The New York Yankees have a long and storied history of giving out big free agent contracts. While many of these signings have turned out great, there have also been a handful that haven’t turned out so great. Here are the top ten worst Yankee free agent signings of the last 25 years.
10. Danny Tartabull: After the 1991 season, the Yankees inked outfielder Danny Tartabull to a 5-year, $27 million deal, making him at the time, the highest paid player in the American League. After two great seasons with the Yankees, in which he combined for 56 home runs and 187 RBI, Tartabull was never the same again, combining for only 33 homers and 130 RBI over the next two years. He was eventually traded in July 1995 to the Oakland Athletics. Upon being traded Tartabull expressed his disdain for Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, saying that getting out of New York was like having been “released from jail”. Today, Tartabull is remembered more so for his feuding with Steinbrenner, and his cameo on the sitcom “Seinfeld” than he is for his actual playing time in New York. Add all of these factors up, and it results in Tartabull being placed at the #10 spot of the worst Yankee signings of the last 25 years.
9. Jason Giambi: Although Jason Giambi was not a terrible signing by the Yankees, after a fantastic first couple of seasons, by 2004 Giambi’s numbers had started to decrease in all offensive categories. During his last two seasons in the Bronx, Giambi combined to hit only 46 home runs and drove in 145 RBI, to go along with roughly a .245 batting average. By the end of his contract, the Yankees were paying $23 million for a DH that was barley producing. All these factors taken into consideration are enough to put the “Giambino” into the #9 spot on our list.
8. A.J. Burnett: In December of 2008, A.J. Burnett signed a 5-year, $82.5 million deal with the Yankees. He and fellow free agent signee C.C. Sabathia were expected to be the dominant 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation that the Yankees were looking for. While Sabathia has lived up to expectations, Burnett fell far from his. In three years with the Yankees, Burnett finished with a dismal record of 34-35, and a 4.79 ERA. While Burnett did deliver a clutch win in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series to prevent the Yankees from falling behind in the series 2-0, Burnett was far from what the Yankees were expecting, and after the 2011 season had ended, Burnett was shipped to Pittsburgh. Burnett finds himself in the #8 spot on our list.
7. Hideki Irabu: In 1997 the Yankees signed Irabu to a 4-year $12.8 million deal. Irabu played three of those years in New York, winning two World Series championships…with no actual personal contribution. In those three years Irabu won a combined 29 regular season games. He also appeared in only one postseason game (Game 3 of the 1999 ALCS in relief of Roger Clemens), and gave up 7 earned runs in the appearance. George Steinbrenner also publicly expressed disgust at his weight, at one point calling him a “fat pussy toad” after he failed to cover first base on a ground ball during a spring training game. Irabu was eventually traded to the then-Montreal Expos following the 1999 season. Overall, Irabu’s time in New York was a complete disaster, qualifying for the #7 spot of the worst Yankee signings of the last 25 years.
6. Jaret Wright: In Game 5 of the 1997 ALDS, Jaret Wright broke the hearts of Yankees fans everywhere when he pitched the Cleveland Indians to a winner take all Game 5 victory over the Bombers on a cold October night in Cleveland. Eight years later, he signed for 3-years and $21 million…and promptly broke the Yankees hearts all over again. Wright never lived up to be with the Yankees what he was with Cleveland. In two seasons in the Bronx he had only 16 wins, compiling an ERA of 4.99, and a postseason ERA of 10.13. Just looking at these numbers and the amount he was paid to put them up is enough to tell you that Jaret Wright belongs here in the #6 spot on our list.
5. Carl Pavano: Carl Pavano is the definition of a bust. After signing a 4-year $40 million deal with the Yankees following the 2004 season, Pavano experienced more injuries than wins. He left the Yankees with only 9 wins and a 5.00 ERA under his belt. On top of all that, many players on the Yankees such as Mike Mussina publically called Pavano out on his ability and desire to play the game. Pavano fits right in on our list in the #5 spot.
4. Kyle Farnsworth: Kyle Farnsworth has always said since he left the Yankees that he was upset with the fact that the Yankees neglected to ask if he could pitch on consecutive days or in the middle of an inning. He has also stated that he felt as if Joe Torre lost confidence in him. As if Torre’s to blame for Farnsworth’s inability to throw a strike. Someone who was once originally signed to be the team’s setup man, in three years finished his Yankee career with a 6-9 record, and a 4.33 ERA, good enough for the #4 spot on the list. Maybe he should’ve thought about having his eyeglasses checked out…
3. Roger Clemens (2007): After a slow first couple of months to the season, the 2007 New York Yankees were in desperation mode. So what do you do if you’re in desperation mode and you’re the Yankees? You go out and you sign an old face whose best times are way behind him, that’s what! Sure, the whole thing was a stunt and a novelty act…but the contract they gave him sure wasn’t! The Yankees brought “The Rocket” back aboard on a 4-month contract for $18.7 million! Over the rest of the season Clemens finished with a 6-6 record and a 4.18 ERA in 99 innings pitched. While the Yankees did rally that year to make the postseason for the thirteenth season in a row, Clemens showed he was no longer the Rocket of old, appearing in one game (Game 3 of the ALDS against the Indians). He pitched 2.1 innings before aggravating a hamstring injury and leaving the game. He finished that season with a postseason ERA of 11.57, and the Yankees lost in the ALDS for the third year in a row. Not quite worth $18 million huh? So as you can see, the 2007 Clemens signing fits in nicely here in the #3 spot.
2. Kei Igawa: Kei Igawa signed with the Yankees on a 5-year $20 million contract in December of 2006. In two years he won two games, finished with a combined ERA of 6.66, and hasn’t played in the majors since. Those numbers are self explanatory as to why he’s#2.
1. Alex Rodriguez: First off, let’s get something straight. I am a HUGE Alex Rodriguez fan. Always have been, always will be. But the fact of the matter is this one is a no-brainer. When you sign a 10-year $272 million deal, and you don’t show up in the postseason 7/8 times, that’s just not going to cut it in New York. Plus not to mention the circus that has followed A-Rod to the Bronx, and has been swirling around the team since his arrival. Now with these newest steroid allegations hovering over his and the Yankees heads, I just couldn’t help but give Alex the #1 spot.
These are my top ten worst signings by the Yankees over the last 25 years. Feel free to comment with your opinions as to who you think should/shouldn’t be on the list!