The 10 Worst Free Agent Signings In Astros History
Below are the ten worst free agent signings in the history of the Houston Astros:
It's the offseason, and time for the hot stove league, with trades, and free agent acquisitions.
The Astros, after missing the playoffs in 2016, are expected to be active in the offseason, both in terms of trades, and in free agency, so now may be a good time to go back and review.
This is my list of the 10 worst free agent signing by the Astros in the history of the franchise.
Just a couple of parameters; First, these are multi-year deals only, so the one-year deals given to guys like Preston Wilson, Pedro Feliz, Bill Hall, and Shawn Chacon don't count, and second, these deals are only for guys signed away from other teams, so extensions don't count, nor do signing a free agent to a one-year deal, then signing him to a multi-year deal a year later, like the Astros did with Orlando Palmeiro.
Also, while I do factor in the money involved, the majority of the emphasis is based on production.
1)---JIM CLANCY---1989---In a way, Clancy was doomed from the start, because he was seen by many as "the guy who is replacing Nolan Ryan", and that just wasn't fair. Still, he was brutal. After signing a three-year, $3.4 million contract, Clancy went 9-25, with a 5.02 ERA., and a 1.48 WHIP with the Astros. Ouch! And that was pitching half his games in the Astrodome. He was so bad, he was optioned to the minors in 1991. It's hard to even go back an envision what the Astros saw in Clancy, other than as maybe a #3 or #4 starter. He was coming off of a 1998 season in Toronto in which he 11-13 with a 4.49 ERA., while being 12 games under .500 in his career with the Blue Jays. Hopefully, the Clancy signing will remain the worse in Astros history. I don't want to see another top it, that's for sure.
2)---OMAR MORENO---1983---People forget about this one, and a lot of people may disagree with him being so high on the list, but just go back and see how bad this signing was. The Astros signed Moreno to a 5-year, $3.5 million deal, which was an average of about $700,000 per season. That was pretty good change in 1983. This was after Moreno had just a sub .250 batting average and a sub .300 OBP with the Pirates in 1982. Moreno came to the Astros, and hit a .242, with a sorry .282 OBP. Certainly not what they thought they were getting. He did steal 30 bases, but he was also caught 13 times. To make matters worse,, he struck out 72 times, while walking only 22 times, and he was below average defensively. And if that wasn't enough, he began to sulk, and became a problem in the clubhouse. Luckily, the Astros were able to trade him for Jerry Mumphrey in August of that year, who was productive for the 2-plus years he played in Houston. Still, I'm basing this on the signing of Moreno only. And besides, even if you factor in Mumphrey, the Astros still had nothing to show for 1986 & 1987, years they were still paying Moreno, minus the minimum he was being paid by the Yankees and Braves. When you pay a guy good money for five years, and he's gone after only 400 at-bats, with a .242 avg., and a .282 OBP, that's a really bad signing.
3)---DAVE W. ROBERTS---1982---This is another one that flies under the radar, but it's this high for similar reasons as the Moreno signing. When the Astros signed Roberts prior to the 1981 season, he was supposed to be this "super utility" player. Primarily a catcher, Roberts played every position, including shortstop in his career, and the Astros were foaming at their mouths over his versatility. Well, after signing a 5-year, $1.3 million contract, Roberts lasted only 27 games (strike year did have something to do with that). He hit a .241, and the Astros found out he could indeed play multiple positions...just none very well. He was traded the following spring for Steve Dunnegan, who never made it to the big leagues, and they had to pay Roberts for four more years. So, I think when you sign a guy to a five-year deal, and get only 27 games out of him, that contract should rank as one of the all-time worst. I rank the Moreno contract slightly higher because he got more money, and he was an expected full-time starter. However, you could easily put the Roberts signing ahead of that one.
