8 of the worst contracts in Detroit Tigers history

Jordan Zimmermann #27 and Mike Pelfrey during Spring Training. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Jordan Zimmermann #27 and Mike Pelfrey during Spring Training. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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Detroit Tigers 5th Worst Contract – Mark Lowe

Detroit Tigers
Mark Lowe pitches against the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

There’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract. Two-year deals can be troublesome and go south quickly — as evidenced by the previous entries on this list — but they rarely harm a franchise. Take Mike Pelfrey, who is pictured on the front page. His two-year, $16-million deal was obviously bad, and the Tigers cut him after one season. But Pelfrey didn’t make this list because his 5.07 ERA over 119 IP in 2016 was actually enough to give him a positive WAR. It was ugly, and Pelfrey didn’t earn his salary, but at least he gave the team something. Mark Lowe did not.

Lowe is a prime example of the fickle nature of relievers. He began his career as a hard-throwing bullpen arm in Seattle, and by 2009 he was one of the more reliable setup men in baseball. In 2010 he was traded to the Rangers along with Cliff Lee, and he began dealing with injuries and diminished velocity. In fewer than two years he was signed and released by the Dodgers, Angels, Nationals, Rays, and Guardians before landing back with the Mariners. He returned to form in Seattle, with his average fastball jumping from 93 MPH to 96 MPH, and he finished the year with a 1.96 ERA over 55 innings.

The Tigers gave Lowe a two-year, $11 million deal to be their primary setup man. He allowed a run in his first game with the club, but his ERA was sitting at 2.79 on May 1st. Then he imploded, allowing 28 hits, 24 runs, and 8 home runs over his next 14.1 innings. Had Lowe been on a one-year deal the Tigers likely would have just cut him. But they kept him around all season, mostly to handle mop-up duty in blowouts, and he ended the year with a 7.11 ERA over 49.1 innings, which was was good for -1.0 WAR to Baseball Reference. The 2016 Tigers entered the final weekend of the season just one game out of the playoffs. It’s unfair to blame a team’s failure on one player, but the Tigers may have made the postseason that year if Lowe had been anything other than awful.