pick: Chan Ho Park
A year after backing up the Brincks truck for Alex Rodriguez, the Rangers were desperate to build a championship team around him. It was this desperation that led them to sign pitcher Chan Ho Park to a five-year, $65 million contract on January 16th, 2002. This deal looked like it was going to be a good signing considering that Park had a good year with the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching a 3.50 ERA with a 15-11 record, making this an All-Star season for him. But the deal quickly turned sour as in his first year Park pitched a 5.75 ERA with a 9-8 record. In his second year with the Rangers, things didn’t go much better with a 7.58 ERA with a 1-3 record. His third year on the team only got worse with a 5.46 ERA and a 4-7 record.
Total, Park had a 5.79 ERA with a 22-23 record. On July 30th, 2005, Park would be traded to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Phil Nevin. Park would go on to play for the Padres for two years, and then play for four more, ending his career in 2010 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Runner-Ups: Alex Rodriguez, Jay Powell
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Carson Babbini is a sophomore student at the University of Minnesota studying Journalism specifically focusing on Broadcasting with a minor in Sports Management. Carson is a Minnesota sports fan and a sports enthusiast in general. He started writing for Last Word on Baseball on September 21st, 2017. On February 12th, 2018, Carson accepted an editor position as well as writing for the site. Carson is always looking forward to getting the latest news and getting it out to the public.