Often criticized for paying free agents more than anyone else to lure them into a contract, the New York Yankees have had a their share of misses. Since 2000, these are four big contract pitchers that struggled when they took the mound for the Yankees.
One could argue that Kevin Brown is a Hall of Famer. Brown finished his career with a 211-114 record and a 3.28 ERA. In modern times this is almost unheard of except in rare instances. The good times for Brown would however end when he was traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Yankees before the 2004 season.
Carrying a $15 million contract with him, Brown spent two forgettable season with the Yankees. His first season was not so bad, finishing 10-6 with a 4.09 ERA in 22 starts. The following year was much worse. In only 13 starts Brown went 4-7 with a 6.60 ERA. That season would also be Brown’s last.
Pitcher A.J. Burnett has had an up and down career. Overall he has a slightly above .500 winning percentage and an ERA hovering around 4.00. After splitting the first part of his career with the Florida Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays, Burnett had a chance to become a Yankees hero.
Burnett came to the Yankees as a free agent with a large 5 year contract worth $16.5 million each season. Only the first 3 years were spent in New York and if Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman could do it again he might not have given him any years. As a member of the Yankees Burnett was 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA. He did reach double digit wins in each season, but in the latter two his ERA was over 5.00.
Veteran lefty Denny Neagle became a member of the New York Yankees after a midseason trade in 2000 with the Cincinnati Reds. The move looked to be a great one for the Yankees as Neagle was 8-2 with a 3.52 ERA that season with the Reds. Once he got the Yankees, things took a turn for the worse.
Neagle’s 2000 statistics for the Yankees included an even 7-7 record and 5.81 ERA. He did however help the Yankees win the World Series against the crosstown rival New York Mets so not everything was all bad. More good news, the Yankees were not locked into a contract with Neagle. In total they only had to pay about half of his $4.75 million salary in 2000. Unfortunately for Neagle his numbers only got worse until he retired.
One of the worst decisions in the history of the Yankees was signing free agent pitcher Carl Pavano before the 2005 season. Pavano was coming off an 18-8 season with a 3.00 ERA. Keep in mind this was by far his best season and only his second where he started over 25 games. They Yankees were willing to take the risk and it did not pay off one bit.
The contract Pavano got from the Yankees was $38 million over 4 years. In year one he went 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA. He did not pitch at all for the team in 2006 due to a bruised buttocks and later getting injured in a car accident. In 2007 he made two starts, going 1-0 with a 4.76 ERA. Finally in 2008 he finished his tenure with the Yankees by going 4-2 in 7 starts with terrible 5.77 ERA. In total the team spent $38 million for 9 wins and an obtusely even 5.00 ERA.