Tuesday, May 03, 2005
May 3rd, 1972
Darren Dreifort Born
Although the popular answer these days would surely be Jason Giambi, I will go to my grave believing Darren Dreifort was signed to the worst contract of all time. This isn't simply a matter of performance during the contract, although we'll get to that in a moment, but also a matter of the context in which the contract was signed.
Leaving aside all the steroid stuff for the moment--since shouting about it won't add anything here--when the Yankees signed Giambi, he was coming off a monster 2001 season: .342/.477/.660, good for an OPS+ of 202 with thirty-eight home runs. He was the MVP the season before in 2000 when he posted a 188 OPS+, and although he was on the wrong side of thirty, the Yankees required an offensive overhaul and adding Giambi gave them a powerful bat in the middle of the order. In contrast, when "New Sheriff" Kevin Malone signed Darren Dreifort to a five-year, fifty-five million dollar contract, he was coming off a season in which had posted a 4.16 ERA, good for an ERA+ of 104 at Chavez Ravine. Malone couldn't claim Dreifort was an innings eater; he hadn't pitched two hundred innings that season, nor had he done so in the three seasons since he became a starter. Malone also couldn't claim that other two seasons starting gave reason for optimism, Dreifort was unable to even top the league average ERA those years, nor throw two hundred innings. Before the signing, Dreifort had only featured the "favorable" leader boards three times, once in 1998 when his strike outs per nine innings ranked sixth and in 1999 and 2000 when he was finished eighth and ninth in shutouts, with one. Despite all these, Malone still gave Dreifort fifty-five million over five years.
Getting into performance during the contract, Giambi actually served as an extremely useful hitter for two seasons with the Yankees, posting OPS+ of 174 and 151 before slipping to injuries and ineffectiveness in 2004. In contrast, Darren Dreifort managed the trick of being both ineffective and injured for the entirety of the contract. I'll spare you the complete run down of Dreifort's medical woes--we don't have all day--but he failed to pitch at all in 2002 (and so far in 2005) and has averaged less than sixty innings in the three years he has been healthy. The Dodgers attempted to move Dreifort to the bullpen in the hope that would keep him healthy in 2004, but it didn't work and he went under the knife again in mid-season last year. When Dreifort was pitching, he was ineffective, his healthiest year was in 2001 but it was also his worse when he managed an ERA+ of just 78.
Jason Giambi is a lousy contract, and may yet prove worse, but when you consider the circumstances of its signing, compared with that of Dreifort, and what value the team has gotten out of the contract, Darren Dreifort's contract reigns with the dubious honor of worst contract in history.