The all-star teams will be named Sunday evening, and there will be no shortage of debates – the player selections, the format, the process, etc. But with more than half a season gone, we’re well on our way to determining 2014’s biggest disappointments.
Here, then, is a lineup of players who need the all-star break not to revel in their accomplishments, but to hit the reset button and salvage their seasons. These players were named based on performance cast against expectations, with particular consideration given to how much their teams are paying them for stinking up the joint.
C Brian McCann, Yankees
In nine years with his hometown Braves, the 30-year-old McCann made seven all-star teams and won five Silver Slugger awards, generally earning his five-year, $85 million deal in the Bronx with a career slash line of .277/.350/.473. In his first half season as a Yankee: .224/.285/.373, all career lows. McCann’s .658 OPS is the second-worst among catchers with at least 200 plate appearances.
1B Nick Swisher, Indians
Swisher’s four-year, $56-million deal issued before last season was iffy then, given Cleveland’s struggles with both attendance and revenue. Now, the $15 million he makes in 2014 represents roughly 18 percent of an $82.5-million payroll. The return, this year: .197/.285/.322. His .607 OPS would be a career low by 136 points, and he is particularly feeble against left-handed pitching (.176 average, .230 slugging percentage).
2B Omar Infante, Royals
A four-year, $30.25-million contract for a 32-year-old second baseman seemed like an odd move for Kansas City. But the Royals are desperate to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985, and Infante has appeared in four postseasons. With apologies to Orioles rookie Jonathan Schoop, whose .603 OPS is the worst among second baseman, Infante hasn’t delivered. From 2006-2013, he hit between .271-.321 every season. This year he sports a .252 average and .297 OBP – though he does have 41 RBI, on a pace to set a career high.
SS Everth Cabrera, Padres
It’d actually be easy to make a no-star team exclusively of Padres. But San Diego is a nice city, so let’s not pick on it. There’s no avoiding Cabrera’s ineptitude, though. Last year, he became an all-star and hit .283 with a .783 OPS with 37 stolen bases in 95 games. But he got popped in the Biogenesis investigation and suspended for 50 games. He hasn’t recovered. The only players with at least 200 player appearances flaunting an OPS lower than Cabrera’s .546: fellow Padres Jedd Gyorko (an astonishing .482) and Will Venable (.534).
3B David Freese, Angels
Even as the Cardinals advanced to the postseason last fall, there was a feeling that the shine was off Freese, the hero of the 2011 World Series winners. When the Angels acquired him in a trade, they expected to shore up the infield corner opposite Albert Pujols. What they’ve received in return is next-to-nothing, career lows in average (.240), OBP (.313) and slugging (.318) with an incredible 11 extra-base hits in 243 plate appearances. This starting spot was well-earned given the competition from Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas (.603 OPS) and San Diego’s Chase Headley (.605).
LF Domonic Brown, Phillies
Brown’s first chance at a full-time job, in 2013, went well. His 27 homers and 83 RBIs were more than he had in his first three (part-time) seasons combined, and he made the all-star team. Now the Phillies have to wonder whether, at 26, Brown has already topped out. He’s hitting .225 and has just 17 extra-base hits, and his .599 OPS is the worst for any National League left fielder with at least 200 plate appearances.
CF B.J. Upton, Braves
Prior to 2013, the Nationals, Phillies and Braves were all looking for center fielders. “We were considering the same guys,” Atlanta GM Frank Wren said last spring. As much consternation as Denard Span has caused in Washington (thanks, Bryce), Nationals fans are ecstatic the team didn’t sign Upton to the five-year, $72.25-million the Braves thought prudent. Last year, after hitting .184, he was benched in the playoffs. This season, he’s hitting .210/.276/.340 – amazingly, an improvement over 2013, but still the second-lowest OPS (.616) of NL center fielders.
RF Alfonso Soriano, Yankees
Eight years after the Nationals made him a (reluctant) outfielder, Soriano has finally reached the final season of the eight-year, $136-million deal he signed with the Cubs. He is 38, and playing like it. He has never hit for an average this low (.225), and though he’s always been a free-swinger, his number of walks in 234 plate appearances – six! – is jaw-dropping, even for him. Add on the fact that he is suffering a power drop-off (six homers) and no longer runs (one stolen base), and you wonder who will sign Soriano, and for how much money, next year.
SP Ricky Nolasco, Twins
In a category that’s more competitive than who should start the all-star game, Nolasco beats out Justin Masterson of the Indians and Ubaldo Jimenez of the Orioles because he has been so darn hittable. Jimenez has a staggering 5.06 walks per nine innings. Masterson owns a major league-worst WHIP of 1.59. But Nolasco’s 5.49 ERA is slightly worse than both – indeed, the worst in the majors – and the slash line for opposing hitters is astounding: .322/.360/.525. Nolasco essentially turns every single hitter he faces into an all-star. And this comes in the first season of a four-year, $49-million deal.
RP Jim Johnson, Athletics
Oakland doesn’t screw up many transactions, but its trade for Johnson – who recorded 101 saves over the previous two seasons with Baltimore – imploded almost from the start. He gave up two runs in his first outing, lost his closer’s job after his fifth appearance, and is making $10 million to be a mop-up guy – a role in which he’s not exactly excelling. Opponents are hitting a robust .329 against him (worst in the American League), and his 1.98 WHIP is the worst among all major league relievers.