NY Mets History: The Five Worst Contracts of the 21st Century

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Throughout NY Mets history, the team has made a number of moves that didn’t pan out. In 1971, they traded Nolan Ryan to the Angels. In 1982, the Mets signed George Foster to a large contract, just to watch him founder. In 1996, the Mets sent Jeff Kent to the Indians for the underperforming Carlos Baerga. In the 21st century though, the Mets made some of their worst acquisition in franchise history. These five contracts from the past 20 years stand out from the rest, based on the way they harmed the team.

NY Mets History: Worst Contracts Since 2000

5. Jeurys Familia, 2018

Jeurys Familia was one of the Mets’ best relievers from 2014-2018. He helped the team reach the World Series in 2015, was an All-Star, and set the franchise single-season save record in 2016. With the team underperforming in 2018, the Mets dealt Familia to the A’s. After that season concluded, the Mets brought Familia back on a three-year deal worth $30 million.

The hope was for Familia to serve as the primary setup man for Edwin Diaz in 2019. Unfortunately, Familia struggled badly with his control, issuing 42 walks in just 60 innings pitched (6.3 BB/9). His ERA ballooned to 5.70 and his WHIP went up to a startling 1.733. In 2020, Familia’s ERA dropped to 3.71, but his walk rate increased to 6.4 BB/9 while his strikeout rate fell to just 7.8 K/9. Familia’s contract isn’t over yet, but this is a deal that Mets fans wish the team could undo.

4. Jay Bruce, 2017

Jay Bruce was one of the lone bright spots for the 92-loss Mets in 2017. In 103 games with the team, Bruce hit .256/.321/.520 (121 OPS+) with 29 homers, 20 doubles, and 75 RBIs before he was shipped to Cleveland in August. He would continue to hit well down the stretch and just like Familia, the Mets decided to bring Bruce back. They gave him a three-year contract worth $36 million.

Bruce battled a nagging heel injury throughout the season and was limited to just 94 games in 2018. He hit a weak .223/.310/.370 (90 OPS+) with just nine homers, 37 RBIs, and a -0.9 rWAR. At the end of the season, Bruce was shipped along with Anthony Swarzak, Justin Dunn, Gerson Bautista, and Jarred Kelenic to Seattle for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. This is one of the biggest trades in NY Mets history, and Bruce was mainly included for the team to be able to dump his salary.

3. Jed Lowrie, 2019

Jed Lowrie had a career-high year in 2018. He hit .267/.353/.448 (121 OPS+) with 23 homers, 37 doubles, and 99 RBIs. Lowrie also racked up 4.0 rWAR and made it to his first All-Star Game. The Mets had a logjam at third base, but they still decided to sign Lowrie to a two-year deal worth $20 million.

Lowrie couldn’t even get into a Spring Training game before suffering a knee sprain. He would remain sidelined until September, and he finished the season with just eight plate appearances, recording no hits. Lowrie suffered a series of injuries in 2020 and didn’t appear in a game. After that season, Lowrie became a free agent and re-signed with the A’s.

2. Oliver Perez, 2009

The Mets were very active in the 2008-09 offseason, bringing in the likes of Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz to shore up their pitching staff. The team had a weak starting rotation outside of Johan Santana though, but they decided to focus on retaining 27-year-old Oliver Perez, who was coming off two solid seasons in a row. Perez put up a cumulative 3.91 ERA/4.52 FIP (109 ERA+) with 354 strikeouts in 371 innings across 2007 and 2008. There were red flags about Perez though, as he had led the majors with 105 walks in 2008.

In January of 2009, the Mets re-signed Oliver Perez to a three-year deal worth $36 million. According to an ESPN article, the Mets were in talks with free agent hurlers Derek Lowe and Randy Wolf, but the team opted for the in-house option of Perez.

To say that this contract was a disaster would be an understatement. Not only would Perez battle knee injuries for the next two seasons, but his numbers were also hideous when he was on the field. Between 2009-2010, Perez pitched to a horrendous 3-9 record with a 6.81 ERA/6.64 WHIP (59 ERA+) and a 1.985 WHIP, while issuing an eye-popping 100 walks in 112.1 innings (against 99 strikeouts, good for 8.0 BB/9). The Mets moved Perez to the bullpen in the second half of the 2010 season, and he refused to get sent to the minor leagues.

In March of 2011, the Mets released Perez unconditionally. The team remained on the hook for the remainder of his $12 million salary. This without a doubt is one of the worst contracts in NY Mets history.

1. Jason Bay, 2009

From 2004-2009, Jason Bay was one of the more underrated hitters in baseball. During those years, Bay hit .280/.375/.519 (131 OPS+) with 181 homers, 186 doubles, and a 21.6 rWAR. Bay won 2004 Rookie of the Year, was a three-time All-Star and won a Silver Slugger in 2009. Bay also hit a career-high 36 homers in 2009. The Mets, one of Bay’s old organizations, won the bidding on Bay’s services and signed him to a four-year deal worth $66 million.

Bay’s time in Flushing, NY got off to a rough start, as he only played in 95 games, hitting just .259/.347/.402 (105 OPS+) with six homers and 47 RBIs. Bay’s numbers continued to decline in the ensuing years as he continued to suffer from injuries. After a horrendous season in 2012, the Mets released Bay. His overall numbers included an abysmal .234/.318/.369 (90 OPS+) with just 26 homers and 1.8 rWAR. Bay’s contract is widely considered as one of the worst in NY Mets history.

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Mathias is a graduate student at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. He is currently studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism on the Sports Media and Communications track. He graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2021, where he studied journalism and served as the Sports Editor and Opinions Editor for the school's newspaper, The Signal. He joined Overtime Heroics as a writer in June of 2019 and became an editor in December of 2020 before taking over the MLB department in June of 2021. Mathias is also a former varsity swimmer and is the youngest of five kids.