Television money has flooded major league franchises, and that money is trickling down to free agents. While our first impression is to gasp at the deals we saw this offseason – eight-figure-per-year deals for back-of-the-rotation starters! -- it’s best to just adjust to it as the new normal. And believe it or not, there seem to be far fewer bad deals than we normally see. Let’s run ‘em down and see how these money-flush general managers did.
1) Robinson Cano (2B) signs with the Seattle Mariners for 10 years, $240 million
A huge deal from an unexpected team. Do you praise Seattle for the bold move or ridicule them for putting themselves on the hook for a 41 year-old Cano in 2023? But yes, Cano makes the Mariners better. It’s just hard to see that they’re so much better that they’ll actually contend.
2) Masahiro Tanaka (RHP) signs with the New York Yankees for seven years, $155 million
The last of many big splashes the Yankees made this offseason and most certainly the biggest. Tanaka was an ace among aces in Japan and is much younger -- 25 -- than a lot of players who are posted from NPB. There are questions about his workload, as he has logged over 1,300 innings in his seven years with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, but he still profiles as a top-of-the-rotation starter, possessing a plus fastball, a sharp slider and a split-finger pitch which has been called perhaps the best in all of baseball. Tanaka has an opt-out clause he can trigger after four seasons with the Yankees. Best case scenario for New York: he uses it, because if he does it means he has more than earned his money in his first four seasons.
A win-win. The Tigers get some payroll flexibility, relieving themselves of a contract that, a mere two years in, already looked like a loser. They also get a landing spot at first base for Miguel Cabrera -- who is more likely to stay healthy and fresh at first -- and a second baseman in Kinsler who likely still has a year or two of above-average production. The Rangers have a good turnaround candidate in Fielder, who will likely fare much better in a more hitter-friendly park. They also relieve the logjam in the middle infield, allowing Jurickson Profar to move into the everyday second base slot.
4) Jacoby Ellsbury (OF) signs with the New York Yankees for seven years, $153 million
The Bombers poach their rival’s best outfielder and solidify the top of their order for years to come. Assuming they keep Brett Gardner around, they likewise give themselves a fantastic combination of speed and defense in two of their three outfield positions.
5) Shin-Soo Choo (OF) signs with the Texas Rangers for seven years, $130 million
A great match of player and organization. Choo’s best skill is on-base ability and the Rangers are a team that will value it, allowing him to lead off rather than place him in the middle of the lineup as many other clubs would. Between the Fielder and Choo acquisitions, no team has done more this offseason to improve their lineup than the Rangers.
6) Brian McCann (C) signs with the New York Yankees for five years, $85 million plus an option
The Yankees had many black holes in their lineup last season, but catcher may have been the worst among them. That problem is solved now. McCann’s power numbers will benefit from the short right field porch of Yankee Stadium. But it will be interesting to see how durable McCann can be over the next five years. As an everyday catcher since he was 21 years-old, there are a lot of miles on McCann’s odometer.
7) Curtis Granderson (OF) signs with the New York Mets for four years, $60 million
Welcome back to the major league free agent market, Mets. It’s a good credibility signing by New York, but Citi Field is going to expose Granderson in many ways, killing his power and giving him more ground to cover in its spacious outfield than he’s had to cover since he played for the Tigers.
8) Carlos Beltran (OF) signs with the New York Yankees for three years, $45 million
The Yankees, on the other hand, have a guy heading into the right situation. Finally in the American League, Beltran -- whose days as a useful outfielder are behind him -- can ease into his final significant contract as a designated hitter. Despite his reputation for fragility, Beltran has shown lately that he is capable of staying healthy, taking at least 598 trips to the plate in each of the past three seasons and posting an .860 OPS in the process.
9) The Arizona Diamondbacks trade Adam Eaton (OF) to the Chicago White Sox and Tyler Skaggs (LHP) to the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels trade Mark Trumbo (RF) to the Diamondbacks. The White Sox trade Hector Santiago (LHP) to the Angels. The Diamondbacks will receive two players to be named later.
This was a fun one. The White Sox get the most exciting player -- and the player with the most upside -- in the deal in Adam Eaton. The Dbacks get a guy in Trumbo who hits a lot of home runs, but that’s about all he does well. The Angels take on two pitchers in Skaggs and Santiago who could eat innings but who could just as easily wash out of a major league rotation.
10) Hiroki Kuroda (RHP) signs with the New York Yankees for one year, $16 million
Kuroda continues to take things one year at a time, much to the Yankees’ benefit. Despite being 39 years old, Kuroda remains a top-of-the-rotation starter, coming off a season in which he threw 201 innings with a 3.38 ERA. And if he peters out in 2014? Well, at least only one year was risked on the deal.
Quite a coup for Washington, getting an excellent starter in Fister without having to give up too terribly much for him. For Detroit, yes, Ray has some upside, but Lombardozzi is overrated and doesn’t fill the real need the Tigers had, which is left field. You would think that the Tigers could have gotten a better return.
12) Mike Napoli (1B) signs with the Boston Red Sox for two years, $32 million
A happy marriage continues. When Napoli first signed with Boston last year it was to be for three seasons before his hip ailment caused the deal to be reduced to a single season, so call this a make-good on that.
