Between hefty free-agent contracts and big trades made this past offseason, a number of players went into the 2016 season with huge expectations. And of course, not everyone lived up to those expecations. In fact, some players fell flat on their faces in the first year with their new teams.
Let's take a look back at the most disappointing players of 2016.
Getty ImagesHannah Foslien
Jason Heyward, OF, Chicago Cubs
Heyward was arguably the biggest free agent available this past offseason, and the Cubs were able to land him to the tune of $184 million over eight years. He’s being paid big money to be a big star, but that’s not the player the Cubbies got this season. Heyward’s production has been nothing short of abysmal and not even his Gold Glove skills could save his season.
Heyward ended his 2015 campaign with an impressive slash line of .293/.359/.439 with 13 homers and 23 stolen bases over 154 games — yet in 2016, he’s hitting .225/.296/.312 with just six homers and only eight stolen bases through 127 games.
While the Cubs have dominated their division all season and are on the verge of clinching their first NL Central title since 2008, Heyward didn’t play a big part in his team’s success this year. It’s probably safe to say he’s the most disappointing player of the 2016 season — but he’ll get his shot at redemption in October as the Cubs attempt to chase down their first World Series title since 1908.
Getty ImagesJennifer Stewart
Zack Greinke, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Greinke had an incredible season in 2015, going 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA, which was good enough for a second-place finish in the NL Cy Young voting. Everyone knew it would be tough for him to reach that level of success again in 2016, but he’s regressed much more than anyone expected. The Diamondbacks inked Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million deal in December, thinking they were getting a top-tier ace to lead their contenting club. But the 32-year-old righty has been underwhelming in his first season with Arizona — but then again, so has the entire team.
While Greinke’s season doesn’t look all that bad at first-glance — he’s 12-6 with a 4.54 ERA in 24 starts — he’s given up a ton of homers (22) and his numbers are far from what you’d expect from your ace making that kind of cash.
Getty ImagesJim Rogash
Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Detroit Tigers
Early in the season, Zimmermann looked like he was worth every penny of the five-year, $110 million contract the Tigers signed him to in November. After posting a 1.50 ERA through his first seven starts, Zimmermann completely fell apart and still hasn't recovered. In nine starts since May 12, Zimmermann has posted a 7.30 ERA and spent time on the disabled list with neck and lat injuries. After spending over a month on the DL, Zimmermann was activated for a Sept. 10 start but didn't even make it out of the second inning (four hits, six runs, three homers) before he was pulled.
Zimmermann has an ERA of 8.23 in his past 10 starts, and the Tigers have announced they're skipping his next start. He's certainly not the same guy we saw excel in Washington over the past few years.
Getty ImagesDuane Burleson
James Shields, SP, Chicago White Sox
If it weren’t bad enough to be on this list, Shields has been doubly disappointing this season, as he’s had the chance to disappoint not one, but two teams and fanb ases this season.
The 34-year-old right-hander signed a four-year, $75 million contract with the Padres in February 2015 and had a decent first season with San Diego, finishing the year 13-7 with a 3.91 ERA. Expected to be the Padres’ ace in 2016, Shields got off to a dismal start, going 2-7 with a 4.28 ERA in 11 starts before San Diego decided to pull the plug. He was traded to the White Sox in June but instead of reviving his season on the south side of Chicago, things only got worse for the pitcher once dubbed “Big Game James.”
Shields has gone 3-10 with a 7.30 ERA in 18 starts for the White Sox, making him 5-17 with a 6.01 ERA in 29 starts on the season. Shields recently told reporters that he did not have “a good feel for the baseball” this year and that he expects to have much better results next season. Fortunately for Shields, it can’t get much worse than the train wreck of a season he's had in 2016.
Getty ImagesRob Foldy
Justin Upton, OF, Detroit Tigers
Upton is another free-agent swing and miss by Tigers GM Al Avila, who replaced Dave Dombrowski in Aug. 2015. Upton's overall numbers aren't horrendous, but he dug himself a huge hole early in the season with his offensive struggles. He led all of MLB in strikeouts at the end of April with 38, and hit .221 and .213 in April and May, respectiveley. It wasn't until late June when Upton started to put up respectable numbers, although he fizzled out once again in August, ending the month with a .223/.298/.415 slash line.
Upton has started September off hot, already hitting four homers this month, but it's likely too little, too late for the second-place Tigers.
MLB Photos via Getty ImagesMark Cunningham
Todd Frazier, 3B, Chicago White Sox
Now this is a strange one, because Frazier is hitting home runs but his batting average is atrocious. When the White Sox acquired the 30-year-old slugger from the Reds this offseason, they were expecting a middle-of-the-order slugger. And by those standards, they got exactly what they expected, as Frazier has put up 36 homers so far this season. But oddly, Frazier is batting .215 and already has 143 strikeouts through 517 at-bats.
While it’s hard to be truly disappointed with a guy who will likely finish the year with 40 homers, Frazier has struggled with the better pitchers in the league and clearly needs to work on his plate discipline. The White Sox had an awful year, and trading for Frazier was a mistake for Chicago.