Baseball Evolution West: The Swindell Squad

Baseball Evolution West: The Swindell Squad

Associate Editor Keith Glab scours the NL West, finds the players with the worst contracts in the division, assembles them into a team, and names the whole extravaganza after a journeyman pitcher who helped the Diamondbacks win the 2001 World Series. Truly, these players have swindled (Swindelled?) their teams with poor returns for gobs of cash.

This team has been assembled based on their 2006 salaries and performance only.  Players like Armando Benitez and Rafael Furcal might seem like good fits, but their contracts are back-loaded.

Catcher: Mike Matheny, San Francisco Giants
2006 Salary: $2.5 Million
2006 OPS: .613 

There really aren't any horrendous catcher contracts in the NL West.  This is surprising, since teams will often throw lots of money at thirty-something catchers who can't help but slow down due to all the wear and tear catching puts on their bodies.  The closest example we see of this in the NL West is with Mike Matheny, who turns 36 in September.  He's still a solid defensive player, but a shadow of his former spectacular self.  His hitting had been even worse than normal before he suffered a season-ending concussion at the end of May.  Doctors concluded that the concussion was brought about through continuous wear at catcher rather than solely his latest foul tip off of his chin.  I wish Mike a successful recovery and comeback next year, and I hope that a couple of million dollars eases the pain a bit.

First Base: Ryan Klesko, San Diego Padres
2006 Salary: $10 Million
2006 OPS: N/A

This slot was going to go to Todd Helton before I remembered that Ryan Klesko existed.  The last we'd heard from him, he was complaining that it was too hard to hit homers in PetCo park.  He's finding that it's even tougher to hit homers while on the DL.  He was supposed to be back sometime in June, but it's just as well that he hasn't, given the stellar play of young 1B Adrian Gonzalez.  I suppose the Padres could use him in left field some if he comes back, but he's a huge defensive liability out there.  

Second Base: Jeff Kent, Los Angeles Dodgers
2006 Salary: $9 Million
2006 OPS: .822

Don't get me wrong, Kent is a fine offensive player.  But for $9 million, you'd like to see him with more than 11 homers and 67 hits in mid-August.  He is questionable defensively to say the least, and really isn't a good fit on a team with groundball specialist Derek Lowe (who is making the same figure).  Oddly, the Dodgers signed him to an $11.5 million 1-year extension before the start of the year even though they are committed to Lowe through 2008.

Shortstop: Kaz Matsui, Colorado Rockies
2006 Salary: $8 Million
2006 OPS: .505

I realize that the Mets are paying most of his salary, but this guy's making $8 million this year to play in Triple-A.  Enough said. 

Third Base: Vinny Castilla, Free Agent 2006 Salary: $3.2 Million 2006 OPS: .579

I'm not sure why General Managers continue to sign Castilla for big bucks to play in places besides Coors Field.  Give Kevin Towers of the Padres credit for admitting his mistake and cutting his losses.  Castilla's a great clubhouse guy, but $3.2 million might get Garth Brooks to entertain in the San Diego clubhouse for 81 games.  Plus, it doesn't appear that the Padres have exactly slipped into a funk without him.

Left Field: Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants
2006 Salary: $18 Million
2006 OPS: .950

Bonds has played in nearly 80% of his team's games, and often gets replaced in later innings.  That's good for him, but bad for $18 million.  The interesting thing about Barry's contract is that the Giants had an out clause due to Bonds failure to make 500 plate appearances last season.  If Game of Shadows had come out a bit earlier, you wonder whether Nick Sabean would have thought that the distraction to his ballclub would be worth Bonds' numbers.

Center Field: Steve Finley, San Francisco Giants
2006 Salary: $7 Million
2006 OPS: .716

Talk about someone whose career fell off of a cliff.  I doubt very much that the hoopla surrounding Finley's quest for the 300-300 club generated enough fan interest to offset the fact that the Giants aren't getting much production out of their investment.  On the plus side, they had swapped him for the similarly expensive Edgardo Alfonso, who might have fallen off the very same cliff, and would doubtless be as useless for the Giants right now.  They ought to put up a warning sign by that cliff.

Right Field: Shawn Green, Arizona Diamondbacks
2006 Salary: $8 Million
2006 OPS: .779

Brian Giles and JD Drew have similar salary-to-production ratios this season as Green does, but when you factor in home ballparks, Green is the clear "winner" here.  It also counts against Green that his contract is taking away possible playing time for Carlos Quentin and Scott Hairston.  The Dodgers aren't having problems getting Andre Ethier into their lineup.  Most of the Padres' advanced prospects are older guys who have been labeled, fairly or not, as Quadruple-A hitters.  

Starting Pitcher: Chan Ho Park, San Diego Padres
2006 Salary: $15 Million
2006 ERA: 4.66

It seems like a very long time ago that the Texas Rangers signed Chan Ho Park to a $65 million contract. Chan Ho has proven that he can still pitch in certain stadiums (his ERA is a full point lower at home this year), but for that kind of money you ought to be able to pitch in quicksand if you're asked to.

Relief Pitcher: Eric Gagne, Los Angeles Dodgers
2006 Salary: $10 Million
2006 ERA: 0.00

You just never know with closers.  They can have two straight seasons of utter dominance and then suddenly fall apart. Or they can develop all sorts of physical problems despite pitching less than half as many innings as top starters.  Unfortunately for Gagne and the Dodgers, he falls into that latter category.  And he fell into it just after signing a huge contract.  Gagne has a $12 million option for 2007... you can safely bet that such an option won't see any exercise.


Read more from Keith Glab at Recommended Stories

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