Image: K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune
Check out the other 2022 Gallardo Award awards here.
The M-SABR Gallardo Awards, originally conceived by alumni Cam Cain and Sahil Shah, are given to the worst players in baseball. The previous editions in 2018 (AL/NL) and 2019 didn’t mimic every MLB award. This changes in 2022.
This is the fourth article in the series, honoring the worst player acquisitions in MLB for the 2022 season. The award is given to one offseason free agent signing and one trade deadline move from each league, along with one honorable mention.
AL Worst Free Agent Signing – SP Eduardo Rodriguez, DET
E-Rod’s lack of success in 2022 was due in part to his time taken off for personal reasons, which limited him to only 17 starts. Regardless, when he was available, the numbers weren’t good for the 30 year old lefty. While his ERA did actually go down from 2021, his average fastball velocity dropped almost one mile per hour, and his K/9 and BB/9 both took considerable hits. He hit a career low in strikeouts, setting down only 7.12 per nine innings while walking a career high 3.36.
Pitching to contact in a pitcher-park like Comerica can work for short periods of time, but with a BABIP of .277 (also a career low) against, it seems only fair to predict some considerable regression in 2023. That, along with the fact that he has spent a considerable amount of time off the field doesn’t bode well for the Tigers, who signed him for five years and $77 million in the last offseason.
Detroit, who likely expected to at least somewhat compete in 2022 and 2023, has found themselves in a worse position than they expected. Without diving too deeply into that story, Rodgriguez represented a front-office hope that they could make a playoff run this past year or in the years to come. It’s not looking like that’s the case, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers are looking to dump E-Rod’s contract onto someone else in the coming year. That is, if a team would consider even taking it.
AL Worst Deadline Deal – OF Harrison Bader, NYY
Harrison Bader wasn’t a particularly bad baseball player in 2022, he just wasn’t good either. And in looking at the return St. Louis got in Jordan Montgomery, it seems obvious that this deserved the title of worst American League trade.
With the Cardinals, Montgomery saw his fastball reach career high levels, and both his FIP and xFIP in St. Louis were career lows by a large margin. In almost half the innings he pitched in New York, the lefty matched his fWAR total while also seeing a considerable (20 point) increase in BABIP against. Whether or not the Cardinals knew it, they got a genuine ace in Montgomery; if he builds on this 2022 season in ‘23, this trade could look even worse for the Yankees.
That is in large part due to Harrison Bader’s inability to hit in the friendly confines of Yankees stadium. While, granted, it was only through 14 games, Bader’s wRC+ was half of his St. Louis number, striking out in 30% of his PAs and only walking in 4%. Will this level out in 2023? It absolutely could. Bader has proven that he can be an above league average hitter in the majors, and I would be surprised if he continued to play poorly.
However, with a BABIP of .313 and the pressure of manning CF in New York, we’ll see how long a leash the Yankees and their fans give him. The pressure got to a significantly better hitter in Joey Gallo; if Bader succumbs similarly, this trade could be looked back on as the worst of the ‘22 season.
Editor’s Note: Bader’s postseason contributions were great for the Yankees after a scorching 1.250 OPS in nine games. I even saw one of his five postseason homers in Cleveland, but this is an award given out for the regular season. Keep this in mind for the NL picks as well.
Honorable Mention: Red Sox acquire Eric Hosmer and two prospects for Jay Groome
NL Worst Free Agent Signing – OF Nick Castellanos, PHI
In fairness to Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies’ front office, Nick Castellanos had been a consistent, above average bat for years before they handed him $100 million over five years. Aside from a below-average 2020, the right-fielder had posted a wRC+ above 110 every year dating back to 2016.
Unfortunately, the 2020 outlier was a harbinger for 2022. Castellanos recorded a below average wRC+ and continued his abysmal defense. Be it a lack of attention or a combination of age and a defective glove, he put up an impressively bad -10 Outs Above Average in the last year (second worst among right fielders, trailing only Gold Glove Nominee Juan Soto). The culmination of these two evils was a -0.7 fWAR and a -0.1 bWAR.
Offensively, something changed for Castellanos in 2022. From 2016 to 2021 (including the ‘20 down year) he posted expected slugging numbers in the top 10% of the league or better. They were consistently in the mid .500’s and kept his bat productive despite mediocre walk and strikeout rates.
In 2022, though, the outfielder’s xSLG was south of .400. A hundred and forty point dive meant he wasn’t generating any pop. It wasn’t simply a case of unlucky bounces or well-positioned defense; the results wouldn’t come unless he was able to change back.
NL Worst Deadline Deal – OF Juan Soto and 1B Josh Bell, SDP
At the deadline, this was heralded across the league as arguably the best trade completed. The Padres get “current Ted Williams”, as Soto is sometimes called, and a bounceback Josh Bell to help them win their first World Series. Unfortunately, they didn’t. And in the process of acquiring the two bats, they gave away three of their top four 2021 prospects. Their farm system is decimated, and for what? Josh Bell’s OPS dropped 300 points to an abysmal .587 after the trade, and has now signed with Cleveland.
And Soto? Arguably one of the greatest young players in baseball saw a considerable regression; his OPS dropped by 120 points as his BABIP climbed twenty. This indicates that, even though on the year his BABIP was below his career averages, the regression was likely due to a swing or approach change with his new ballclub.
For the amount San Diego gave up, it’s difficult to find a worse trade in 2022. Their “monumental” haul consisted of one rental in Bell and a great (but regressed) player in Soto. If Soto bounces back in 2023 and beyond, this could prove to be as good a trade as it seemed in midseason. The current fact of the matter is that the Padres’ farm is decimated, and their major league team isn’t looking like the dynasty they paid for.
Honorable Mention: Mets acquire Darin Ruf for J.D. Davis and three prospects
Categories: 2022 Gallardo Awards, Articles, Season Analysis
Are you kidding???? Harrison Bader was practically heroic in his short time in NY. Upon hitting the field his hot streak propelled them back on track to win the division and then his record breaking performance and ‘clutch’ playing in the playoffs had you hoping that he could do it all himself. Not everyone can shine under pressure. This guy always does.
Again, You need to know what you are watching and the effect it has on the line up and other players. Juan Soto although the production was less; managed to make teams change their approach to the line up. Bell to a much lesser extent. Without Soto the Padres do not make the playoffs. Period. Awful selections.
The worst deals by far were made by the Brewers. Not even close. The Mets made a stupid deal as well that cost them everything.
I am not panning you on purpose. I swear…. but, Castellanos is the guy that stepped up and made some remarkable plays saving the Phillies games in the Playoffs. Without Castellanos the Phillies do not advance.
C’mon… Kris Bryant was by far the worst free Agent signing. Along with Javy Baez in Detroit. Honorable mention is Cardinals Steven Matz and Nelson Cruz…