Bad Free Agents Signings

Roger CedenoThe New York Mets are famous for making some of the worst trades in baseball history. They are famous for signing overpriced players who don’t work out.

The Mets traded superstar pitcher Tom Seaver after he criticized management for not pursuing players like Gary Matthews in the early days of free agency in the 1970′s.

It wasn’t until the ’90′s that the Mets did attempt to land some high-priced free agents. The results of all of these free agent signings were very much like some of their doomed trades.

Here is a list of some of the players the Mets have signed, like outfielder Roger Cedeno, left.

Pedro Astacio

December 16, 2001
Before signing Pedro Martinez, the Mets signed another Dominican pitcher named Pedro with a bum arm. Pedro Astacio was famous for his ability to surrender the long ball. He started out strong for the Mets and did not get a deserved All-Star nod in 2002. By August of that year, Pedro was 11-4, with an ERA of 2.95.

But Pedro’s fortune then took a turn for the worse, pitching at Shea like he was back at Coors Field, surrendering 17 homers (32 overall) in his last nine starts while going 1-8 to see his once-stellar ERA bloat to 4.79. Pedro allowed 58 runs (55 earned) over that time period. In seven starts in 2003, we got pretty much the same Pedro at the tail end of the season. Pedro was 3-2 with an ERA of 6.41, 8 homers, 30 ER in 37 innings. Ouch!

Moises Alou

November 20, 2006
The New York Mets signed Moises Alou to a one-year contract worth $7.5 million with a club option for 2008. After a good opening month (BA .318) as the regular left fielder, Alou sustained yet another injury, and was sidelined with a torn quadricep muscle until August.

He collected a hit in 30 straight games from August 23rd-September 26th (48-119, .403) with eight doubles, four home runs, 17 RBI and 23 runs scored during that span. The hitting streak was the longest of his career.
The streak was the longest by a player on a New York major league team (including Brooklyn) since Joe DiMaggio’s record 56-game hitting streak in 1941. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Alou is one of only four New York players with a hitting streak of 30 or more games.

The 30-game hitting streak is the longest hitting streak in club history, surpassing Mike Piazza (1999) and Hubie Brooks (1984) who each had a 24-game single-season hitting streak.

At 41 years, 85 days old, Moises Alou was the oldest player in major league history to have a 20-game hitting streak or longer according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

On October 31, 2007, the Mets exercised its option on Alou’s contract for the 2008 season. “Last year, Moises showed us what type of hitter he was,” said General Manager Omar Minaya.

On March 5, 2008 Alou underwent hernia surgery and missed the start of the 2008 season. On July 9, Alou suffered a torn right hamstring playing in the outfield for AA Binghamton in Norwich, Connecticut. Mets general manager Omar Minaya stated in a press conference the following day that Alou would likely need surgery and miss the remainder of the 2008 season, and possibly end his career. He remains, as of March, 2008, the oldest position player currently under contract for an MLB team.

Alou played 102 games, hit 13 HR with 58 RBI, hitting .342 in two seasons with the Mets. Carlos Delgado, 36, started 154 games in 2008. His injuries in 2008 forced the team to sign and play Fernando Tatis (28), Daniel Murphy (30), Nick Evans (25), Angel Pagan (20), Marlon Anderson (20), Endy Chavez (13), Trot Nixon (6), Damion Easley (2), Chris Aguila (2), Brady Clark (2), and Andy Phillips (1) started in left field. Alou had 13 starts.

In 2007 the Mets used 9 other left fielders besides Alou who started 84 games. Carlos Gomez (20), Endy Chavez (19), Rickey Ledee (9), Lastings Milledge (8), David Newhan (7), Marlon Anderson (6), Ben Johnson (5), Damion Easley (3), Jeff Conine (1) started in left.

