The New York Yankees aren’t just one of the most successful franchises of all time; they’re also one of the richest. The “Evil Empire” has never shied away from handing out a big payday.
Late owner George Steinbrenner was famous for giving out huge contracts to players he deemed worthy. The Yankees’ recent signing of Gerrit Cole demonstrates that the Boss’s legacy lives on in at least one way.
Despite the Yankees showing improved financial acumen in recent years, their history is littered with bad free-agent signings. One, in particular, stands out: a player they signed for $46 million. While the number itself isn’t unreasonable, they only got 16 games out of him.
The Yankees’ biggest free-agent signings of all time
Before looking at the Yankees’ biggest mistakes, it helps to consider their free-agent successes for context. The team has spent wisely in the past. Here are some of the Yankees’ greatest signings:
- Reggie Jackson: As capable as he was brash, Jackson was a legendary power hitter. What Yankee fan can forget his three-home-run show against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series?
- Alex Rodriguez: For all of his distractions and steroid controversies, Rodriguez put up monster numbers for the Yankees. Rodriguez won two MVP awards in pinstripes and helped the team earn the 2009 championship with an epic postseason performance.
- Mike Mussina: The Yankees never won a championship with Mussina, and he won 20 games for them only once. It doesn’t matter. Mussina was one of the greatest Yankee pitchers of all time. The Hall of Famer went 123-72 as a Yankee with a 3.88 ERA.
The Yanks’ worst free-agent signings of all time
The Yankees have also signed some clunkers over the years. Below are just three signings the team would like to forget:
- Carl Pavano: After he helped the Florida Marlins upend the Yanks in the 2003 World Series, the Yankees signed Pavano before the 2005 season as the potential new ace. But he struggled during his Yankees career, going 9-8 in two seasons with an ERA of 5.00.
- Hideki Irabu: The Yankees brought Irabu over from Japan in 1997. Unfortunately, he didn’t perform well, going 29-20 with a 4.80 ERA.
- Jacoby Ellsbury: Signing Ellsbury away from the rival Red Sox looked great in 2014. Injuries caught up with Ellsbury, however. He last suited up in 2017 and was cut this offseason; the Yankees still owe him a lot of money.
The team paid $46 million to this player for 16 games
One of the Yankees’ worst signings is Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa. The team signed Igawa prior to the 2007 season, thinking the 27-year-old would play a big role in their rotation for years to come. He didn’t.
Igawa pitched only two seasons in New York. He compiled a measly record of 2-4 and an ERA of 6.66 in only 16 appearances.
The Yankees signed Igawa for $20 million with a $26 million posting fee. For those of you who don’t do math, this equates to them paying him $2.875 million per appearance. It’s money they’d like doubt to have back.
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