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10 biggest free agent busts in MLB this season

SNIPdaily logo SNIPdaily 7/20/2018 Matt Fitzgerald, SNIPdaily

Video by USA Today Sports

The MLB free agency period prior to the 2018 season was filled with busts, particularly when it comes to pitchers.

Despite the fact that the All-Star break has only just passed, it’s obvious which celebrated acquisitions haven’t lived up to their contracts. There are 10 players — and six of them are pitchers — who stand out among the worst open-market signings.

Continue reading to find out who ranks among the biggest mistakes teams made over the winter with the intention of improving their rosters.

a man wearing a blue hat © Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Yu Darvish, starting pitcher, Chicago Cubs

When a local beat writer is comparing your softness as a player to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, you’re probably a free-agent bust. Who ya gonna call, Theo Epstein? That label will follow Darvish in the Windy City until he proves otherwise.

Darvish was seen as a great replacement for departed star Jake Arrieta on the Chicago staff, yet the four-time All-Star has been a huge disappointment. Part of the problem is an inability to stay healthy. When Darvish has pitched, he’s made eight starts, posted a 1-3 record and has a horrid 4.95 ERA.

Thankfully for the Cubs, they’re in first place and have another ace in Jon Lester. The hope is Darvish bounces back to give the Cubs a lethal duo as they mount a World Series push. If he fails to meet expectations, Darvish, per Spotrac, can opt out of his six-year, $126 million contract after the 2019 season, so both parties could look for a fresh start.

a close up of a person wearing a helmet holding a baseball bat © Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Hosmer, first baseman, San Diego Padres

On paper it looked like the Padres hit a grand slam by signing Hosmer. The four-time Gold Glove Award recipient had a slash line of .318/.385/.498 last season on the Royals, was a World Series champion in K.C. and turns 29 in October.

The epic eight-year, $144 million contract has thus far gone unrewarded, though. Hosmer is hitting .249, which would be his worst average since 2012. San Diego is in last place in the National League West.

Given his ability to drive the ball, Hosmer is a good contact hitter, but per ESPN.com projections, is on pace for a personal worst 151 strikeouts in 2018. Perhaps he’s pressing to justify that massive contract, but Hosmer has been a headliner as one of the many discouraging developments in the Padres’ season.

a close up of a baseball player holding a bat © Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Cobb, starting pitcher, Baltimore Orioles

Talk about a catastrophic signing to the tune of four years and $57 million (h/t Spotrac). After going 12-10 last season in Tampa Bay, Cobb has already posted 12 losses against only two wins for a hapless Orioles club.

Yes, Baltimore is having a terrible season, but Cobb’s problems aren’t a lack of run support. His ERA is 6.41, and he’s yielding a .313 batting average. Spurning the Rays for an American League East rival doesn’t look like the best decision for Cobb in retrospect, that’s for sure.

With three seasons still left on his deal, the Orioles are essentially stuck in a horrible Cobb contract. Making matters even worse, their other top pitchers aren’t doing them any favors. The three other full-time arms alongside Cobb in the rotation all have ERAs over 4.00, so it’s not like Baltimore has anyone else to rely on moving forward.

a baseball player holding a bat © Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Bruce, right fielder, New York Mets

Bruce was the recipient of a three-year, $39 million contract to remain in the Big Apple with the Mets after being shipped to New York at last season’s trade deadline. Now it looks as though the club would’ve been better off letting Bruce walk.

The 31-year-old right fielder was criticized for his defense last month by manager Mickey Callaway, and hasn’t performed well at the plate either. After jacking a combined 69 home runs in the prior two seasons, Bruce has managed only three 2018 long balls.

In batting only .212, Bruce, who last played on June 17, isn’t offsetting his lackluster power by getting on base. A hip strain landed him on the disabled list last month, so Bruce has a long way to go to prove he can help MLB’s third-worst offense in runs scored.

a baseball player wearing a red hat © Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Zack Cozart, third baseman, Los Angeles Angels

Cozart moved from his usual position of shortstop to mostly third base, where he started in 32 of 58 games this season. Although he showed off his defensive versatility by playing shortstop and second base on occasion too, Cozart — who batted .297 for the Cincinnati Reds in 2017 — apparently forgot how to hit, logging a slash line of .219/.296/.362.

