COMMENTARY | What's the worst contract in San Francisco Giants history? If you immediately said "Barry Zito," you'd probably have a good argument. Even though Zito has redeemed himself over the past few years, the sheer size of his contract makes it a massive mistake.
That's too easy, though. Everyone knows about Zito's contract, everyone knows he's overpaid, blah, blah, blah. But at least Zito provides value to the Giants, salary be damned. He's a dependable starter who rarely misses time because of injury, and he's come up big for the Giants when the situation has called for it. He's an important part of the Giants rotation, and therefore he can't be the worst contract the team has ever handed out. Is it a bad contract? Yes. The worst? No.
So what are some of the worst contracts in Giants history? Here's a few that spring to mind:
The Giants were desperate for a closer after the '04 season. Armando Benitez was coming off of a dominant year for the Marlins. It was a perfect storm, if by "perfect storm" you mean "horrific series of events." The Giants handed Benitez a 3-year, $21 million contract and he promptly destroyed his hamstring while trying to cover first during a game in April of '05. When he actually was healthy he was terrible, and he became one of the most hated Giants in the history of the franchise. For their investment, the Giants got 45 saves in 59 chances, a 4.10 ERA, and a 1.48 WHIP. Benitez also delayed Brian Wilson from taking over the closer's job sooner, since the Giants were going to give him every opportunity to earn the money they foolishly gave him. Benitez still ranks as one of the worst signings the Giants have ever made.
Huff was lightning in a bottle for the Giants during their improbable World Series run in 2010. He didn't cost much and produced at an exceptional rate, even finishing seventh in NL NVP voting. The Giants rewarded Huff for his efforts with a 2-year, $20 million deal only to see him completely fall off the talent cliff. For the next two years Huff was a shell of his 2010 self, battling injuries and depression while putting up numbers that any minor leaguer in the Giants' system could have matched at a much smaller salary. Instead, Huff ate up payroll space and took up a roster spot for almost two seasons for seemingly no good reason. It's almost easier to think of Huff's contract extension as a thank you gift for his contributions on the cheap in '10. That deal (the '10 one) was a stroke of genius that paid off handsomely. The extension was a nightmare, and the only silver lining from the Giants' perspective is that it wasn't a 3-year deal.
It was a nice story: Benard, a 50th-round selection of the Giants, found success as a part-time player and hit well enough to play center field every day during the 1999 season. The Giants, sure they had a budding star on their hands, gave Benard a 3-year, $11.1 million extension before the 2000 season. Problem was, Benard wasn't a budding star. He was a reserve outfielder at best who hit like one after signing his deal. The Giants were saddled with Benard's salary as he slowly but surely fell out of favor with the team, and he never again showed the promise he flashed in '99. Benard was a good enough player, but not close to being an $11 million player. It was a huge miscalculation by the Giants at the time and still ranks as one of their worst signings.
After the Giants let Will Clark leave as a free agent before the 1994 season, they needed to make a splash in free agency to add to a team that had won 103 games and somehow still missed the playoffs the year prior. It came in the form of Mark Portugal, a pitcher coming off of an 18-4 record for the Astros. Portugal was supposed to team with John Burkett and Bill Swift to form a dominant pitching staff; instead, he went 15-13 for the Giants over a season and a half before being traded to the Reds. Portugal's 3-year, $11 million deal with the Giants isn't often remembered, but it was a lot of money at the time for a starter and he was a complete disaster. The Giants would've been better off putting that money towards keeping Clark.
Dave Tobener is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer who has written about the Giants for the better part of a decade. His work has appeared on numerous sports websites, including Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew. You can follow him on Twitter @gggiants
- Sports & Recreation