4. Kei Igawa: Five Years, $20 Million (Plus $26 Million Posting Fee), 2006
Kei Igawa was supposed to be a perfectly capable No. 4 starter in the Yankees' rotation in 2007 after coming over from the Hanshin Tigers. Commonly-accepted wisdom indicated he was down from his peak years overseas, but still had something to contribute.
Commonly-accepted wisdom was extremely wrong.
Igawa totaled 71.2 innings in the bigs over two years with an unsightly 6.66 ERA, an accurately devilish reminder of the money the team set on fire to bring him in. During the final years of his deal, Igawa was mired in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which probably felt better anyway. He could still pitch. But none of it mattered. Countryside. Ideal.
Those numbers don't even accurately reflect how horrific Igawa's career in pinstripes was. 67.2 innings of that 71.2 total came during his rookie year in 2006. He allowed 15 bombs during that limited duty, posting a 6.25 ERA/6.37 FIP. He walked 37 men, good for a 1.67 WHIP.
Good news? The next season, his FIP was just 3.13! Bad news? His WHIP almost matched (3.25), he only contributed four innings, he surrendered 13 hits and six runs, he didn't whiff a single batter, and he never pitched in MLB again.
Anyway, here's a hilarious chunk from Joe Torre's The Yankee Years about Igawa's first bullpen session in America:
"Then-bullpen catcher Mike Borzello was assigned to catch Igawa’s first bullpen session in camp and was very underwhelmed. 'He threw three strikes the whole time. His changeup goes about 40 feet. His slider is not a big league pitch. His command was terrible,' said Borzello. 'I hope he’s hurt, so there’s an explanation for throwing like that.' Definitely not an encouraging set of words from someone who’s caught a lot of pitchers."- Sung-Min Kim, River Avenue Blues
Is that good?