Baseball's 30 biggest disappointments in 2016

Most baseball trades require years of data to determine a winner and a loser. In the case of the December 2015 deal that sent right-hander Shelby Miller from the Atlanta Braves to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the only difference additional time will...

A look of each team's most disappointing player in 2016, as chosen by The Sports Xchange's national network of baseball writers. Illustration

Most baseball trades require years of data to determine a winner and a loser.

In the case of the December 2015 deal that sent right-hander Shelby Miller from the Atlanta Braves to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the only difference additional time will make is in deciding whether it was merely the worst trade of the year or one of the worst in a generation.

The swap was likely a big reason why Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart was fired on Monday.

To acquire Miller, who was coming off a 6-17 season, and minor league left-hander Gabe Speier, Arizona sent outfielder Ender Inciarte, right-hander Aaron Blair and minor league shortstop Dansby Swanson to Atlanta.

Inciarte developed into a Gold Glove candidate and hit .291 with three homers and 29 RBIs in 131 games for the Braves.


Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, broke into the majors with the Braves in August and hit .302 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 38 games.

Miller, meanwhile, finished 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and earned a midseason demotion to the minors during his fifth major league season.

Headlined by Miller, here is a look of each team's most disappointing player in 2016, as chosen by The Sports Xchange's national network of baseball writers.



Following two strong seasons in which he went a combined 7-7 with a 2.66 ERA and 125 strikeouts over 105 innings, LHP Tony Sipp signed a three-year, $18 million deal last offseason. He returned for a third season in Houston and struggled mightily, posting a 4.95 ERA while allowing 12 home runs in just 43 2/3 innings, more homers than in his two previous seasons combined. Renowned for his ability to get lefties and righties out, Sipp allowed a 1.012 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) against right-handed hitters in 2016.


LHP C.J. Wilson hoped to regain his spot in the rotation after undergoing elbow surgery in August 2015. However, Wilson experienced biceps tendinitis early in spring training, landing him on the disabled list. Shoulder problems limited him to just four innings in May during a minor league rehabilitation assignment, and he ultimately underwent season-ending surgery in July. Wilson, 35, is a free agent after finishing a five-year contract worth $77.5 million. He likely will retire to pursue his interests in automobile dealerships and racing.



RHP Sonny Gray finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting in 2015 and was an AL All-Star in just his third major league season. Gray was expected to be even better in 2016. Instead, he had by far the worst season of his young career. After winning three of his first four starts, Gray went 0-7 with a 6.16 ERA over 12 starts, and he finished 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA. Gray also had stints on the disabled list due to a strained right trapezius and a strained right forearm.


RHP Taijuan Walker, the organization's two-time top prospect, was supposed to emerge as a legitimate front-end-of-the-rotation starter this year. Instead, Walker struggled so badly that he found himself back at Triple-A. A strong September seemed to put Walker back in line as a key piece to the Mariners' future, but the front office might be tempted to gauge interest in the 24-year-old pitcher. Seattle's No. 2 starter to open the season, Walker went 8-11 with a 4.22 ERA and is no longer considered the replacement-in-waiting for aging ace Felix Hernandez.


In 2015, OF Shin-Soo Choo lived up to his mammoth seven year, $130 million contract in year one of the deal. This year was another story, as the expected leadoff hitter couldn't stay healthy. Three trips to the disabled list limited him to 48 games as he missed time because of lower back inflammation, a right calf strain and then a fractured left forearm. In his limited action, he hit just .242 with 17 RBIs. At 34 and with four more years left on his contract, Choo might be looking at a future as a designated hitter.




RHP James Shields was supposed to provide the White Sox with a reliable No. 3 starter when the team acquired him in June from the San Diego Padres. Instead, Shields unraveled. He finished the 4-12 with a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts for the White Sox. Add a 2-7 record in 11 starts with San Diego, and the 34-year-old sustained a staggering 19 losses on the season. Shields figures to return to the South Side in 2017, and the White Sox will need him to be much better in order to compete.


C Yan Gomes got off to a horrendous start offensively, then missed the last 2 1/2 months of the season due to a separated shoulder. In 2014, Gomes won a Silver Slugger by hitting .278 with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs. This year, he played in only 74 games and hit just .167 with 11 homers and 34 RBIs. He continued to receive high marks for his handling of the pitching staff, but the Indians need more offense out of the catching position.


RHP Jordan Zimmermann signed a five-year, $110 million contract as a free agent last winter and looked to be a bargain when he earned the AL Pitcher of the Month for April with a 5-0 record and 0.55 ERA. Then came a groin injury, then came a sore neck, then came messed up mechanics, then came a big hole in the Tigers' rotation. Zimmermann made just three starts and one relief appearance after June 30, and he finished 9-7 with a 4.87 ERA. A winter of building arm strength should help.


