In fact, the Sox passed on the opportunity to sign Zito, who was the hottest major league free agent at the time. The lefthander had a 102-63 record and had won the 2002 American League Cy Young Award, so the Giants felt safe signing him.
They had been able to watch him closely in nearby Oakland, and the theory was that in the National League, he’d be even better because there is no DH.
The NL general manager quoted earlier reasons that Zito and Matsuzaka are actually very similar in that they are capable of pitching very well in stretches, but all of a sudden, there’s a loss of rhythm, or concentration, or something bad happens.
Minaya, too, probably wishes he had one or two contracts back. Embattled lefthander Oliver Perez signed a three-year, $36 million deal in February 2009 and was released by the Mets before this season.
Minaya also signed Pedro Martinez away from the Red Sox in 2005, giving him a four-year deal worth $52 million. At the time it seemed like a coup. But the Sox had decided that Martinez’s shoulder would not hold up, and they were right.
Martinez had a very good first year — 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA in 31 starts — but he made only 48 more starts for the remainder of the contract and finished his Mets career 32-23 with a 3.88 ERA in 79 starts.
One of the classic worsts was lefthander Mike Hampton, whom the Colorado Rockies signed in December 2000 to an eight-year, $121 million deal. He lasted only two years in Colorado, putting up ERAs of 5.41 and 6.15, before being traded. Suffice to say, he never lived up to the billing.
Right there with Hampton was the Dodgers’ signing of righthander Kevin Brown to a seven-year, $105 million deal in December 1998. Brown went 58-32 with a 2.83 ERA as a Dodger, but in 2001 and 2002, he made a combined 37 starts.
After a good year in 2003 (14-9, 2.39), Brown was traded to the Yankees, who paid him the remaining $31.4 million for a 14-13 record and a 4.95 ERA in 35 total starts.
The Yankees were also burned by Carl Pavano, who signed a four-year, $39.9 million deal in December 2004 but wound up making only 26 starts for them, going 9-8 with a 5.00 ERA. His Yankee career was marred with controversy, injury, and underachievement, and from a team standpoint, his may be one of the worst contracts ever signed.
While pitching contracts are risky, long-term deals for position players can also haunt you. The Cubs gave Alfonso Soriano an eight-year deal for $136 million, and it has been a weight around their neck. Toronto was fortunate to get out from under the seven-year, $126 million deal it gave Vernon Wells by trading him to the Angels in the offseason.