With the recent failures of highly-paid starting pitcher Carlos Silva fresh in the minds of Mariners fans everywhere, one can’t help but wonder where the hefty right-hander ranks on our list of the team’s worst free agent signings of all-time.
Though there have been a litany of poor investments by the club brass over the years, a rash of bad decision-making seems to have plagued the franchise in the past half-decade (ahem, Bill Bavasi).
So even though Silva makes a worthy case for inclusion on our countdown, he has a tough group of utter failures jockeying for the right to be crowned the best of the worst.
Where does Silva rank on our Top 11? Let’s find out.
11. Brad Wilkerson, OF, 2008
Contract Details: One year, $3 million
Production Line: 19 games, .232 BA, .348 OBP, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 1 R, 15K/10BB
Wilkerson was the Mariners’ opening day starter in right field just one season ago, projected as a reliable stopgap option who could potentially work his way into the team’s future plans.
Unfortunately for both Wilkerson and the M’s, the former Expo, National, and Ranger had left all his talent on the cement-like Astroturf of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.
After peaking in 2004 while with Montreal, Wilkerson experienced a statistical decline from that point forward. By the time he reached the Emerald City in 2008, he had nothing remaining in the tank.
By the first week of May, 2008, Wilkerson was relieved of his duties as a Seattle Mariner. Less than one year after that, Wilkerson announced his retirement from baseball, capping off a miraculous fall from grace during an eight-year big league career.
10. Rich Aurilia, SS, 2004
Contract Details: One year, $3.5 million
Production Line: 73 games, .241 BA, .304 OBP, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 27 R, 43K/22BB
I’ll admit it. I was one of the handful of people who actually believed that Rich Aurilia would be a huge catalyst for the 2004 Seattle Mariners.
I was a freshman in college, and invited a number of friends over to my dorm room to watch the M’s opening day game on my 13″ television. I preached Aurilia’s value to the throng of guests, and even went so far as to add the 32-year-old shortstop to my fantasy team, believing that he could rekindle the flame of his ’01 and ’02 campaigns when he popped off for 37 and 35 home runs, respectively.
Needless to say, I was flat wrong.
Aurilia was a complete bust and was gone by July, pawned off on the San Diego Padres for essentially nothing in return.
Though the Padres were unable to coax much out of Aurilia’s lost season, the one-time All Star would eventually resurrect his career with the Cincinnati Reds as a utility man. He remains active today as a backup for the San Francisco Giants.
9. Carl Everett, DH, 2006
Contract Details: One year, $4 million
Production Line: 92 games, .227 BA, .297 OBP, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 37 R, 57K/29BB
Jurassic Carl was initially embraced by Mariners fans — despite his past history of abrasive behavior — as a refreshing presence in an otherwise moribund clubhouse. Sadly, the love affair quickly ended when Everett proved his better years were behind him.
The designated hitter, who never could quite live up to the sole demand of his position, departed in July, following his release.
In 2007, the two-time All Star attempted to resurrect his career in a stint with the independent Long Island Ducks. Alas, the old fossil never could parlay his efforts into a big league gig and soon encountered extinction head-on.
As it turned out, Everett’s brief tenure with the M’s would be his last go-round in the majors, and he hasn’t been seen around a big league ballpark since.
8. Miguel Batista, P, 2007-Present
Contract Details: Three years, $25 million ($8.33 million annually)
Production Line: 86 games, 52 starts, 21-25, 4.92 ERA, 1 SV, 217K/171BB
Batista isn’t done yet. The starter-turned-reliever is in his third and likely final season with the Mariners, whereupon he’s in the process of turning himself into a serviceable setup-to-the-setup man. Must know it’s a contract year.
One of the many swings and misses of Bill Bavasi’s miserable near-five-year run as general manager of the franchise, Batista was brought aboard in ’07 with the intention of being the team’s No. 3 starting pitcher.
In fairness, the right-hander had a decent first season with the ballclub, leading the staff in wins with 16, and compiling a slightly-better-than-pedestrian 4.29 ERA.
Unfortunately, that one bright year was all but forgotten in 2008 when the 37-year-old Batista aged seemingly overnight. He patched together a grotesque 4-14 win-loss record, fueled in large part by an outlandish 6.26 ERA.
So far in ’09, Batista is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in a dramatically reduced role as middle reliever. Even if he manages to keep it up throughout the season, he’ll still go down as one of the all-time greats at failing to live up to his bloated contract.
7. Pokey Reese, SS, 2005
Contract Details: One year, $1.2 million
Production Line: 0 games
One year before he mysteriously disappeared from the Florida Marlins’ spring training facility in March, 2006, Pokey Reese conspicuously vacated the Mariners roster after suffering a season-ending injury before the first game was ever played.