13) Tim Hudson (RHP) signs with the San Francisco Giants for two years, $23 million
Hudson’s freak ankle injury cut short his 2013 season, but it’s also worth noting that his 2013 season was shaping up as his worst -- at least in terms of ERA – in several years. Still, a return to the Bay Area could have a rejuvenating effect on Hudson. And, in reality, he only needs to be better than Barry Zito was for his presence to improve the Giants’ rotation. Seems a pretty safe bet.
14) Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C) signs with the Miami Marlins for three years, $21 million
Saltalamacchia, 28, batted .273/.338/.466 with 14 home runs and 65 RBI across 470 plate appearances for the Red Sox in 2013 but was overlooked following a less-than-stellar postseason and an offseason in which Brian McCann took up all the free agent catcher air. Still, a solid add for the Marlins, who should have their catching issues taken care of for the next three years.
15) Joe Nathan (RHP) signs with the Detroit Tigers for two years, $20 million plus an option
The Tigers have had all kinds of issues at closer for the past few seasons. At the very least, they now have a name brand ninth inning guy in Nathan. That should calm the early season controversy that so often surrounds this team, but let’s not forget that Joaquin Benoit did an admirable job closing things out for Detroit for most of last year. And that Nathan will turn 40 later this year.
16) Bartolo Colon (RHP) signs with the New York Mets for two years, $20 million
Colon is 40, and he doesn’t strike anyone out anymore, but he’s coming off a 2.65 ERA in 30 starts for the A’s. That can’t be expected to continue, but with the prices of free agent starting pitchers going ever upward, this seems like a pretty good deal for the Mets. Colon keeps it in the zone and Citi Field will help him keep it in the park.
The Cardinals get way better on defense with this one, eliminating Freese, adding the slick-fielding Bourjos and thereby allowing Kolten Wong to take over second and moving Matt Carpenter to third. The Angels have to hope for a bounceback season for Freese, but snagging Salas -- who strikes out a lot of guys -- is a nice addition to a bullpen that was often brutal in 2013.
18) Ricky Nolasco (RHP) signs with the Minnesota Twins for four years, $49 million plus an option
A nice first move to revamp what was an atrocious rotation. Nolasco, 30, registered a steady 3.70 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 165/46 K/BB ratio in 199 1/3 innings this past season between the Marlins and Dodgers. His deal is big – the biggest free agent deal in Twins history -- but a bold move was needed for a club that has had a hard time developing quality starting pitching.
Anderson has been mostly injured since mid-2011, throwing just 80 innings during the past two seasons, but he’s still just 25 years old, and before the injuries, he’d emerged as one of the best young left-handed starters in baseball. He’ll be under the Rockies’ control through 2015, but his salary is pretty big and trying to get his career back on track calling Coors Field home will be a huge challenge. Meanwhile, a change of scenery should do wonders for the once-promising Pomeranz, who struggled mightily in the thin air of Colorado Springs.
20) Jason Vargas (LHP) signs with the Kansas City Royals for four years, $32 million
Vargas is a soft-tosser with a 4.30 career ERA, but Kansas City should be a good home ballpark for the homer-prone starter. Plus, before the blood clot he experienced last year, Vargas had thrown 193, 201, and 217 innings the previous three seasons. Not a bad back-of-the-rotation addition.
21) Brian Wilson (RHP) signs with the Los Angeles Dodgers for one year, $10 million plus a player option
He likely could have signed on for any number of teams to close out games, but Wilson rewarded the Dodgers for taking a chance on him last season after coming off his second Tommy John surgery. He’ll likely reward them with a lot of strikeouts in setup situations and, if something happens to Kenley Jansen, closer insurance as well.
22) Dan Haren (RHP) signs with the Los Angeles Dodgers for one year, $10 million plus a vesting option
Despite overall numbers for the season which looked awful, Haren’s second half of 2013 was quite encouraging. He posted a 3.29 ERA from July 8 through his final start on Sept. 28. On a one-year deal in which he’s, at best, the fourth starter and in all likelihood the fifth, this is a decent gamble for L.A.
23) Scott Kazmir (LHP) signs with the Oakland Athletics for two years, $22 million
After resurrecting his career in Cleveland, Kazmir cashes in with Oakland. He did it by regaining lost velocity and striking out guys like he did back when he was with Tampa Bay. He essentially replaces Bartolo Colon on a similar deal. Each represents risk, but at age 29, it seems like Kazmir is the safer bet for two years’ worth of quality starting pitching.
24) Phil Hughes (RHP) signs with the Minnesota Twins for three years, $24 million
Talk about someone in need of a resurrection. Hughes will take a much-needed journey away from the spotlight, the AL East and the unfriendly confines of Yankee Stadium. Though, to be honest, he stunk on the road last year too. Hughes is coming off a rough season in which he went 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts and one relief appearance for the Yankees. The fact that he didn’t take a one-year make-good deal a la Dan Haren makes you wonder if Hughes thinks he can turn it around himself.
25) Jhonny Peralta (SS) signs with the St. Louis Cardinals for four years, $53 million
This isn’t the biggest signing, but it’s one of the more intriguing ones of the offseason. Peralta, who has a history of see-sawing between productive and unproductive, hit .303/.358/.457 last season. He also served a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis mess. He has a reputation for bad defense at short, but advanced metrics are much kinder to him. Uncertainty notwithstanding, the fact is that the shortstop market is the thinnest it has been in years, and a shortstop who can hit like Peralta was going to cash in someplace.