Bobby Bonilla

December 2, 1991
The Mets decided to test the free-agent waters before the 1992 season. A hectic bidding war was eventually won by the New York Mets, whose five-year $29 million contract made Bobby Bonilla the highest-paid player in baseball history. The deal seemed like a match made in heaven. The rebuilding Mets had added an offensive centerpiece to replace Darryl Strawberry and Bonilla was thrilled to return to his native New York, where his father could watch him play. At his official Mets introduction, Bonilla told the press, “I know you all are gonna try, but you’re not gonna be able to wipe the smile off my face. I grew up in New York. I know what it’s all about.”

Unfortunately, the marriage of Bonilla and New York wouldn’t survive past the honeymoon — a tenth-inning home run (his second of the game) to defeat the rival Cardinals on Opening Day. Bonilla never warmed to the role of team leader that the Mets wanted him to play. “I just want to be one of the guys,” the new arrival said, but his huge contract made him a marked man. Compounding the problem, Bonilla considered himself to be a line-drive hitter, not the slugger the Mets had expected to fill the power void created by the departure of Strawberry. Although the switch-hitter owned tremendous power from either side of the plate (in July of 1987 he hit just the seventh upper deck home-run in the history of Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium), he would often maintain that “home runs are overrated.”

As the Mets stumbled early in the season, New York fans wasted little time loudly registering their disapproval at Shea Stadium. Mired in an awful batting slump, Bonilla bore the brunt of their anger. In late May he caused a flap by wearing earplugs at the plate to drown out the chorus of boos which greeted him each at bat. His season hit a low on June 25th when TV cameras caught him calling the press box between innings to complain about an error charged against him. Bonilla dug himself a deeper hole and aggravated already tense media relations by shamelessly denying that he was protesting the official scorer’s decision. Instead, he told reporters, he had been calling to inquire after the health of Mets’ PR man Jay Horwitz.

Although Bonilla’s next two years in the Big Apple proved more productive than his disappointing initial season (.249, 19 HR, 70 RBI) he never won the support of Mets’ fans and his trademark smile soon settled into a frown. In late July 1995, Bonilla was batting .325 and enjoying his best season in New York when the Mets traded him to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for prospects Damon Buford and Alex Ochoa.

Roger Cedeno

December 13, 2001
The Mets sign free agent OF Roger Cedeno to a 4-year, $18 million contract. A target of the Shea Stadium boo-birds, Cedeno in centerfield looked like Marv Throneberry at first base. Cedeno misplayed so many balls that veteran pitcher Tom Glavine demanded that Cedeno be benched when he pitched.

Cedeno was supposed to provide speed at the top of lineup and be a table setter for big bats like Mike Piazza and Mo Vaughn. Cedeno stole only 39 bases and scored 135 runs in two seasons. His inconsistency found him on the bench in favor of Timo Perez.

After giving up on Cedeno for a second time, the Mets couldn’t seem to find a new home for him, and he did not make it any easier on them. Twice in 13 months Cedeno was arrested for a driving-related offense.

Cedeno was arrested on Dec. 4, 2003 in Broward County, Fla., and charged with “reckless driving.” He was clocked at 111 mph on Route 75, the stretch of highway known as Alligator Alley linking the east and west coasts of South Florida.

In November of 2002, Cedeno was arrested in Florida for driving under the influence of alcohol, and eventually pleaded no contest to a lesser charge. Cedeno’s agent, Peter Greenberg, said that this latest incident was nothing more than a speeding ticket.

Vince Coleman

December 5 1990
Free-agent OF Vince Coleman signed a 4-year contract with the Mets. Coleman led the National League in stolen bases each of the previous six seasons, and copped his 500th theft in his 804th game, the quickest player to reach that plateau.

After his contract with St. Louis expired following the 1990 season, Coleman signed with the New York Mets that December, looking to ply his wares in the Big Apple. However, altercations with management and injuries to his ribs and hamstrings kept him off the field for much of his tenure in New York. Along with hitting the disabled list five times in 1991 and ’92, Coleman also locked horns with third base coach Mike Cubbage and manager Jeff Torborg. The latter argument, which happened on the field, got the outfielder suspended for two games.

