Worst Free Agent Contracts in Pittsburgh Pirates History
#1 Derek Bell, 2-years $10 million
Derek Bell's last season in Major League Baseball was in 2001 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it was a season plagued with controversy and poor performance. Bell, who was 32 years old at the time, struggled both on and off the field, and his statistics for the season were some of the worst of his career.
In 2001, Bell played in 46 games for the Pirates, accumulating 183 plate appearances and 156 at-bats. He hit .173 with three home runs, five doubles, and 13 RBIs. He had a slugging percentage of .288 and an on-base percentage of .287, with a total of 38 strikeouts and 25 walks. These numbers were a significant decline from his career averages.
Off the field, Bell was involved in controversy when he refused to participate in a spring training game, citing knee pain. Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon criticized Bell for not being willing to play through pain, and Bell responded by saying that he was "contemplating retirement" and that he didn't "need the money."
Coming into year 2 of his contact, Bell was told he would be competing for a spot on the roster. Bell, who was a career .276 hitter while playing in over 1200 career games, did not feel a competition was warrented. However, in the Pittsburgh Pirates eyes they had a 33 year old who was greatly declining physically and in performance. In what would become known as "Operation Shutdown" Bell would leave the team without notifiying anyone at the end of March 2002. He would be released days later with a violation of his contract being the reasoning.
Bell ultimately did retire after the 2001 season, and his poor performance and controversy that year were seen as contributing factors to his decision. However, he left behind a solid career in Major League Baseball, having played for five teams over 12 seasons and amassing 1,261 hits, 123 home runs, and 592 RBIs. He was also a member of two World Series championship teams, with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and the New York Yankees in 1999.
After being released by the Pirates in March 2001, Derek Bell never played professional baseball again. Meanwhile, he still got the $4.5 million he was owed under his contract. Upon leaving the Organization, Bell moved on to a 58-foot Sea Ray 580 yacht, which he named Bell 14 after his name and uniform number.
Bell was known to spend a lot of time on his yacht, enjoying the lifestyle that his baseball career had afforded him. He also stayed involved in baseball, working as a scout for the San Francisco Giants and later as a consultant for the Houston Astros. One of the worst contracts in Franchise history, Bell not only did not perform in the first year of it, but he also made a complete embarrassment out of himself and the Organization.