Now that the hate-affair has ended in New York with Luis Castillo and the Mets removed one long-standing issue out of their two (the other being Oliver Perez), there is one less dead weight hanging for a team. And Luis Castillo was certainly not alone in that category. Other teams have simply hung on to players that may have been useful at one time but now represent a black hole sucking life and value away from their respective teams. It has always been the case in baseball. Severing ties isn't as easy as it looks. The purpose of this post is to look at some other dead weights around the majors. The definition here is for a player who has played for a number of years while adding little or no value in their most recent seasons. Here are just a few that stand out.
A. J. Pierzynski - Chicago White Sox: Peter Gammons' most recent piece for MLB.com uses Pierzynski as a recent example of how Chicago owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, is one of the best owners to play for in baseball. Gammons told the story of how Pierzynski had yet to be signed during the winter meetings in Orlando. According to Gammons, Pierzynski called Reinsdorf and was signed the next day. While Pierzynski will be a better value this year at $2 million than he was last year at $6 million, Pierzynski has outlived his usefulness for the Chicago White Sox. He really hasn't been a good starting catcher since 2003. And though he manages to find a way to attain positive WAR through the bonus points given a catcher for that position, Pierzynski is a black hole on offense. His walk rate has really begun to rival the elder Molinas and he walked only fifteen times in 503 plate appearances last season. His defensive metrics did rate above his past several seasons however though he's never been particularly good at throwing out those attempting to steal. Gammons may give bonus points to Reinsdorf for signing Pierzynski for another two years, it seems for this writer to be a continued step in the wrong direction for the White Sox.
Jason Kendall - Kansas City Royals: Perhaps it is pick-on-catcher day here in the FanDome. And perhaps there is a good reason for that as the talent in the catching realm is about as thin as it has ever been in the major leagues (sounds like a good post subject for the future). And of all that lack of talent, Jason Kendall might be the least valuable long-standing starting catcher for a team in baseball. Hated in Kansas City's fan population nearly as much as Luis Castillo was in New York, Royals fans were actually celebrating Kendall's injury in Spring Training. And for good reason. Though he is still a somewhat decent receiver, he is a black hole on offense and has been for quite some time. He walks more than Pierzynski, but other than that, he's even less valuable a hitter than Pierzynski is. Kendall's OPS+ rates for the last four years say it all: 62, 75, 71 and 71. Enough said.
Carlos Lee - Houston Astros: It was just a few years ago that Carlos Lee posted a 144 OPS+. Offensive production like that can overcome total inadequacy in the field and come close to being worth the $19 million in salary. But the only good thing that can be said for Lee's 2010 offensive season was that he still hit 24 homers. Other than that, he fell off a cliff in all other offensive categories and add that to his continued fall off defensively and you get a dark pit that cost you a whole lot of money to dig. Lee's slash line for 2010 was not pretty: .246/.291/.417. According to the way that Baseball-reference.com figures wins above replacement (WAR), Lee finished with a negative value of -1.6 WAR. Ouch. That's a black hole alright. Lee's offense might rebound a little for Houston in 2011, but there is no way his defense recovers at the age of 35.
J. D. Drew - Boston Red Sox: You can probably argue this one both ways. But to this observer, Drew is a black hole that plays with a joyless lack of enthusiasm and is guaranteed to miss 30 to 40 games a year due to nagging injuries. Drew managed to stay above average in OPS+ and in his fielding metrics. But his 2.5 WAR in 2010 did not come close to earning his $14 million paycheck. He's long been a darling of the analysts for his on base percentage and the fact that he continues to slug at a decent rate. Drew has outlived his usefulness in this writer's opinion and probably stands in the way of players like Kalish who deserves a shot at being a much cheaper alternative for the Red Sox in the outfield.
James Loney - Los Angeles Dodgers: Loney has gained the reputation as a good clutch guy for the Dodgers. But over the long haul, he has remained one of the least productive first basemen in baseball. That was okay when he was making a million a year while in his early years under Dodger control. But now he is going to make nearly $5 million in 2011 and he's never going to be that rockem-sockem first baseman that most teams seem to have. He's never going to hit more than 10-12 homers a year (he has none this spring) and his batting average and his slugging percentage have gone down three years running. He always bats in the middle of the Dodgers' line up and he just doesn't belong there. He's a good fielding first baseman, but 1.1 WAR out of that position is not going to help you.
There are probably others we can talk about here, but this list is already draining the Fan's energy...much like these players drain energy for the teams for which they play.