Coleman reached a personal low in 1993. Three months after injuring Dwight Gooden’s arm by recklessly swinging a golf club in the clubhouse, he was charged with endangerment when he tossed a firecracker at — and harmed — two young boys and a woman in the stadium’s parking lot. The outfielder was “given” the rest of the year off by the team to deal with legal issues, but it was clear that his stint in New York was over. Indeed, Coleman was traded to the Kansas City Royals in January 1994 for Kevin McReynolds.

Tom Glavine

December 8, 2002
The Mets’ offer of 3 guaranteed years for $35 million, plus options for a fourth year as his best option for reaching 300 wins. His new contract with the Mets was worth between $35-42 million. Tom Glavine, one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball history, and career long Atlanta Brave.

Glavine agreed to a lucrative 4 year deal with the Braves’ bitter rival, the New York Mets. But for many Met fans, Glavine was a Brave and was never accepted as a Met.

This move was met by Braves fans with a mixture of sadness, disappointment, and some acrimony. Glavine did make the All-Star team with 11-3 record in 2006, but many of his victories and no decisions were supported by the Mets arsenal in 2006.

In 2007 Glavine joined the 300-win club on Aug. 5 with a win over the Cubs in Chicago on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

But the memory that will linger with Met fans is the historic collapse in final two weeks of the season. Tom Glavine did not make it out of the first inning as the Marlins scored seven runs before the Mets came to bat in the final game of the season. The last pitch he threw hit opposing pitcher Dontrelle Willis.

The seven runs matched the most Glavine (13-8) allowed in an inning during his 21 years in the majors, the Elias Sports Bureau said. He also gave up seven to Colorado in 1996. It also was the second-shortest start of his brilliant career — and perhaps his last. Glavine went 13-8 with a 4.45 ERA in 200 1/3 innings for the Mets in 2007. Overall, he was 61-56 in five seasons with the Mets.

Instead of retiring, Glavine agreed to an $8 million, one-year contract with the Braves.

Rickey Henderson

December 13, 1998
In December 1998, Rickey Henderson joined his sixth club, the New York Mets, as a free agent. The following year was filled with ups and downs for the future Hall of Famer. He exceeded all expectations, batting .315, getting on-base at a .423 clip, and stealing 37 bases, but his personality rubbed many in the Met organization the wrong way.

One of the most glaring incidents took place during the emotional sixth game of the NLCS, which New York ultimately lost to the Braves. As the Mets struggled, it was rumored that Henderson wiled away the last innings in the locker room, playing cards with Bobby Bonilla. New York released him the following May. The Seattle Mariners quickly became the seventh team to pick up the stolen base king, and Henderson once again went to the postseason.

In what has become a telling sign of Henderson’s career, the wiry leadoff man remained in great physical shape, drawing walks, stealing bases, and scoring runs. However, his reputation for “dogging it” on the base paths and in the outfield led yet another team — Seattle — to pass on re-signing Henderson, and he entered the 2001 season without a contract. Henderson played his last major league game September 19, 2003 with the Dodgers. He was hit by a pitch in his only plate appearance, and came around to score his 2,295th run.

The Mets hired Henderson as a special instructor in 2006, primarily to work with hitters and to teach base stealing. Henderson’s impact was noticeable on leadoff hitter Jose Reyes. On July 13, 2007, the Mets promoted Henderson from special instructor to first base coach, replacing Howard Johnson, who became the hitting coach. Henderson was not retained as a coach for 2008. They didn’t learn the first time.

Satoru Komiyama

December 1, 2001

The Mets sign star Japanese pitcher Satoru Komiyama to a 1-year contract. The 36-year-old Komiyama was a 7-time All-Star in Japan. This guy was a disaster; he was even below .500 in Japan. His 0-3 record and 5.61 ERA and several blown saves led to his exile in the minors twice and the doghouse, and his eventual release after the season.

In one game against the Astros in 2002, Komiyama relieved Jeff D’Amico in the 4th inning of a 5-1 deficit. Manager Bobby Valentine hoped he could keep the Mets close, but instead he surrendered 8 hits and 7 earned runs in one inning of work.