Penciled in as the team’s opening day shortstop when he signed with the club, Reese never played a game in that ’05 season due to an injury to his right shoulder, which he may or may not have hurt signing his name on the dotted line.
After the futile 2005 campaign (can we even call it a campaign?) had come to a close, the team had no intention of re-signing their wasted investment. They washed their hands of Reese after flushing just over one million dollars down the toilet.
6. Richie Sexson, 1B, 2005-2008
Contract Details: Four years, $50 million ($12.5 million annually)
Production Line: 509 games, .244 BA, .334 OBP, 105 HR, 321 RBI, 259 R, 497K/284BB
The lasting image Mariners’ fans have of Richie Sexson (besides the countless strikeouts) is that of the 6’8″ behemoth of a first baseman viciously hurling his batting helmet at Texas Rangers’ pitcher Kason Gabbard. Sexson’s impromptu run-in with the Rangers left-hander could very well be classified as the best contact he would make all year.
To be completely fair to Big Sex, his time with the M’s wasn’t all bad. In his first two seasons with the team, he totaled 73 home runs and 228 RBI, good numbers for a middle-of-the-order slugger.
But in Sexson’s final two seasons, things went completely down the crapper.
In addition to distancing himself from the fan base with a thorny attitude in the press, Sexson completely lost the ability to hit a baseball, both for power and average. By the end of the 2007 season, the organization was losing patience with their investment.
Everything came to a head in ’08, and Mount Richie officially blew his top on that fateful evening when he decided to chuck his headgear in Gabbard’s vicinity.
After a brief stint with the New York Yankees at the end of last season, Sexson is now out of baseball.
5. Pete O’Brien, 1B, 1990-1993
Contract Details: Four years, $7.6 million ($1.9 million annually)
Production Line: 466 games, .230 BA, .298 OBP, 43 HR, 194 RBI, 160 R, 142K/154BB
Pete-O was arguably the biggest free agent signing in the Mariners’ short history when he inked his deal in December, 1989. Unfortunately for both Pete-O and the team, he would also turn himself into the club’s first big free agent bust.
A so-so power hitter who had peaked in 1987, O’Brien was brought in to fill out the middle of the order and complement the club’s other slugger in fellow first baseman Alvin Davis.
Instead, the bespectacled O’Brien became a quick disappointment, posting a career-low .224 batting average in his first season with the M’s.
Things wouldn’t get any better in passing years, as the Mariners tried to mask Pete-O’s deficiencies by shuffling him in the batting order and shuttling him around the field, even platooning the career infielder in left field from time to time.
By 1993, and the final year of O’Brien’s inflated contract, the M’s had seen enough of their mistake to realize they had screwed up. O’Brien was released in July, and never played another big league game again.
4. Jeff Weaver, P, 2007
Contract Details: One year, $8.325 million
Production Line: 27 games, 27 starts, 7-13, 6.20 ERA, 80K/35BB
Jeff “Dream” Weaver was an absolute nightmare for the 2007 Mariners, turning in one of the worst statistical starts to a season EVER when he managed to keep his ERA above 10.00 for his first eight starts.
Though there were a number of low points in Weaver’s forgotten year, rock bottom had to be when the lanky righthander couldn’t survive the first inning of an April contest versus Kansas City. His final line for that dismal outing was as follows:
1/3 IP, 6 R, 6 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 0 K, 29 pitches, 17 strikes, 12 balls, 9 batters faced, 163.64 ERA
The poor showing also caused Weaver’s season ERA to creep up to 18.26, and sent him straight to the DL with what we can only assume was a bruised ego.
Despite all the misery he endured early on, Weaver actually managed to salvage the second half of the season, throwing two shutouts in the process and consistently lowering his ERA with each start.
Still, nothing could erase the memory of the bad first impression, and Weaver etched his name in the Hall of Fame of Bill Bavasi Free Agent Failures.
After a 2008 season spent out of baseball, the 32-year-old Weaver returned to the game this season and is finding success once again as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
3. Scott Spiezio, 1B/3B, 2004-2005
Contract Details: Three years, $9.15 million ($3.05 million annually)
Production Line: 141 games, .198 BA, .272 OBP, 11 HR, 42 RBI, 40 R, 78K/40 BB
The first thing you should know about Scott Spiezio is that he’s a drug addict and alcoholic, and therefore only partly responsible for the pus he laid out while he was in Seattle.
The second thing you should know about Spiezio is that most Seattle fans truly hate the bastard for not only solidifying himself as one of the worst players in franchise history, but for then having the gall to bash the Mariners on his way out of town.
