Despite former Dodgers All-Star Yasmani Grandal inking a multi-year contract with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, we’re saddled in that weird Hot Stove lull before the Winter Meetings. Now is when news is a bit tougher to come by, so you find your fun in editorials and opinion pieces.
Over at MLB.com, columnist Will Leitch editorialized a topic that surely sparks debate among the 30 fan bases — “every team’s biggest free agent regret.”
Moreover, Leitch opines that Darren Dreifort’s five year, $55M deal was the most regrettable free agent contract in Dodgers history.
Here’s the full section:
Dreifort pitched only 200 innings after Los Angeles gave him this deal, and he retired at the end of it.
Working on an MLB free agency project piece. Crowdsourcing always seems like a good idea.
Who would you say are the three worst FA signings in your favorite team’s franchise history?
— Joel Reuter (@JoelReuterBR) November 19, 2019
Understandably, it can be difficult to come up with 30 different free agent flops for each team — especially for teams that you may not have in-depth knowledge on.
But I’m going to respectfully disagree with Mr. Leitch here, and open this up to debate amongst Dodgers Nation.
I’ll start with my first retort to the source material.
Darren Dreifort was the Dodgers’ first pick in the 1993 first-year player draft — he was the second overall pick behind none other than Alex Rodiguez. Dreifort made his Major League debut with the club in 1994 before ever playing a minor league game.
The right-hander pitched with Los Angeles from 1994-1999 before becoming a free agent. In the 1999-2000 off-season, the Dodgers and Dreifort agreed to that aforementioned five-year deal and he played through a number of injury issues before retiring at the end of his contract in 2004.
Now, this is where we reach the grey area that, depending on how you view it, could blow up the entire setup for the MLB.com article:
Should Darren Dreifort be considered a true free agent signing for Los Angeles?
Yes, technically the former pitcher’s transactions page will read “December 11, 2000: Signed as a Free Agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers,” but considering he re-signed with his former club, do you consider him a free agent for the sake of the article’s argument?
Nevertheless, we’ll play along and next argue against Dreifort as the biggest free agent regret for the Dodgers.
As Leitch mentioned, Dreifort only tossed 200 innings over the life of the contract, thanks in part to Tommy John surgery that cost him most of 2001, and all of the 2002 season.
In Dreifort’s final season, he played a key role out of the bullpen for Jim Tracy’s Dodgers. He appeared in 60 games and pitched to a 3.98 FIP acting as a bridge for Guillermo Mota and reigning Cy Young closer Eric Gagne.
His knee ultimately gave out during the stretch run of the ’04 season, but he was instrumental in helping the Dodgers reach their first postseason in eight years.
When healthy, Dreifort was a nasty dude… (shout out to a baby David Ross).
Taking the long way to get here, while the contract is undoubtedly not pretty, it is hardly a complete albatross (this is purely my opinion of course). And when you consider some other names in recent history alone, you wonder why the MLB author chose Darren Dreifort out of obscurity.
Better Recent Options
- Andruw Jones – 2 years, $36.2M
- Jones hit to the tune of a 38 (!) wRC+ over 75 games and just one season before being released (ousted) by Los Angeles in the off-season. Worst of all, the Dodgers paid for the failed signing through the 2014 season… five years after he was released. (Woo! Deferred payments!)
- Jason Schmidt – 3 years, $47M
- When the Dodgers signed Schmidt, his shoulder was being held together by bubblegum and hopeful thoughts. LA GM Ned Colletti knew this was the case having just worked together with the Giants organization as recently as two years prior. Nevertheless, Ned offered up one of his famous 3-year contracts and the Dodgers got a total of 43.1 innings pitched and 5.37 FIP out of Schmidt over the life of it.
If we’re looking to go back even further for the sake of flexing our memory banks of useless knowledge, people can cite the five-year deal inked by Darryl Strawberry that netted the Dodgers only 214 games played before being released ahead of the fourth year.
As writers, we’re all entitled to our opinions, but sometimes our opinions are wrong. All joking aside, it’s safe to say that at the very least Will Leitch was very successful in stoking conversation…
Who is your biggest free agent flop for the Dodgers? Let us know in the comments below.