In another memorable performance against the Yankees, Komiyama relieved choke artist Armando Benitez after another blown save. Komiyama faced five batters and served up a two-run homer to former Met Robin Ventura.

Kaz Matsui

December 10, 2003
By investing three years at $20.1 million, the Mets had expected Kaz Matsui to be their answer to the Yanks’ signing the previous year of Hideki Matsui. In Japan, Kaz Matsui had displayed speed, power and durability in becoming an All-Star and Gold Glove.

As a Met, he was brutal on defense at short to the point where he had to be moved to second base and his offense – never very good – declined each season. Plus, belying his Iron Man rep, Matsui could not stay healthy as a Met. The 30-year-old Matsui was hitting .200 with one home run and seven RBI in 38 games. For three straight seasons, Matsui homered in his first at-bat of the year, the highlight of his Mets career.

His stint in New York was punctuated with pronounced booing from Mets fans in response to his failure to validate high expectations gleaned from his prodigious Japanese numbers. It should also be noted that some of the booing may have been a result of Matsui supplanting future Mets star José Reyes at shortstop.

By June 2006, accepting that Matsui was a failed and costly experiment, the Mets traded the second baseman to the Rockies for utility man Eli Marrero. The 32-year-old Marrero batted .217 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 30 games for Colorado. He has started in right field, left field, first base and at catcher this season. Marrero has hit .244 with 64 homers, 256 RBIs and 54 stolen bases while playing for St. Louis, Atlanta, Kansas City, Baltimore and Colorado. On August 8 2006, he was designated for assignment by the Mets.

Matsui’s performance improved during the 2007 season with the Colorado Rockies, as he hit .288, which was higher than his career average. He had career highs in runs (84), triples (6), stolen bases (32) and sacrifice hits (8) in 2007.

Matsui hit his first career grand slam during the second game of the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies. It came with the Rockies down 3-2 with two outs in the top of the 4th inning. The grand slam gave the Rockies a lead in which they would never relinquish. Colorado won the game, 10-5. Matsui became only the third player in MLB history to have his first career grand slam occur in the postseason rather than the regular season.

He also became the first Japanese player to hit a grand slam in the postseason. Along with the grand slam, Matsui hit a triple and a double during game two of the NLDS, falling a single short of becoming the only player in history to hit a cycle during the postseason. However, Matsui did become only the second player ever to hit a double, triple and home run in a postseason game.

On December 1, 2007, Matsui signed a three-year, $16.5-million deal with the Houston Astros.

Tsuyoshi Shinjo

December 1, 2001
During Shinjo’s final year with the Hanshin Tigers in 2000, he batted .278 with 28 HR’s, 15 steals and 85 RBI. It was his first good offensive season in Japan and hardly a great one.

After that year, Tsuyoshi Shinjo became a free agent. He went on to sign with the New York Mets for $200,000 on December 11, 2000, turning down a $2 million deal from Hanshin. Many baseball analysts in America and Japan were surprised at the move, as Shinjo had not shown much offensive talent outside of one shining season.

Tsuyoshi immediately responded to the less rigorous approach in MLB when it came to practices. In 2001, he had a respectable year, batting .268 with 10 HR’s and 56 RBI and becoming the first Japanese player ever to hit clean-up in a MLB game.

He was a fan favorite in New York for his constant upbeat personality and hustle, but was also the target of criticism by many for his antics and hot dogging. Late that year, Shinjo was traded to the San Francisco Giants with infielder Desi Relaford for pitcher Shawn Estes. On November 15, 2002, Shinjo was released by the Giants after one season hitting .238.

He would be signed again by the Mets on January 11, 2003. In his final year with the Mets in 2003, he was struggling, being shuffled back and forth between the AAA Norfolk Tides and the Mets. For Norfolk, Tsuyoshi batted .324. Shinjo finished his major league career batting .245 with 20 HR’s and 100 RBI. Shinjo collected 107 hits in his rookie season in the majors, and 108 hits the rest of his major league career.


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Daniel Beaulieu  on August 5th, 2013

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