To help fortify a comically-thin rotation (of the four core starters in 1995, just Wilson Alvarez and Alex Fernandez would remain with the team/stay healthy through 1996) the White Sox signed righthander Kevin Tapani to a one-year, $1.5 million deal.
After seven years in Minnesota compiling 19.1 WAR, Tapani was dealt to the Dodgers to help a playoff run. However, Tapani was horrible in the stretch for L.A., culminating in an NLDS that saw him appear in two games with just one-third of an inning pitched, scarred by three earned runs and four walks.
With Tapani’s value at low ebb, the White Sox struck with an extreme value signing — and it paid off wonderfully, as the righty put up a 13-10 record and a 3.2 WAR (tied for second-best of his career) in spite of some sloppy peripherals (4.59 ERA, 4.85 FIP, 1.385 WHIP).
Tapani’s relative success as a White Sox reclamation made the path forward even more curious. Despite not missing a start (he had 34, while No. 1 and 2 starters Fernandez and Alvarez finished with 35) and once pitching on three days’ rest, Tapani was accused of faking a hand injury by GM Ron Schueler, assuring the starter would not return.
Driving away Tapani and even the higher-profile hit of losing Fernandez to the Florida Marlins in free agency forced what would become the worst free agent pitcher signing in White Sox history: Jaime Navarro for four years and $20 million.
Tapani ended up signing a five-year, $23.5 million deal with the Cubs and put up a modest 7.2 WAR over the contract. Navarro would last just three years with the White Sox, compiling a catastrophic -3.7 WAR.