4)---WOODY WILLIAMS---2007---Williams signed a two-year, $12.5 million contract with the Astros prior to the 2007 season. He went 8-15, with a 5.27 ERA. and a 1.43 WHIP in 2007, and then was released in spring training of 2008. You pay an average of $6.25 million a year, over two years, and get that, plus you have to pay him for 2008, after you release him...YUCK!...so this contract has to rank up there.
5)---GREG SWINDELL---1993---A lot of people probably have Swindell at the top of their own personal list, but I can only put him as high as fifth on mine. No doubt, the Astros didn't get when they paid for when they signed him to a 4-year, $16.4 million deal, but while certainly not good, he didn't have a brutal 1993 season, giving the Astros 190 innings. Expectations got him too. A lot of people were projecting Doug Drabek and Swindell to be Maddux and Glavine, and when it didn't work out it just slapped them right in the face. Still, a four-deal deal for a pitcher with a 4.48 ERA. during that span is really bad...he was even demoted to the bullpen...so this deal just has to be in my top five.
6)---KAZ MATSUI---The Matsui three-year, $16.5 million deal doesn't make my top five because he at least had a fairly good first season, in 2008, when he hit a .293, with a .354 OBP, and 20 steals. People forget his first season, but it wasn't bad. In 2009 and 2010 however, he was a complete bust, hitting a combined .235, with a combined OBP of under .300. He was released in 2010, and anytime you sign somebody to a three-year deal, and you release them before they finish it out, it's seldom a good deal.
7)---GREGG ZAUN---2002---The Astros signed Zaun to a two-year, $2.35 million deal prior to the 2002 season, before he went on to hit a .220, with four homers, and 37 RBI's, to go along with a .285 OBP. Another guy who didn't last out his multi-year deal, as he was released in August of 2003, after hitting a .217 that season.
8)---DOUG DRABEK---1993---I hesitantly put Drabek on here, but I have to fill out the list. I'm reluctant to put Drabek on here because, contrary to popular belief, he wasn't deplorable for his entire stint with the Astros. After signing a four-year, $19 million deal prior to the 1993 season, he went 9-18 in 1993. Not a good won-loss record, no,but he did have a respectable 3.79 ERA. Then, in 1994, he had a really good year, going 12-6, with a 2.84 ERA. People tend to forget that year, because it was a strike year, but it was a good year for Drabek, as he made the All-Star team. As a matter of fact, Drabek was so good that year, he finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. He's first two years as an Astro, at least from an ERA. standpoint, were pretty good. That's why I hesitate to put him on this list. But you have to include the 1995 & 1996 seasons, when he was really bad, with a combined ERA. of over 4.60. A 38-42 record as an Astro, with an ERA. of 4.00 was disappointing enough to have Drabek in the top ten.
9)---CARLOS LEE---2007---Lee is another guy I almost hate to put on the list, but I'm running out of names, so he makes it by default. Lee was an All-Star in 2007, hit a .300 or better the first three years of his six-year, $100 million deal, and also drove in 100 or more runs in the first three years. But he did drop off, somewhat dramatically, in his final three years of the deal, and never helped the Astros to a playoff appearance. You can make a legit argument that Lee should be higher, especially if you compare the money he got, as compared to say what Gregg Zaun got, but to show my appreciation for years 2007-2009, I put Lee only ninth. My reasoning is simple; Zaun didn't have a good year...Drabek had two...and Lee had three. Three pretty good years, offensively, and you have to bank on a player slipping at the end of a 6-year deal. Again, the signing is not as bad as some believe, but Lee makes the list. By the way, the Lee and Williams, signings, both on this list, were both done on the same day, the Friday after Thanksgiving, in 2007.
10)---BRANDON LYON---2010---Lyon really wasn't all THAT BAD, after signing a three-year, $15 million deal prior to the 2010 season. From 2010-2012, he had a combined 4.03 ERA, and pitched hurt in 2011. But, somebody has to fill out the list, so I'm picking Lyon, probably just because Ed Wade overpaid for him. $15 million for a relief pitcher who lost his closer role, and who never had a sub 3.00 ERA. is a lot.