Free agent season is here, and soon there’ll be outrageous sounding figures tossed around. The Orioles probably aren’t going to spend heavily, but if they’re thinking about it, let’s look at five of the worst contracts in Orioles history.
Belle signed for five years and $65 million. The Orioles thought they were stealing the slugger away from the New York Yankees. Instead, they got an angry man with a chronic hip condition.
He had a splendid first year, hitting 37 home runs with 117 RBIs, a .297 average and a .400 on-base percentage.
On the day Belle hit three home runs, he decided to talk to the press for the first and only time that season. He spoke, not in the Orioles clubhouse, but in the press dining room and chose the occasion to denounce a beat writer.
Belle broke down late in 2000, and didn’t play the final three years of his contract. He was on his way to a Hall of Fame career, but it was over at 33. He wasn’t missed
Many teammates say he was understood because in his prime, Belle rarely missed a game, but the contract gnawed at the Orioles for year.
Erickson, who had been a dependable pitcher for the Orioles for four seasons, signed a five-year, $32 million contract to begin in the 1999 season.
The Orioles paid about more than a million dollars per win.
Erickson won 15 games in 1999 and led the league with three shutouts, but missed two of the final four years on his contract and went 10-20 in the other two.
He had off-field issues, too and bounced around for years after his Orioles career, winning just two more games.
Erickson is currently a minor league pitching coach in the Cleveland organization and is married to onetime Monday Night Football reporter Lisa Guerrero.
Almost immediately after the contract extension took effect, Roberts began suffering from a bizarre series of injuries. Formerly healthy, Roberts has played in just 115 games in the first three years of his contract.
While he’s lauded for his determination and hard work in coming back from injuries, it’s become sad to watch. Roberts will try one final time in the spring as he ramps back up after right hip surgery.
Belle, Erickson and Ponson all have something in common. They were all polarizing figures who didn’t live up to their contracts.
Ponson’s contract for the Orioles was for three years and $22.5 million.
He had been traded to San Francisco in July 2003 and re-signed in
Baltimore after the season.
In Dec. 2004, Ponson was arrested for allegedly assaulting an Aruban judge. He spent 11 days in jail. The next month, he was charged with driving under the influence in Florida, and seven months later was charged with the same infraction in Baltimore. The Orioles released him and he later served five days in jail.
He had little success in future years.
Like Roberts, Baez was a good guy with a bad contract. The Orioles decided to beef up their bullpen for 2007. They signed Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford and Baez to three-year contracts. Baez’s three year, $19 million was the worst.
The Cuban refugee would happily describe his defection to anyone who asked and made no excuses for his poor performance.
Baez missed one year of the three and went 4-12 with a 5.02 ERA.