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The Diamondbacks’ Worst Contracts: #9, Shawn Green

The bat was kosher, the glove not so much.

Arizona Diamondbacks Photo Day Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images
  • Date signed: January 2005
  • Length: three years (2005-2007)
  • Cost at time: $32 million
  • Adjusted 2022 cost: $61.09 million
  • Production: 0.5 bWAR
  • Negative value: $57.09 million

How the player got there

There’s a case to be made that this wasn’t as bad as it seemed, due to the way in which Shawn Green came to the Diamondbacks in January 2005. At the time, he was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers and still had one year left on his contract with them, a season in which he was scheduled to earn $16 million. He also had a no-trade clause, which gave him the ability to veto the deal figured out between Los Angeles and Arizona. The original trade had Green coming with $8 million to Arizona, in exchange for two prospects, pitcher William Juarez and catcher Dioner Navarro. The goal for the Dodgers was to free up enough salary room for them to sign pitchers Odalis Perez and Derek Lowe

However, in order for Green to waive his no-trade deal. he wanted a contract extension, and the proved problematic. Indeed, the deal at first fell through. The commissioner’s office had given Arizona an initial 48-hour window to work out the details - MLB were involved, as they had to approve the deal due to the amount of cash involved. That window closed without agreement being reached between the D-backs and Green, and it seemed as if Arizona were going to pivot to free-agent outfielder Jeromy Burnitz instead. [He’d was cheaper than Green, but would have sucked harder, retiring from the game before the 2007 season after being worth -0.3 bWAR over 2005-06]

A second window was provided, and this time, a deal was struck. It involved more money coming from LA to Arizona, but more prospects going the other way. The final trade was Shawn Green plus $10 million in exchange for Juarez, Danny Muegge, Navarro and Beltran Perez. Navarro had just arrived from the Yankees as part of the Randy Johnson trade, which also involved prospects and cash. Ken Kendrick said, “Our view of this is that we effectively traded Randy Johnson for [Javier] Vazquez, [Brad] Halsey, Shawn Green and $19 million.” Green’s new contract called for a $2 million signing bonus, $10.5 million in 2005, $8 million in 2006 and $9.5 million in 2007, with a mutual option for 2008, with a $2 million buyout

The math on this one thus depends on whether or not you factor in the $10 million directly against the Green contract. For the sake of consistency, I didn’t go down that route. But if you wanted to do so, I’d understand why. The three-year deal would then be for $22 million, an adjusted current cost of $42 million, and a negative value of $38 million, Although Green would still make the list, it would drop him down to #12 in the rankings, just below Matt Mantei’s $39.06 million. Also of note, Arizona trades like this with LA have been very, very rare. Over the 17+ years since this, the only one of any significance was in August 2009, when we swapped Jon Garland for Tony Abreu.

What went wrong

The Diamondbacks were looking for a right-fielder to replace Danny Bautista. He had been allowed to walk after posting an 85 OPS+ across 141 games, and being tied as the worst position player on a very, very bad 2004 D-backs team, Bautista’s -1.2 bWAR leaving him even with Andy Green. It made sense to improve there, and at least in the short term and at the plate, Shawn Green delivered. He hit .284 with 22 home-runs, for a solid 114 OPS+, or 2.4 oWAR. However, his defense continue to be problematic. He’d been well below zero in defensive WAR for both 2003 and 2004, and that persisted into 2005, sapping Green’s overall production down to 1.1 bWAR.

Things only went south from there. Green’s fielding was, at least, consistent in that it continued to blow chunks. During the three years of the contract, he had a dWAR of -5.1. Only three players were worse over that time, and when you are in the same conversation defensively as Adam Dunn, Prince Fielder and Manny Ramirez, you know there’s a problem. His bat, however, became league average: in 2006, the now 33-year-old outfielder had an OPS+ of 95, and saw his playing time cut back. I still recall how delighted I was when he was shipped off. Through some kind of sleight of hand, he went to the New York Mets, freeing up right field in Arizona... for Carlos Quentin. Okay, now I made myself sad. My take:

I’m very happy with the trade, though it’s one that should a) have been done a long time ago, and b) never have been necessary - signing Green to a long-term contract extension was a dumb move to begin with.

He stuck around in Flushing until the end of the deal, and was more or less the same there. A league-average bat (102 OPS+) with a lead glove (-1.7 dWAR), but did experience one last hurrah, reaching the NLCS with the Mets in 2006, going 10-for-32 in the playoffs there. The contract albatross expired, and though some teams apparently showed interest, he wanted to stay in his California home. Nobody near there was interested, so Green opted to retire. He’ll likely be remembered as the best Jewish baseball player since Sandy Koufax (why, yes: that IS including Ryan Braun, thank you for asking). Just not in Arizona.

Biggest lesson to be learned

Defense matters when you get an outfielder, and it’s not a skill-set which tends to age gracefully. Unless you’re Steve Finley.