While plenty of baseball fans are fantasizing right now about how their teams can improve with big moves in free agency this offseason, the reality is that it’s just as easy (if not easier) for teams to set themselves back as it is for them to improve by making big free-agent acquisitions. Nearly every MLB team that went into the 2017 season expecting to compete made a move in free agency that it now probably wishes it hasn’t, and while there don’t appear to be any Josh Hamilton-esque disastrous additions from this class, there were certainly more than a few moves that made free agency look like a very imperfect method of player acquisition.
Here are our rankings of every team’s worst free agent signing from last offseason:
Diamondbacks: Tom Wilhelmsen — The Diamondbacks didn’t make any massive additions in free agency, and nearly all of their small-scale additions worked out very well. Wilhelmsen, who’d had success in the not-too-distant past as the Mariners’ closer, made the team after attending spring training on a minor-league deal worth $1.25 million. He posted a 4.44 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 27 appearances with Arizona and was designated for assignment on June 11.
Dodgers: Sergio Romo — Signing Romo, a former All-Star with a long history of success and plenty of postseason experience, to a one-year, $3 million deal at the beginning of spring training was a sensible gamble for the Dodgers. He just never got it going with his childhood team, though, posting a 6.12 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 30 appearances. The Dodgers designated him for assignment on July 20 and later traded him to the Rays, with whom he bounced back, posting a 1.47 ERA and 0.85 WHIP over 25 outings.
Giants: Mark Melancon — At this point, Melancon looks like last offseason’s worst signing. After signing a four-year, $62 million deal in December (one that includes a full no-trade clause), the 32-year-old closer was limited to 32 appearances because of a right pronator strain that required season-ending surgery earlier this month. Melancon, who had been one of the most reliable closers in the league over the previous four seasons, posted a 4.50 ERA and 1.43 WHIP with five blown saves in 16 chances. It will be interesting to see if he can bounce back and make his contract worthwhile over the next three seasons.
Padres: Jered Weaver — It was already a pretty safe bet that the 34-year-old Weaver was done coming into this season, but as the Padres sought to add some veteran experience to their young roster, they ignored his downward trend and signed him to a one-year, $3 million deal. After posting a 7.44 ERA and 1.49 WHIP over nine starts and spending time on the DL with hip inflammation, he retired on August 16.
Rockies: Ian Desmond — The Rockies signed Desmond to a five-year deal worth $70 million (and also gave up the 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft) at the Winter Meetings. They initially stated that they planned to play Desmond, previously a career shortstop before converting to center field with the Rangers last year, at first base. But after he missed the season’s first month with a broken hand and Mark Reynolds seized Colorado’s everyday first base job, Desmond ended up seeing most of his action in left field this season. He was unremarkable offensively, hitting .274/.326/.375 with seven homers in 373 plate appearances.
Brewers: Neftali Feliz — Milwaukee signed Feliz to a one-year, $5.35 million in contract with the hope that he could be their closer. Feliz struggled with the Brewers, though, posting a 6.00 ERA and 1.41 WHIP over 29 appearances, and he was designated for assignment on June 14. Milwaukee had Corey Knebel, who’s become the most consistent closer in the National League this side of Kenley Jansen, waiting in the wings to replace Feliz, but in retrospect they probably could’ve made better use of the money they spent on the enigmatic veteran reliever.
Cardinals: Brett Cecil — When the Cardinals signed Cecil to a four-year contract worth $30.5 million last November, they hoped that he would provide a shutdown presence in the late innings and a platoon advantage against left-handed hitters. Instead, Cecil allowed opponents to hit .397/.438/.651 against him in high-leverage situations while lefties hit .343/.397/.539 against him. Cecil was actually rather effective against right-handers and had good stretches in June and September, but he was far too inconsistent for a reliever making as much as he is.
Cubs: Brett Anderson — The Cubs signed Anderson, who posted an 11.91 ERA in four appearances last year and had made double-digit starts just once in the past five seasons, to a one-year contract worth $3.5 million plus incentives on January 26. While it was a sensible gamble, Anderson struggled during his brief stint in Chicago, posting an 8.18 ERA and 2.09 WHIP before going on the DL on May 7 and then being designated for assignment upon his recovery.
Pirates: Daniel Hudson — Though Hudson posted a 5.22 ERA with a 1.44 WHIP over 70 appearances with the Diamondbacks in 2016, the Pirates still signed him to a two-year deal worth $11 million in December. He didn’t bounce back much in Pittsburgh, posting a 4.38 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 71 outings this season.
Reds: Bronson Arroyo — It’s not like the Reds made a huge financial mistake by signing the 40-year old Arroyo—he rejoined the organization on a minor-league deal and made just $535,000 this season. But it was a poor decision to run him out there 14 times and allow him to post a 7.35 ERA and 1.59 WHIP, costing younger pitchers a chance to gain experience on a team that never had any chance of competing this year anyway.
