One of best times of the year is the free agent bloodbath that occurs at the start of each season. Some teams will spend their dollars wisely and lock up a peaking star for the next 4 seasons of his prime. Some will throw money at mediocre players who never live up to their contract. Some find hidden gems on the cheap. And some sign that next great star only too see him grab his shoulder or his hamstring and watch all that money go up in smoke. I guess you should have spent that money on training and medical, no?
After reviewing all of the ML free agent signings for Season 7, this is my list of the best signings. This list is based largely on Season 7 performance, but also evaluates contract value vs. performance received as well.
#1 Tom Leonard RF, Rochester - Tom was a great find for Rochester this season. He was locked up to a 3 year contract at $4.2 million per year. For their money, Rochester got a .957 OPS, with 56 HR and 115 RBI. Tom is only 30, so Rochester can probably expect more of the same the next few seasons.
#2 Chris Rose LF, Buffalo - Chris was 31 y.o. when Buffalo signed him to a 4 year contract with escalating clauses that bring the AAV of his contract to $5.875 million. Rose had a fine first season in Buffalo, posting a .314 AVG with 34 HR 107 RBI and a .977 OPS.
#3 Dan Miller 3B, Charlotte - Dan would have ranked higher on the list if it were not for his age and contract length. Dan put up a stellar season with a .343 AVG and a 1.020 OPS. He also played a fine 3B, making only 4 errors all year. But at age 34 and signing a 4 year, 7.5 million per year contract, one wonders what Charlotte will get for their money in the last season or two of this deal. Still, they're one of the best teams in the NL, so who am I to criticize?
#4 Jerome Skrmetta LF, Chicago - Jerome impressed in his first season in the Windy City, putting up solid numbers. He hit .318 with 22 HR and 112 RBI and posted a fine .389 OBP. His deal is for 2 years at $8.8 million per year. At age 32, that is a very reasonable deal.
#5 Stan Byrnes LF, Colorado - This signing qualifies as bargain of the year. Byrnes was signed by Colorado to a MINOR LEAGUE deal. All he did when he hit the bigs was post a .99o OPS with 31 HR. He's only 29 and now under Colorado's control. The only reason he doesn't rank higher is he has only 299 AB's. Still, this is one hell of a role player at a low, low price.
#6 David Anderson SP, Colorado - After declining a hefty $14 million team option on Anderson's previous deal, the Blasters moved to resign Anderson to a package totalling $9.1 million for one season. Anderson rewarded them with a 16-6 record and a 3.67 ERA in 186.1 innings.
#7 Buddy Krivda LF, New Britain - Krivda was another bargain signing. New Britain picked him up for a 1 year/$3 million deal. Krivda rewarded them with a .943 OPS in 305 AB as a role player.
#8 Brian Evans SS, Chicago - For those who like defense, this is your man. Evans played a stellar, gold glove caliber shortstop this season. He posted a .996 fielding percentage, made 8+ plays and flashed a 6.05 range factor. It's a good thing, too, because Evans' bat is made of sawdust. He posted an anemic .615 OPS. For those who think defense first at SS, this is your man. His contract is for 2 years at $5.6 million per year.
#9 Hayes Kirwan 1B, New York - Radek made a smooth move picking up Kirwan for a prorated contract of $895K. Kirwan was a part time player, but posted a 1.007 OPS in that playing time, including a .349 AVG.
#10 Homer Busby, RP, Pittsburgh - Homer Busby solidified the back end of Pittsburgh's bullpen, posting a 3.19 ERA in 84.1 IP, with 21 saves. Busby is signed to a 2 year deal for $2.7 million in season 7 and $3.7 million in season 8.
Honorable Mention: Best Signing/Biggest Oops: Javier Escobar RP, Tucson/Scottsdale. Escobar was signed to a FA deal by Tucson before Season 7. He was then left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. The 25 y.o. reliever made Scottsdale, who picked him up, very happy by posting a 1.83 ERA and 0.70 WHIP in 41 appearances. He converted 36/37 saves. Ouch.