Share “Free-agent roulette”

By Berry Tramel, Staff Writer, Published: January 27, 2010
In the 35 years since baseball’s free agent era began, teams have risked financial health with big-money contracts for pitchers, none more so than the Yankees. The best & worst:

Best value free-agent pitchers

→5. David Cone, 1996, 3-year, $18M: Cone went 39-15 over three years with a 3.15 earned run average. He won 20 games in 1998, and after the Yanks were down two games to Atlanta in the ’96 World Series, Cone beat the Braves 5-2 in Game 3, launching the new dynasty.

→4. Orlando Hernandez, 1998, 4-year, $6.6M: Bargain-basement money for a pitcher who in those four years made 99 starts and went 45-33 on teams that won three World Series.

→3. Jimmy Key, 1993, 4-year, $16.8M: Went 35-10 his first two seasons, 48-23 over the four years and won Game 6 of that ’96 World Series.

→2. Goose Gossage, 1978, 6-year, $2.8M: $466,666 a year is quaint money for now, but it was a big investment 32 years ago. And it paid off: 308 games pitched, 150 saves, 2.10 earned run average and seven post-season saves.

→1. Mike Mussina, 2001, 6-year, $88.5M: A dream free agent. Always healthy, always reliable. In those six years, Mussina made 187 starts, always posted a winning record and went 92-53. To top it off, signed on for two more years and went 31-19.

Worst value free-agent pitchers

→5. Kyle Farnsworth, 2006, 3-year, $17.5M: Signed as a setup man for Mariano Rivera, Farnsworth went 6-9 with a 4.33 ERA, not really terrible performance, but he was widely disliked.

→4. Roger Clemens, 2007, 1-year, $18M (prorated): Clemens signed in May, having been a dominant pitcher for a quarter century, but the gig was up. He went 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA.

→3. Jaret Wright, 2005, 3-year, $21M: A 15-8 record for Atlanta after years of struggle got Wright a big payday. In two Bronx seasons, he went 16-12 combined with a 4.99 ERA and was traded to Baltimore for Chris Britton.

→2. Carl Pavano, 2005, 4-year, $40M: Pavano rarely pitched — 17 starts in three years — before he was traded to Cleveland. But he was awful when he did pitch; a 5.00 ERA.

→1. Kei Igawa, 2007, 5-year, $20M (plus $26M Japan posting fee): Igawa spent all of 2009 in the International League at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In two Yankee seasons, the Japanese left-hander was 2-4 with a 6.66 ERA in 16 games.

Best value free-agent pitchers




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