The End of the Bad Contracts - Pitching Edition

With just a few days left in the 2009 season, the Orioles are on the cusp of being out from under a number of contracts, notably those of the pitchers Danys Baez and Jamie Walker, two of the more ill advised contracts in recent Oriole history. Between the two of them they made $11.67M in 2009, which is over 17% of the total payroll and more than Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, Brad Bergesen, Felix Pie, Adam Jones, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Luke Scott, Cesar Izturis, and Nick Markakis made combined (I know, I know, most of those guys haven't been free agents, but still, on talent vs. value that's just criminal).

Just after the 2006 season, a time that feels like an eternity ago, Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette attempted to shore up a miserable Orioles bullpen by throwing millions of dollars at Chad Bradford, Danys Baez, and Jamie Walker. For the three relief pitchers the Orioles committed over $40M over 3 years, an investment upon which they wouldn't even come close to breaking even.

Jamie Walker: $12M. Chad Bradford: $10.5M. Danys Baez: $19M. Do you know how many relief pitchers are worth $19M over three years? Not many. With the exception of premiere pitchers like Mariano Rivera, relief pitchers are too volatile and too susceptible to injury to sustain that type of value. 

Orioles fans can say with certainty that these contracts were a bad idea. We watched the games, after all. We cringed every time Walker came in to face Carlos Pena or David Ortiz. We watched Baez walk God and country and follow it up with a home run to blow the save more than a few times. If you look at the numbers, it just gets worse. Per FanGraphs, here are the values of the Orioles three bullpen investments over the duration of their contracts:

Name/year WAR Value Salary
Baez '07 -0.8 ($3.1) $5.7
Baez '08 N/A N/A $6.2
Baez '09 0.2 $0.8 $7.2
Bradford '07 1.3 $5.4 $3.2
Bradford '08 (O's/Rays) 0.5 $2.5 $3.7
Bradford '09 (Rays) 0.1 $0.5 $3.7
Walker '07 0.7 $2.9 $3.0
Walker '08 -1.0 ($4.5) $4.5
Walker '09 -0.3 ($1.5) $4.5

Do the math and the those three pitchers were paid just over $41M for $3M worth of pitching. See the details on each pitcher below the jump...

Chad Bradford - The least offensive of the three contracts went to Chad Bradford. The 2006 Orioles allowed 216 home runs, the most in the American League. Bradford, coming from a very effective Mets bullpen and known for being stingy with home runs, could only help with that stat. Bradford signed for three years, $10.5M, with the buzz around baseball at the time being that he only agreed to come to the Orioles if they guaranteed the third year, something most teams were not willing to do.

In year one of his contract, Bradford more than earned his $3M. He made 78 appearances, second on the team to only Jamie Walker. True to form he allowed just 1 HR all year and finished the season with an ERA+ of 138. His 2.2 BB/9 was lowest on the team as he walked just 16 in 64.2 innings.

2008 began with Bradford being as useful as the previous year. He made 47 appearances for the Orioles with a 2.45 ERA, allowing just 2 HR (one was Manny  Ramirez's 500th at a game I had the "fortune" of attending). Bradford was looking strong for the second consecutive year until Andy MacPhail traded him to the Rays in August. It appeared he was traded for PTBNL but it ended up to be a cash transaction of about $20K. Some Orioles fans were up in arms over MacPhail throwing Bradford away for nothing, but it appears that he got rid of him at just the right time. Bradford finished the year with Tampa Bay in a less than stellar way. His walk rate jumped, his K rate fell, and while his final results didn't show it (just 3 ER in 19 IP), Bradford just wasn't as good.

2009 hasn't been kind to Bradford. He had to undergo elbow surgery in the offseason and didn't make his first appearance until 27 June. Less than one month later he went back onto the disabled list with back troubles. Since returning on August 23rd he's been less than impressive.

Thanks to the fortuitous timing of his trade, Orioles fans are able to look back on Chad Brad and his Chadstache fondly, but had he stayed here all three years it would have been just another failed contract.

Jamie Walker - Jamie Walker is a cool cat that never should have been signed to a three year deal. He did awesome things like say, "If it fits in a skillet, I kill it." He bought Koji cowboy boots and he got fined for saying in the press that the umpires are on the take. Unfortunately, when it came down to it, Jamie Walker did not deserve three years. Most 35 year old relievers do not deserve three year deals.

Walker was good in his first year, setting an Orioles record for games appeared in with 81. He struck out 41 in 61 innings and walked only 17. He was especially good against lefties, allowing just 24 hits by them all year, 19 of which were singles. Even with his effective year, FanGraphs still valued him at $2.9M, $100K less than what he was paid.

While he was good in 2007, it all fell apart in 2008. It wasn't Walker's fault; he just got too old. The junk he'd always thrown got a little too junky. The lefties who had had an OPS of just .594 against him in 2007 knocked him around to to the tune of a .913 OPS in 2008. He gave up 31 runs in 38 innings and caused Orioles fans around the world to curse both Walker and Dave Trembley for continuing to run him out there.

2009 was more of the same. 22 appearances, 12 innings, 8 runs, 5 home runs, 9 out of 23 inherited runners scored. Mercifully the Orioles put Jamie Walker out of his misery on 5 June, giving him his release. Walker hasn't been heard from since as, at age 37, he surely knows he is cooked.

Danys Baez - Ah, saving the best for last. Baez got the biggest, gaudiest contract of them all. Unlike Walker and Bradford, Baez did not start his Orioles career by being effective. Baez pitched 50.1 innings over 53 appearances in 2007, walking a ridiculous 5.8 per 9 innings and racking up an ERA of 6.44. In 2007 Baez was that pitcher that caused me to turn off the television before even seeing what he might do. Baez was shut down in the middle of September and would miss the entire 2008 season with an elbow tear.

Baez came to spring training 2009 as part of the starting rotation competition. He didn't make it, but started the year suprisingly well and has pitched more effectively than most of us would have predicted. That's not to say that he's been outstanding, because he hasn't been. He certainly hasn't been worth the 6 plus million dollars he's being paid this year, but he hasn't been awful, especially when compared to some of the garbage that has rolled out of the Orioles bullpen.

Even with his minor resurgence this season, the Danys Baez contract was a colossal failure. Same for Jamie Walker. Chad Bradford was headed down that road as well before he was traded. And in a few days, they will all be off the books. Somehow I can't see Andy MacPhail making those kinds of deals, can you?

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