7 biggest international free agent busts in MLB history

Arizona Diamondbacks (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Arizona Diamondbacks (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

More than two full seasons after Yasmany Tomas signed with the Diamondbacks, it seems as though the team could be having a bit of buyer’s remorse. Tomas signed a six-year, $68.5 million contract during the 2014-15 offseason, but he’s batting just .267/.307/.415 during his time in the majors.

This contract could go down as one of the most burdensome ever given out to an international free agent in MLB history. Here are the five worst international free agent busts in MLB history:

7, Rusney Castillo

It’s too early to call him a bust, but the early results on him aren’t good– especially after Boston put him on waivers yesterday. The Red Sox signed Castillo to a record-setting seven-year, $72.5-million deal, the most ever given to a Cuban import. He has yet to carve out a permanent spot in the majors, and has a lifetime slash of .262/.301/.379 in 99 games.

6. Kosuke Fukudome

Fukudome signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Cubs ahead of the 2008 season. The results were largely disappointing– he failed to build on an All-Star rookie campaign and batted just .258/.359/.395 during his five-season stint in the majors.

5. Daisuke Matsuzaka

The hype surrounding “Dice-K” and his gyroball made him a media sensation after the Red Sox signed him in 2006. Boston paid over $50 million just to negotiate with him, and another $50 mil to sign him.

He was so-so in his first season in 2007, as he recorded a 15-12 record and 4.40 ERA. He went on to dazzle in 2008, with an 18-3 record and a 2.90 ERA. But Matsuzaka went just 23-28 with a 5.10 ERA from that season on, and returned to Japan following a stint with the Mets in 2014.

4. Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Nishioka is a much more lower-profile guy than most of the other names on this list, but he was paid a decent amount of money to do literally nothing in the majors. After batting .346 in the NPB in 2010, the Twins inked Nishioka to a reasonable three-year, $9 million contract.

He played just 71 games in the majors from 2011-2012, batting .215/.267/.236. He later asked for, and was granted, a release from his contract a year early. He’s still playing in Japan.

3. Kaz Matsui

Billed the best player in Japan since Ichiro left, the Mets thought they were getting a star Matsui of their own a year after the Yankees signed Hideki. He was signed to a three-year, $20 million contract with the Mets.
While Hideki went on to become a World Series MVP, Kaz proved to be nothing more than a journeyman. He played only 271 games with the Mets from 2004-2006 before he was traded to the Rockies midway through ’06. He went on to have a few decent years with Colorado and Houston, but he never became anything close to the next Ichiro.

2. Hideki Irabu

Irabu came to the Yankees on the wind of the successful Hideo Nomo signing in LA. He signed a four-year, $12 million contract with the Bronx Bombers in 1997– leading to major expectations from fans and ownership alike. But Irabu never posted an ERA under 4.00 in any of his six years in the majors. He was gone from the Yankees after just three seasons– in which he drew the ire of owner George Steinbrenner. Irabu  tragically committed suicide in 2011 at the age of 42.

  1. Kei Igawa

Just after the Red Sox signed Dice-K, the Yankees tried to one-up their rivals by adding a star Japanese pitcher of their own. They bid $26 million to negotiate with him, and signed him to a five-year, $20 million contract.

Most of the players on this list experienced their failings in the major leagues. Igawa experienced most of his in the minors. He made 13 starts with the Yankees from 2007-2008, and then was banished to the minors for the remainder of his contract. He pitched in 107 minor league games, and 16 major league games while in the Yankees organization. Not someone you’d spend $46 million on.