Granted, the Yankees can absorb a three-year, $51-million boondoggle the way most of us can withstand a lone buck swindled by an uncooperative vending machine, but the Jeter extension still reeks of mistake. Jeter hasn't been able to play shortstop adequately in some time, and last year his bat showed signs of decline. In 2011, the decline continues. As of June 1, he's "hitting" .264 AVG/.326 OBP/.329 SLG. Although he's looked better at the plate in recent days, Jeter is 37, so a meaningful rebound isn't likely. The Captain will get his 3,000th hit this season, but the balance of this contract could be ugly from the Yankees' perspective.
Hindsight is 20-20
"In life, there are no do-overs," as those with a keen sense of the obvious are fond of saying. The same goes for baseball, the land of guaranteed contracts, where teams are held accountable for their personnel decisions. But what if that weren't the case? What if we took a buccaneering romp through alternate reality and asked of the world at large: Which decisions from this past offseason would teams and other vested parties revisit if they were allowed a do-over? Come with us, won't you ...
Albert Pujols, Dan Lozano and the Cardinals' offer
Has Pujols's decline phase set in? It's possible. But it's more than just his depressed numbers. Pujols swing looks demonstrably slower, and — in related matters — his groundball and line-drive rates are trending in the wrong direction. Also uncharacteristic are his difficulties thus far with fastballs and sliders. To be sure, Pujols is fully capable of flipping the switch and putting up numbers that will fetch him the largest contract in baseball history. But if his struggles persist? He and his agent, Dan Lozano, may regret passing on the Cardinals' opening offer this winter.
The Angels and Vernon Wells
Was this the single biggest misstep of the winter? Of the present millennium? So far, so bad. Wells, despite being saddled with a contract of unholy dimensions, found himself shipped off to the O.C. in the most jaw-dropping acquisition in recent memory. Wells is signed through 2014 and owed another $86 million, of which the Blue Jays, his former team, will pay just $5 million. (Wells is also entitled to opt for free agency after the current season, which must be the least-likely-to-be-utilized opt-out clause in the history of human business arrangements.) That the Angels traded away a useful player like Mike Napoli as part of the deal only adds to the misery. So this was a bad idea even before Wells' awful start to the 2011 season. Wells is presently on the DL with a strained groin. Perhaps the convalescence will help him at the plate? Maybe?
The Red Sox and Carl Crawford
At the time, this one looked sensible. Crawford has a broad base of skills, and he's entering what should be his prime seasons. But the early returns have not been promising. Particularly troubling is Crawford's .269 OBP. His defense has been customarily outstanding, but Crawford's exceptional range is somewhat squandered in the cramped left-field dimensions at Fenway. His numbers are headed up of late (better than a 1,000 OPS over the last two weeks), so things are getting better. Still, at seven years, $142 million, the bar is awfully high for Crawford. Will the Sox wind up wishing they'd kept the receipt?
The Braves and Dan Uggla
When the Braves traded for Dan Uggla and signed him to a five-year, $62-million contract extension, they were betting on getting rare thump from the middle infield. After all, Uggla has surpassed 30 homers in each of last four seasons. He's never been much with the glove, but the power numbers you can bank on. Or so the Braves thought. At this writing, Uggla is slugging a measly .322 and on pace for just 107 hits despite leading the NL in games played. There's plenty of time for a reversal of fortunes, but that five-year commitment must be making Atlanta nervous
The Yankees and Rafael Soriano
If the rumors are to be believed, this decision was all Hank and Hal Steinbrenner. Predictably, it's not turning out well. To sign Soriano, the Yanks coughed up $35 million over three years and, since he was a Type-A free agent who'd been offered salary arbitration, sent a compensatory draft pick to his former team, the Rays. So far, Soriano has given the Yanks a 5.40 ERA, and he's on the disabled list with elbow soreness. He could miss up to two months. Again, the Yanks can afford to make this kind of tactical error, but in a vacuum it was — and is — an awful decision.
The Nationals and Jayson Werth
Seven years, $126 million ... This one looked, felt and smelled like a mistake at the time. Werth's numbers aren't necessarily bad right now, but a 117 OPS+ from a corner defender doesn't justify superstar dollars. It's not a stretch to think of Werth's contract as Alfonso Soriano 2.0 — hardly the thing a franchise like the Nationals can afford.
The White Sox and Adam Dunn
It's too early in the season to fully condemn any single decision, but this one's looking like a mistake. Dunn's power production is unassailable, but with his large body type, slow footspeed, high strikeout totals, and defensive limitations, he's not the kind of player who tends to age well. Right now, he's batting just .185 and on pace for a mere 14 homers. And buried within those numbers is Dunn's 0-for-38 (!) performance against lefties. The stats should improve, but a contract that runs through Dunn's age-34 season may be an error in judgment on the part of GM Kenny Williams.