MLB teams not getting bang for their big bucks

This is the exact opposite of last year. In an offseason that’s made no sense to me, several MLB teams have managed to empty their bank accounts without impacting the handicapping for next year’s World Series champion.

The one exception may be Randy Johnson. With the Big Unit, the Yankees finally acquired the dominant starter — and a left-hander, too — that they had been in search of since the departures of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte after the 2003 season. In a lot of ways, it’s a little too late.

Really, New York needed to get this deal done before last year’s trading deadline. Obviously, there were plenty of opportunities for the Yankees to close out a 3-0 lead in the ALCS, but not having a dominant pitcher to take the ball in Game 6 or 7 definitely hurt the cause.

I’ll probably hold a grudge against the Arizona Diamondbacks organization for a while. Who would have thought a team with a league-worst 111 losses would have such an impact on the 2004 season?

First, when New York and Boston battled for Schilling’s services, the D’backs demanded both Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson, the Yankees’ two best young talents, in exchange for Schilling. On the other hand, all the Red Sox had to give up to acquire their postseason hero were Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon and minor leaguers Jorge de la Rosa and Michael Goss. Fossum went 4-15, and Lyon was injured for the entire 2004 season. I wouldn’t expect much more from these two in the long-term.

Maybe Arizona’s demands were higher for the Yankees because the Diamondbacks were still angry about David Wells backing out of his handshake deal with Arizona to sign with New York before the 2002 season. Maybe they just thought the Yankees could afford to give up more.

After being fleeced in the Schilling trade, the D’backs weren’t anxious to give up Johnson for nothing. Their initial offseason demands were somewhat absurd. One report stated that they were demanding Javier Vazquez, Tom Gordon, and one of Oakland’s Big Three — Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, or Mark Mulder. All that for a 41-year-old who didn’t want to be in Arizona. Still, at this point, the Yankees should be happy to have Johnson.

Other than the Johnson trade, a lot of noise has been made during this offseason, but with probably minimal impact. Hudson and Mulder went to Atlanta and St. Louis, respectively, in the other two biggest deals, but I wouldn’t consider either the Braves or Cardinals vastly improved. Hudson has to fill the void left by Jaret Wright and Russ Ortiz, while Mulder is coming off a disastrous finish to 2004 and will be expected to lead a shaky group of starters.

On the free-agent front, teams dove into a weak market, spending money on mediocre or washed-up players with reckless abandon.

Of course, the Diamondbacks are going to be first on my list for worst moves of the offseason. They acquired Russ Ortiz for $33 million over four years, Troy Glaus for $45 million over four and will now pay Shawn Green $32 million over the next three years. Even though Ortiz is dependable, the D’backs definitely overpaid for a guy whose average season is about 15 wins with an ERA of 4.00.

The Glaus contract is ridiculous for a career .253 hitter and injury-prone player. At this point, Glaus still might be able to total over 30 homers and 500 at-bats — if you give him two seasons. Shawn Green has put up big numbers over the years, but $32 million is a big investment for a player coming off a pair of sub-par seasons.

The Mets place second on my list of bad spenders. They invested $22.5 million over three years in Kris Benson, who has never won more than twelve games or posted a sub-4.00 ERA. Pedro’s $53 million for four seasons is an absurd price for a dying arm and an obvious lightning rod for media criticism. And, even after Carlos Beltran’s phenomenal postseason in which he repeatedly displayed exceptional five-tool skills, is a career .284 hitter who has never eclipsed 110 RBIs actually worth $119 million?

Why do teams spend so much on questionable players? Maybe it’s just the nature of the market. The money that has been thrown around is unbelievable. When did No. 3 and No. 4 caliber-starters start making bank in the $7-9 million dollar range? Derek Lowe is going to the Dodgers for $36 million over four years. Maybe Lowe’s value went up during October, which I have completely blacked out on at this point, but that kind of money still doesn’t figure for a pitcher coming off a 14-12 season with a 5.42 ERA.

Meanwhile, Jon Lieber and Jaret Wright, two starters coming off solid 2004 campaigns but only after multiple years of arm trouble, each inked three-year, $21 million deals with the Phillies and Yankees, respectively. For the Red Sox, Matt Clement is another back-end of the rotation starter making more than $25 million over the next three years, even though he is a sub-.500 career pitcher.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein deserves credit for acquiring Wade Miller for a base salary of only $1.5 million. There could be a lot of upside there. However, $40 million over four years is too much for Edgar Renteria.

Speaking of $40 million over four years, Carl Pavano collected too much also. With all of the hype of “Carlpalooza” during baseball’s winter meetings, you would think teams were competing over someone with a resume slightly stronger than a career 57-58 record. Obviously, the Yankees still aren’t likely to complain about baseball’s financial state of affairs.

To his credit, Pavano did pick a great time to have a career year with an 18-8, 3.00 ERA season. Then again, so did the other top free agents. Funny how players seem to do so well in contract years.

Adrian Beltre had never hit above .290, hit more than 23 homers or driven in more than 85 runs until last year’s .334-48-121 break-out season. The Mariners rewarded him with a five-year $64 million deal. At least Beltre has had one great season. I’m still not sure what convinced the Mariners to spend $50 million over four years on Richie Sexson.

So, with all of the major off-season deals finally concluded, very little has been accomplished to further most team’s title hopes. Unless Randy Johnson’s 41-year-old left arm holds out for an entire season, the major winner of this offseason will be Scott Boras.

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