After he landed in St. Louis in 2006, a half-year removed from his release in Seattle, Spiezio issued this quote to the media regarding his failed tenure as a Mariner:
“The last two years in Seattle, it wasn’t that fun. It wasn’t a fun atmosphere. Everybody on the team was down. I didn’t get to play much. With the Angels, I had a lot of fun. It’s great to come back to a team that’s just incredible as far as the makeup of this team and the desire and the drive. It’s so refreshing.”
You know why it wasn’t a fun atmosphere in Seattle, Scott? Because the Mariners poured a lot of money into you, which you then went and spent on crack and booze, turning yourself into one of the biggest wastes of talent to ever play the game.
But again, it’s unfair to be completely mad at you, because one can only wonder if that was the drugs or alcohol talking at the time you issued your parting shots in our fair city’s direction.
No matter, after you were arrested in 2007 while with the Cardinals, you weren’t able to get back on your feet and you’ve been out of baseball ever since. It’s unfortunate that this is what your life has become. Seattle’s doing just fine in your absence.
2. Greg Hibbard, P, 1994
Contract Details: Three years, $6.75 million ($2.25 million annually)
Production Line: 15 games, 14 starts, 1-5, 6.69 ERA, 39K/31BB
Before Pokey Reese, there was Greg Hibbard, the original forgotten Mariner. When the left-handed starting pitcher signed with the club in 1994, no one could have envisioned that his first season would also be his last.
A 29-year-old who should have been entering his prime when he joined the M’s, Hibbard instead endured a rash of shoulder injuries that cut short his otherwise promising career.
Not that Hibbard was a future ace or anything, but you wouldn’t know that by the amount of money Seattle gave him. Proving that sometimes you have to overpay to get something you really want (in this case left-handed starting pitching), the M’s rewarded a previously durable, yet unspectacular Hibbard with top-of-the-rotation dollars and cents. Hibbard, in turn, rewarded the team by getting hurt.
You can’t blame Hibbard for the injury, but you can blame the Mariners’ brass for giving much too much cash to an undeserving, middle-of-the-road swing starter.
One would think that the team would learn from their past mistakes, but just 14 years later, lightning would strike the franchise once again with our No. 1 all-time worst free agent signing.
1. Carlos Silva, P, 2008-Present
Contract Details: Four years, $48 million ($12 million annually)
Production Line: 34 games, 34 starts, 5-18, 6.77 ERA, 79K/41BB
There’s still time for Silva to steer this ship back on course, but the reality of the situation is that the Mariners have already wasted $24 million on their big, fat Venezuelan mistake.
Last year was clearly a debacle, with the rotund right-hander failing to win a ballgame beyond June, and posting a miserable 4-15 record, to go with a terrifying 6.46 ERA.
Surprisingly, this year has been even worse, with Silva hiking his ERA up a full two points (it now stands at 8.48) and posting a 1-3 record in the process. The sinkerball specialist is likely destined to spend a significant portion of ’09 in the bullpen from here on out, as the Mariners try to strike a delicate balance between maximizing on what they’ve invested in, and minimizing Silva’s negative impact on the team.
Other than Richie Sexson, no other player on this list was guaranteed as much money over the life of his contract ($48 million) or on an annual basis ($12 million) as Silva. And while Sexson undeniably provided some value during his tenure with the club, Silva has failed to do that by any stretch of the imagination so far.
Perhaps the worst part about Silva’s failures is that they have come from the very outset of his contract. Unlike Sexson and Batista, for example, who paid dividends in their initial seasons with the team, Silva has been nothing but a bust since very near day one. Because of that aspect, and because of the enormity of his deal, Silva has handcuffed the team to remaining committed to the albatross of a disaster they created when they inked him.
We can only hope that Silva becomes a reformed member of the 25-man roster at some point in his Mariners career, but for now he’s fully earned his spot as the worst free agent signing in the team’s history.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, 2005-Present; Five years, $64 million ($12.8 million annually)
Miguel Cairo, PH/PR, 2008; One year, $850,000
Mike Felder, OF, 1993; One year, $850,000
Kenji Johjima, C, 2006-Present; Three years, $24 million ($8 million annually)*
Matt Lawton, OF, 2006; One year, $400,000
Dennis Martinez, P, 1997; One year, $250,000
Chris Reitsma, P, 2007; One year, $2.05 million**
Mackey Sasser, C/OF, 1993; Two years, $1 million ($500,000 annually)
Jarrod Washburn, P, 2006-Present; Four years, $37.5 million ($9.375 million annually)
Milt Wilcox, P, 1986; One year, $150,000
*Johjima’s deal was technically not a free agent deal, since he re-signed with the team while still under contract in 2008. Still worth mentioning, however.
**Reitsma also pitched for the Mariners in 2008, though it was under the terms of a minor league contract he signed in the ’07-’08 offseason.