Braves: Bartolo Colon — Seeing as Colon had been a relatively consistent starter throughout his 40s, it would’ve been difficult for anyone to predict that he’d fall flat on his face after signing a one-year, $12.5 million deal with the Braves last November. Colon posted an 8.14 ERA and 1.78 WHIP over 13 starts with Atlanta and was designated for assignment on June 29. The Braves’ signing of Sean Rodriguez to a two-year, $11.5 million contract also deserves an honorable mention. Rodriguez was injured in a car crash shortly after signing, and he ended up hitting .162/.326/.351 over 15 games with the Braves before being traded back to the Pirates, who will pay the remainder of his salary, on August 5.
Marlins: Edinson Volquez — The Marlins’ decision to give Volquez a two-year deal worth $22 million after he posted a 5.37 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 2016 looked like a bad one from the start. While Volquez developed some early goodwill in Miami by throwing a no-hitter on June 3, he likely made the final appearance of his Marlins career (at least under his current contract) on July 5, as he went on the DL following that start due to left knee tendinitis. He tore his right UCL while rehabbing that injury and underwent Tommy John surgery in August, which puts him in position to miss most or all of the 2018 season. He finished 2017 with a 4.19 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 92.1 innings.
Mets: Fernando Salas — Salas was dominant for the Mets after being acquired in an August 31 waiver deal last season, and they gambled on him being able to continue that success when they signed him to a one-year contract worth $3 million on February 15. He ended up struggling immensely, though, posting a 6.00 ERA and 1.78 WHIP over 48 appearances, and he was designated for assignment on August 11.
Nationals: Matt Wieters — Washington signed Wieters to a one-year, $10.5 million contract with a $10.5 million player option for 2018 in late February. Unfortunately for the Nationals, the 31-year-old catcher’s four-year linear regression has continued, as he posted a subpar .225/.288/.344 slash line with 10 homers this season while also grading out less than favorably as a defender. It seems likely that Wieters will exercise his option for 2018, though one wonders if the Nationals might wish he’d do the opposite with catching prospects Raudy Read and Pedro Severino seemingly ready to make the full-time jump to the majors.
Phillies: Michael Saunders — Philadelphia signed Saunders, who was coming off his first All-Star season, to a one-year, $9 million deal with a club option for 2018 in mid-January. They quickly determined, however, that Saunders wasn’t a fit for what they were trying to do, designating him for assignment on June 20 after he posted a .205/.257/.360 slash line with six homers in 214 plate appearances.
Angels: Luis Valbuena — The Angels weren’t very active in free agency this offseason, and most of the minor moves they made ended up being successful ones. But the two-year, $15 million contract they gave Valbuena was probably an overpay; despite hitting 22 homers in 401 plate appearances this season, he slashed a rather unimpressive .199/.294/.432.
Astros: Carlos Beltran — It’s hard to fault a team for signing a nine-time All-Star and possible future Hall of Famer, much less one who had posted an .850 OPS the year before. With that said, the 40-year-old Beltran hasn’t been good this season, slashing .231/.283/.383 with 14 homers in 509 plate appearances while largely being restricted to the DH position and playing a career-low 14 games in the outfield. If the Astros win the World Series, it will all be forgiven, but Beltran hasn’t come close to justifying his $16 million salary this season.
Athletics: Trevor Plouffe — The A’s signed Plouffe to a one-year, $5.25 million contract in January after he was non-tendered by the Twins earlier in the winter. Though he was Oakland’s primary starter at third base for the first two months of the season, he was benched by early June. On June 15, the A’s designated Plouffe, who hit .214/.276/.357 with seven homers in Oakland, for assignment and called up top prospect Matt Chapman to take over the everyday job at third base. While they didn’t spend a colossal amount of money on Plouffe, one would think they could have found a cheaper free agent alternative or an in-house candidate to bridge the gap if they always planned on handing the starting job to Chapman at midseason anyway.
Mariners: Casey Fien — The Mariners reshaped their roster mostly through trade this offseason and were almost totally inactive in the free agent market. They signed Fien to a perfectly reasonable one-year, $1.1 million deal in December, but he struggled in Seattle, posting a 15.00 ERA and 2.17 WHIP through six appearances before being designated for assignment on May 2.
Rangers: Tyson Ross — Texas signed Ross to a one-year, $6 million deal with incentives January, hoping that he could bounce back to his previous form after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome. Like most other pitchers that have come back from the operation, though, Ross struggled immensely in his return to the mound, posting a 7.71 ERA and a 1.84 WHIP over 12 appearances (10 starts) with the Rangers. He was released on September 12, and his career certainly looks to be in jeopardy going forward.