Last fall, LF Alex Gordon helped the Royals win the World Series, and he subsequently signed the biggest contract in franchise history, both in terms of average annual value and total value: four years, $72 million. He then struggled most of the season to get his batting average above .200, finishing at .220. It was the worst average among the 75 players who qualified for the American League batting race. Gordon hit 17 home runs but drove in just 40 runs while striking out a career-high 148 times.


1B Joe Mauer, a former American League batting champion, hit a career-low .261 and again dealt with injuries. Mauer was out of the lineup often in the final month because of sore quadriceps, another leg issue for the former catcher. He finished with 49 RBIs while hitting mostly in the second and third spots in the order. Mauer had a bit of a resurgence in May with five home runs, but he managed just five the rest of the way. As the highest-paid player on the roster at $23 million a year, Mauer must contribute much more.



Although 1B Chris Davis finished with 38 homers and 84 RBIs, he batted just .221 and struck out 219 times, the most in the major leagues by a wide margin. Milwaukee Brewers 1B Chris Carter (206 strikeouts) was the only other player over 200. Davis, who signed a seven-year, $161 million deal last winter, was affected by nagging injuries. Still, he had a great season defensively, and the Orioles hope for fewer strikeouts and a higher average next year.


RHP Junichi Tazawa, probably overworked in the first half, was relegated to less-important situations late in the season. Before the All-Star break, he was 1-1 with a 3.62 ERA. After the break, he went 2-1 with a 5.19 ERA, though he finished strong, throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings over his final seven appearances. Tazawa wound up with a career-high 4.17 ERA, and his 53 appearances and 49 2/3 innings were his lowest totals over the past four years.


RHP Michael Pineda's numbers were hard to explain: a 6-12 record, 4.82 ERA, 207 strikeouts and 27 home runs allowed. Manager Joe Girardi described Pineda's season as "the most interesting I've ever seen." Girardi added, "It's mind-boggling. It just doesn't make sense. And you look for reasons, and believe me, we'll look, and I'm sure we'll look a long time this winter." At times, Pineda displays the ability to dominate, but it is doubtful the Yankees would accept such inconsistency beyond next year.


RHP Chris Archer had Cy Young Award buzz before the season, but he saw his ERA balloon from 3.23 in 2015 to 4.02 this year, and he needed a strong finish to bring it down to that level. He continues to be an elite strikeout pitcher (his 233 K's tied for second in the American League), but that comes at the expense of his pitch count, so he didn't go as far into games. Archer barely avoided being the majors' first 20-game loser since 2003, finishing 9-19.


1B Justin Smoak was signed to a two-year deal during the season, but he did little to justify that confidence, batting .217/.314/.391 with 14 homers and 34 RBIs in 126 games. More consistent playing time might have helped him, but it was hard to give him more with 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion often required to play first base with the DH spot being used for players dealing with nagging injuries. Smoak still is an excellent fielder and was often used as a late-game defensive replacement.



RHP Shelby Miller was brought in to be the No. 2 starter, but he struggled so much that he was optioned to Triple-A Reno after the All-Star break to regain his bearings. Miller finished the season with 11 scoreless innings in his last two starts, so there's that. He wound up 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA in 20 starts. Miller gave up 127 hits in just 101 innings, and he walked 42 while striking out 70.


OF Gerardo Parra, who signed a three-year, $27.5 million free contract agent last winter, fell far short of his career norms this year. He hit .253/.271/.399 with seven homers and 39 RBIs in 102 games with just nine walks in 381 plate appearances. A high left ankle sprain caused him to miss 46 games, and upon returning, Parra, due to the rise of rookie OF David Dahl, became a fourth outfielder and occasional first baseman. Parra is expendable, but he is owed $19.5 million, including a $1.5 million buyout on a $12 million club option in 2019.


LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu was limited to one disastrous start this year because of injuries. Ryu missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing shoulder surgery but failed to bounce this year despite a season-long effort and rehab stints. On Sept. 28, he underwent yet another elbow procedure -- an arthroscopic debridement to remove damaged tissue -- and the Dodgers are optimistic he will return in 2017. However, they have been looking forward to his return for years.


RHP Tyson Ross never pitched for the Padres again this year after sustaining a mysterious shoulder injury on Opening Day against the Los Angeles Dodgers. After winning a combined 23 games and averaging 196 innings with a 3.03 ERA over the previous two seasons, Ross was done after 5 1/3 innings this season. What was originally described as shoulder inflammation became a question mark. Offseason surgery is a possibility after three comeback attempts all failed.


