In 2009, it was Aki Iwamura. In 2010, it was Lyle Overbay and Kevin Correia. This year, it is Clint Barmes and Erik Bedard.
All five players are veterans acquired by Neal Huntington, one via trade (Iwamura) and four via free agency. and All five made or will make approximately 5 million dollars in their first year with the Pirates. Unfortunately, the first three provided very little value. The Pirates hope this year is different. That will be up to the newcomers to the Five Million Dollar list, Barmes and Bedard.
The lone trade acquisition on this list, Aki Iwamura came to the Pirates by way of the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for reliever Jesse Chavez. Chavez was later moved to the Atlanta Braves for Rafael Soriano, much to the chagrin of Pirates fans. Concerning Chavez, I think credit should be given to Andrew Friedman rather than criticism leveled against Neal Huntington.
According to Cot's, the Pirates paid Iwamura 4.85 million dollars in 2010. That money bought the Pirates a second baseman who managed to hit .182 and have an OPS of .558 in 54 games for the Pirates at the major league level. According to Fangraphs, for the season, which also included 10 games in Oakland, Iwamura put up -1.7 WAR. Yes, that minus symbol means Iwamura was significantly worse than a replacement player. Part of the blame could be placed on an offseason injury that kept Iwamura from staying in shape, but overall this was simply a disastrous acquisition for the Pirates.
The Pirates didn't fare much better the following year. Lyle Overbay was signed as a free agent by the Pirates going into the 2011 season. According to Cot's the Pirates paid him exactly 5 million dollars to play first base in a Buccos uniform. Unfortunately, like Iwamura, Overbay didn't even last the season. While playing first base, a position where offense is a necessity, Overbay hit .227 with a dismal .649 OPS in 103 games for the Pirates. Overbay was cut to make room for a new first baseman, as the Pirates traded Aaron Baker to the Orioles for first baseman Derrek Lee at the trade deadline. Overbay, who was picked up by Arizona, but only played 19 games as a Diamondback, put up -0.6 WAR according to Fangraphs. Again, approximately 5 million dollars got the Pirates a player that was worse than replacement level.
The Pirates signed Correia to a 2 year deal prior to the 2010 season. For his first season, Correia was paid 4 million dollars according to Cot's. Correia pitched reasonably at the beginning of the season, and even made the all-star game due to his lucky propensity to win games early on combined with foolish voters who put stock into the meaningless pitcher stat of wins. However, Corrreia wore down as the season continued and managed to finish the year with exactly 0.0 WAR, again according to Fangraphs.
So, over a three year span, the Pirates paid nearly 15 million dollars to members of the Five Million Dollar Men Club and received in return two wins less than replacements players would have provided. Hopefully that will change in 2012.
It will start with new shortstop Clint Barmes. Barmes will be paid 5 million dollars next year to wear a Pirate uniform. Hopefully he will do more than just wear that uniform though, and repeat the 3.1 WAR he put up last year as a Astro. Barmes doesn't swing the bat all that well, but if he can come close to duplicating the 94 WRC+ he put up last year, his glove can make him a valuable player. That's a glove that has produced 7.8 UZR/150 over the course of nearly 4000 innings at shorstop. Barmes main issue will be his age. He will be 33 once the season starts and his batting numbers last year were the second best of his career. However, if he drops off a little, Barmes should instantly become the most valuable member of the Five Million Dollar Men Club to date.
Even if Barmes does put up around 3 WAR next year, there is no guarantee that he will finish atop the Club. This offseason, in what is probably Neal Huntington's most exciting offseason acquisition, the Pirates signed Erik Bedard. Bedard has great stuff, especially for a lefty. He will also be 32 come opening day, but the issue is not whether Bedard will preform, rather it is whether Bedard can stay healthy. For his career, Bedard, who will be paid 4.5 million dollars in 2012, has a FIP of 3.65. Last year he nearly matched his career average, putting up a 3.64 FIP for the Mariners and Red Sox. The issue is health, as Bedard hasn't pitched more than 130 innings since 2007. Still, the 129.1 he pitched last year was an encouraging since he did not pitch at all in 2010. In those 129.1 innings, Bedard was worth 2.4 WAR and that was pitching in the AL. If Bedard can add 50 innings to get to around 180, and can trim his FIP down by pitching in the NL for the first time, he could and should easily top the Five Million Dollar Men Club list.