Indians: Boone Logan — Cleveland signed Logan to a one-year contract worth $6.5 million guaranteed with a club option for 2018 in February, hoping that he’d compliment Andrew Miller as a second shutdown lefty out of the bullpen. He was never able to figure things out in Cleveland, though, posting a 4.71 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over 38 appearances (21 innings) before suffering a season-ending lat strain on July 19.
Royals: Travis Wood — When the Royals signed Wood to a two-year, $12 million contract in February, they hoped he’d push for a spot in their rotation. But he failed to seize a starting spot during spring training, and by the end of the regular season’s first week, he’d been relegated to mop-up duty. He remained in that role until the Royals needed him to fill a rotation vacancy in early July, and after he struggled as a starter, the Royals unloaded him as part of a six-player deal with the Padres on July 24, though they did retain the remainder of his salary. Wood finished his brief Royals career with a 6.91 ERA and 1.82 WHIP over 41.2 innings.
Tigers: Edward Mujica — The Tigers largely avoided the free agent market as they attempted to cut back spending last offseason, and they didn’t really make any terrible moves. Mujica signed a minor-league deal with Detroit in January, and after spending most of the season in Triple-A, he was called up on August 3. He posted a 9.95 ERA and 1.74 WHIP over five appearances before being designated for assignment on August 13.
Twins: Craig Breslow — The Twins weren’t exceptionally active on the free agent market last offseason. They signed the 37-year-old Breslow to a minor-league contract worth $1.25 million, and he made their major-league roster after an impressive spring. He couldn’t carry that success over to the regular season, though, posting a 5.23 ERA and 1.61 WHIP over 30 appearances before being designated for assignment on July 24.
White Sox: Derek Holland — The rebuilding White Sox signed the 30-year-old Holland to a one-year, $6 million contract in December as they sought to plug a hole in their rotation. The longtime Rangers starter took the ball every fifth day, but he wasn’t able to recover the value he’d possessed before injuries ravaged his career, posting a 6.20 ERA and 1.71 WHIP over 29 appearances (26 starts). When highly-touted prospects Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, and Carson Fulmer took over spots in the rotation late in the season, Holland no longer had a role in Chicago and was released on September 5.
Blue Jays: Jose Bautista — There are few players with legacies as tightly woven into the fabric of Blue Jays history as Bautista, so it’s hard to criticize them for bringing him back for one more season. With that said, the 36-year-old right fielder didn’t come close to justifying Toronto’s decision to guarantee him $18.5 million in January. Over 686 plate appearances, he posted a .203/.308/.366 slash line with 23 homers, and while he showed admirable flexibility by shifting to third base eight times this season, he played below-average defense in right field.
Orioles: Mark Trumbo — Conventional wisdom would dictate that when you have the opportunity to retain the reigning major-league leader in home runs at a rather reasonable rate, you should probably do so. But maybe the Orioles should’ve gone against conventional wisdom when deciding on whether to keep Trumbo, who had 47 homers in 2016. After he stayed on the market for most of the offseason, the Orioles brought back Trumbo on a three-year deal worth $37.5 million in late January. He proceeded to disappoint this season, slashing .234/.289/.397 with 23 homers in 603 plate appearances.
Rays: Colby Rasmus — Rasmus, who signed a one-year deal worth $5 million in late January, didn’t make his season debut until May 2 due to a hip injury. He was actually very good over his 129 big-league plate appearances this season, slashing .281/.318/.579 with nine homers, but he went back on the DL with hip tendinitis on June 23. In a shocking turn of events, Rasmus left the team and was placed on the restricted list on July 13, and he remained there through the end of the season.
Red Sox: Kyle Kendrick — Boston wasn’t very active on the free agent market over the winter, and most of the moves they made were good ones. They took a chance on the 33-year-old Kendrick, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2015, signing him to a minor-league contract worth $1 million. He ended up making just two major-league starts for the Red Sox, throwing for a 12.96 ERA and 2.52 WHIP over 8.1 innings.
Yankees: Chris Carter — Signing Carter, the 2016 co-NL home run king, to a one-year contract worth $3.5 million in mid-February was an undisputedly great value move. The way New York utilized him, however, wasn’t so great. He received sporadic playing time over the season’s first month, and after being pressed into everyday action following an injury to first baseman Greg Bird in early May, he struggled to get going, hitting .201/.284/.370 with eight homers in 208 plate appearances. It didn’t help that the proliferation of home runs across baseball made Carter’s power-hitting skills less valuable and amplified his less-than-stellar fielding and contact-hitting skills. The Yankees designated him for assignment twice within a two-week span and ultimately released him on July 10.