Giants fans are ready to crucify RHP Santiago Casilla, but let's be realistic. The guy was promoted from setup man to closer, and he now is back being a setup man, which is where he belongs. And he did save 31 games, which isn't bad. On the other hand, you could argue that CF Denard Span didn't have 31 good games all season. The key offensive acquisition in the offseason inexplicably retained the leadoff spot most of the season despite stealing fewer bases in six months (12) than 3B Eduardo Nunez did in two (13).



OF Jason Heyward signed an eight-year, $184 million deal prior to 2016 and went on to a hot-and-cold regular season, batting .230 with seven homers and 49 RBIs and career-low slugging (.325) and on-base (.306) percentages. He managed just three homers in 75 home games and posted an anemic .305 slugging percentage at Wrigley Field. A lifetime .262 batter, he hit .293 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015. The lackluster offense was somewhat offset by Heyward's steady and occasionally spectacular defensive play.


RHP Homer Bailey came into spring training expecting to return to the rotation by late April or May. Following setbacks in his rehab from Tommy John surgery, Bailey didn't make his first start for the Reds until July 31. After posting a 6.65 ERA in six starts, Bailey was shelved again with biceps soreness. Bailey, who owns a pair of no-hitters in his career, signed a six-year, $105 million contract in 2014. He has made eight starts the past two seasons combined.


OF Domingo Santana was penciled in as the Opening Day starter in right field but never seemed to get comfortable and struggled to stay on the field. He appeared in just 77 games for Milwaukee, battling a series of arm and shoulder injuries, and he batted .256 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs. The Brewers still have high hopes for Santana, so it is likely he will be on the roster come Opening Day, but with a glut of talent in the minor leagues, Milwaukee will have options if Santana can't get it together.


RHP Gerrit Cole, 26, was needed to be a solid member of the rotation, if not the No. 1 starter, after winning 19 games last year, but inconsistency and injuries held him back. He was 7-10 with a 3.88 ERA and a 2.72 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his final five outings, he went 0-4 with an 8.37 ERA. Cole made just one start in September due to right elbow posterior inflammation that led to two stints on the disabled list.


RHP Trevor Rosenthal came into the season as the team's lockdown closer and lost his job before the calendar hit July, the result of too many walks and too many blown saves. It turned out Rosenthal was pitching with shoulder pain, and he wound up on the disabled list. When he came back in September, albeit in a low-leverage role, he looked much better and gave St. Louis three key innings in a critical win Oct. 1 over Pittsburgh. He finished 2-4 with a 4.46 ERA but will figure into the late-inning mix next year.



RHP Matt Wisler began the season as the team's No. 2 starter but had his stock fall after an uneven 2016. He went 7-13 with a 5.00 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 156 2/3 innings. However, he allowed a team-worst 26 home runs -- four more than RHP Julio Teheran yielded even though Teheran threw 32 more innings. The Braves like Wisler's makeup and his approach, but he will have something to prove in spring training.


LHP Wei-Yin Chen, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract in January, was a flop in his first year with Miami. His contract is back-loaded, so if he continues to struggle, it will be impossible to trade him without virtually buying out the entire deal. Chen was a successful starting pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles, but with the Marlins, the soft-tosser went 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA in 2016. He must make some adjustments, as the Marlins badly need him to rebound next year.


C Travis d'Arnaud collected 27 extra-base hits in just 239 at-bats in 2015. He had only 11 extra-base hits in 251 at-bats this year, during which he missed nearly two months due to a shoulder injury and eventually lost his job upon his return to career-long backup Rene Rivera. D'Arnaud also threw out just 22 percent of opposing basestealers. D'Arnaud has long been touted as one of the best catching prospects in the game. but he will be 28 by Opening Day 2017 and has been on the disabled list six times since 2012.


OF Aaron Altherr was limited to 57 games due a wrist injury and did not impress in his limited time. He is said to have gap power and some project him to be a 20-homer hitter. Instead, he had two home runs, batted .202 (40-for-198) and struck out 69 times in 57 games. While seeing everyday action as the right fielder after Sept. 1, Altherr batted .163 with no homers and four RBIs in 27 games.


Ryan Zimmerman, moved to first base after shoulder problems made throws from third problematic, was unable to put up the numbers he produced earlier in his career. In 115 games, he hit .218 with 18 doubles, 15 homers and 46 RBIs, and he posted a .192 average in his final 30 games. The word among pro scouts who follow the Nationals is that Zimmerman has trouble getting around on good fastballs. Zimmerman is signed through 2019, with a club option for 2020.


The Sports Xchange



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