The 32-year-old’s nightmarish year has been over since June due to season-ending shoulder surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder. L.A. has to hope Cozart recovers well enough to live up to his billing after signing a three-year, $38 million contract in the winter.

At least he’s a known commodity as an infielder and can fill in wherever the Angels need him. They have some offensive firepower thanks to the presence of superstar Mike Trout, yet could use at least a couple bats such as Cozart to step up and contribute more in 2019, particularly with how much L.A. is paying Cozart.

a man in a baseball uniform throwing a ball © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Bryan Shaw, relief pitcher, Colorado Rockies

A strong setup man for the Cleveland Indians previously, Shaw agreed to a three-year, $27 million deal to join the Rockies. It’s always a risk for a pitcher to play in the increased Mile High altitude, and it’s backfired on Shaw in a big way.

Shaw’s ERA in 21 home appearances for Colorado is a grisly 9.72, and he’s allowed five home runs — as many as he did all of last year. His overall WHIP of 1.96 shows his shaken confidence hasn’t improved much away from Coors Field.

There’s no denying Shaw is an iron man of sorts, given that he’d made 70 appearances in each of the previous five seasons. The Rockies must get better play out of Shaw if they’re meant to remain in the thick of the wild card race.

a baseball player holding a bat © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Santana, first baseman, Philadelphia Phillies

More of a power hitter than someone who hits for average, Santana is having his worst year at the dish, batting a meager .209. ESPN still projects him to swat 24 home runs, but the inability to get on base from the cleanup spot is alarming for Philadelphia.

The Phillies inked Santana to a three-year, $60 million deal with a club option for a fourth year and another $17.5 million.

It stands to reason Philly will be patient with Santana for now, since the team holds a narrow lead in the National League East after the All-Star intermission. If his average doesn’t come up, though, Santana could be in for a change of scenery in the next couple years.

a baseball player holding a bat on a field © Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Lance Lynn, starting pitcher, Minnesota Twins

Lynn is lucky he has run support, otherwise his 7-7 record across 18 starts would be a lot worse. Tommy John surgery kept Lynn out for all of 2016, but he bounced back in St. Louis last year with 33 starts, an 11-8 record and only a .223 opponent’s batting average.

A winner of as many as 18 games in his second season as a pro, Lynn is a far cry from even his mediocre form. The first move of his career hasn’t been fruitful, and the Twins are struggling to stay in the playoff picture.

With the July 31 MLB trade deadline approaching and Lynn only on a one-year, $12 million contract, speculation will swirl as to whether Lynn will be on the move. Given his playoff background with the Cardinals, he should be a coveted commodity despite his down year.

a man wearing a baseball uniform throwing a ball © Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Holland, relief pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals

Not as big of a bust as some of the others on this list due to the fact that his $14 million contract only spans the 2018 campaign. That said, Holland has been a huge disappointment in St. Louis, and the short duration of his stay isn’t much consolation.

It turns out the decision clubs made not to award the 32-year-old a multi-year deal was spot on. Holland has been tagged with a 7.99 ERA in 30 appearances for the Cardinals, failing in his role as a regular reliever after thriving in years past as a stalwart closer.

St. Louis recently fired manager Mike Matheny, who initially denied Holland the chance to be the closer, which is his familiar role. More likely than not, though, the team still won’t trust Holland in a pinch, as the Cards have little margin for error in the National League Central, currently trailing the Cubs by 8.5 games.

a baseball player is getting ready to pitch the ball © Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Minor, starting pitcher, Texas Rangers

Over the past few years it appeared as though starting pitching demons were finally being exorcised from Arlington, but the Rangers rotation is once again having a tough go at it in 2018.

Minor is contributing to the problem, attempting to convert from reliever last season in Kansas City to starter in Texas. He’s logged a 6-6 record in 18 starts but has only a 4.89 ERA and has already yielded 16 home runs. Fellow starters Bartolo Colon and Cole Hamels have conceded 22 and 21 dingers respectively, the second- and third-most in baseball.

The three-year, $28 million deal the Rangers splurged on to land Minor doesn’t look so good. At least they can reboot their staff when Colon’s contract expires after this year — and there’s a chance Hamels could be dealt with a 2019 option looming on his deal.

Related slideshow: 2018 MLB season (Provided by photo services) 

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