2013 MLB Free Agents: Biggest Busts in This Year's Class

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 02:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers stands in the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics  at O.co Coliseum on October 2, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Every year during free agency, teams go well-above and beyond the call of duty to pay a player that they believe will shore up a weakness or sell tickets to a disgruntled fanbase that is crying for a change in direction. 

This year's class feels like the perfect opportunity to find bargains since the depth is much better and more of a sure thing than the players at the top. But there are a few risks that teams are going to take that make no sense. 

We have already seen one of those deals with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who continue to spend money like it's going out of style by inking Brandon League to a new three-year contract. That deal alone shifted the entire market for relievers. 

As we move closer to the winter meetings at the beginning of December, here are the players who have bust written all over them. 


Josh Hamilton, Outfielder

2012 Stats with Texas Rangers: .285/.354/.577, 43 HR, 128 RBI, 103 Runs Scored

Hamilton enters free agency coming off a season that looks great on paper, but ended with more questions than answers. It doesn't help that he will be 32 next May, which is nearing the time when those elite-level skills he possesses, like bat speed and plate coverage, start to evaporate. 

Plus, Hamilton is an old 31. Everyone knows what he went through just to get to the big leagues, but all of that likely took a toll on his body. He is not going to age well despite playing 295 games over the last two seasons. 

According to John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus, Hamilton wants a seven-year contract from someone. 

From someone who knows these things: Josh Hamilton's asking price is 7 years and $175M. #Rangers #MLB

— John Perrotto (@jperrotto) November 2, 2012

The Rangers, who know what Hamilton can do better than anyone, will reportedly not offer him more than three years, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. That should speak volumes to teams thinking about making him an offer. 

As much as you love the power potential with Hamilton, there is too much risk involved with him, particularly for a National League team that wouldn't have the benefit of the DH. 


B.J. Upton, Outfielder

2012 Stats with Tampa Bay Rays: .246/.298/.454, 28 HR, 78 RBI, 31 SB

Upton is one of the most frustrating players to watch, because he will still flash all the tools that made him the No. 2 pick in the 2002 draft. He's had one season where he hit .300/.386/.508, but that was in 2007. 

In the five years since that breakout campaign, Upton has seen his average slip to .273, .241, .243 and .246. His on-base percentage has not been higher than .331 since 2009.

Upton did show a lot of power this season, but his approach changed as he kept trying to drive the ball. He posted the lowest walk rate (7.1 percent) and third-worst strikeout rate (26.7 percent) of his career (via FanGraphs). 

Despite all those flaws, Upton just turned 28 years old in August and can still play center field at a high level when he wants to. He is never going to reach his full ceiling, but an up-the-middle player with 25-plus home run power and good defense is going to command a lot of attention. 

But there is always the danger of Upton getting lazy, even more than he usually looks, when he gets paid. You could see that he wanted to hit home runs this season for the purpose of inflating his stats. 

I do like the potential upside that a team can get on a four or five-year deal with Upton, but there is too much risk to expect a lot of reward. 


Rafael Soriano, Relief Pitcher

2012 Stats with New York Yankees: 67.2 IP, 42 Saves, 2.26 ERA, 55 Hits, 24 BB, 6 HR Allowed

No one was happier to see Brandon League get that contract from the Dodgers than Soriano. It all but guaranteed that some team would have to go four years to land his services—it doesn't hurt that Scott Boras represents Soriano. 

Soriano did a terrific job taking over the closer's role for the Yankees after Mariano Rivera got hurt, but teams must beware of what they are really going to get with him. 

First, relief pitchers are always the biggest busts on the market. It is such a volatile position by nature, so any contract longer than two years is outrageous. 

Second, Soriano has never been the model of health. He had to miss two months in 2011 with elbow problems; he had Tommy John surgery in 2004; and he only pitched in 14 games with the Braves in 2008 with elbow problems. 

But teams love to overpay for closers, so Soriano is going to cash in. He felt so confident about his ability to get a big-money deal that he left $13.3 million on the table from the Yankees. 

If you see that your favorite team is looking at Soriano, hope that they miss out on the deal, because it's going to be for too much money than he, or any closer aside from Rivera in the prime of his career, should ever get.