- J.D. Drew - Red Sox (Five years, 70 million) - If J.D. Drew is had a guaranteed bill of health, he'd the best player available in this free agent market. No other player has Drew's mix of patience, power and defense. While Drew's power will almost certainly decline over the next few years, he's also the only free agent not named Bonds that can put up a .400 on base percentage. While health reports show that his shoulder is balky, Drew hasn't missed significant time to a non-hit-by-pitch related injury since 2002. In a world where Alfonso Soriano is worth 17 million a year, this is definitely a worthwhile gamble.
- Greg Maddux - Padres (One year, 10 million): If Maddux had gone to any other team, he probably wouldn't make this list, but Maddux's skill set fits perfectly with the Padres. At this stage in his career, Maddux pretty much has one useful ability: throwing strikes. While his mediocre strikeout rate worked out when he was allowing four home runs in a season, since he's gone up to 25-30 a year, he's been a mediocre pitcher. However, combine PETCO's ability to prevent home runs with the Padres great defense, and suddenly a guy who can only throw strikes becomes hugely valuable. Because of this, I think Maddux should have his best season since his days with the Braves, and will be far more successful than players who cashed in like Vicente Padilla or Ted Lilly.
- Craig Wilson - Braves (One year, two million): I'll admit that he was terrible on the Yankees, but with the Pirates, Wilson was always good for at least a .800 OPS. This may not seem remarkable, but when you have teams pretending that Scott Podsednik, Ryan Freel, or Luis Gonzalez are viable corner outfielders, it makes you wonder why someone wasn't willing to give Craig Wilson a decent contract. While Wilson won't replace Adam LaRoche's numbers in Atlanta, he gives them an option if rookie Scott Thorman doesn't pan out, someone to play if they get sick of Ryan Langerhans' .385 slugging percentage or Jeff Francoeur's .290 on base percentage, or if they just need a lefty masher in general. Wilson should provide decent production at well below market value.
- Aramis Ramirez - Cubs (Five years, 75 million): I don't know if I really should credit the Cubs with signing Ramirez to a fair contract. Maybe if they hadn't signed Alfonso Soriano for 130 million dollars, the market wouldn't have taken off like it had, and this would simply look like a fair market signing. Nevertheless, between Ramirez's youth and prior levels of production, he was probably the most desirable player on the free agent market, and the Cubs got him for what he was worth. This year, that's all you need to do
- Moises Alou - Mets (One year, eight million): Alou has quietly been a very productive player in the twilight of his career, OPSing over .900 the last three years. The only other free agents that can come anywhere near that claim are Aramis Ramirez, Barry Bonds and J.D. Drew, all of whom received far more substantial payouts. Problem is, Alou has missed significant time the last two seasons, dropping to only 378 at bats last season. Even so, getting quite possibly second best available bat for almost the same salary as Luis Gonzalez is a huge boon.
- Marcus Giles - Padres (One year, 3.75 million): In 2005, Giles hit .291/.365/.461, very good numbers for a second baseman. In 2006, his numbers took a huge hit, but as Marc Normandin of Baseball Prospectus points out that was largely due to bad luck on balls in play. A bounce back season is almost inevitable, and the Padres made an excellent "buy low" pickup. While Giles will probably never be the player he looked to become when he hit .316/.390/.526 in 2003, he still is an above average second baseman both offensively and defensively. Signing Giles this cheaply means that trading Josh Barfield won't hurt them at all in 2007, giving the Padres a huge upgrade at third base almost for free.
- David Dellucci - Indians (Three years, 11 million): Dellucci's OPS against righties the last three years: .826, .894, .904. Between Dellucci and Jason Michaels, the Indians have created a very effective platoon for less than six million dollars. I realize that statistical analysis has penetrated most, if not all of the major league front offices, but when guys like Dellucci that can clearly rake can't really cash in while Juan Pierre is rolling in dough, it makes me wonder how far along we really are.
- Ronnie Belliard - Nationals (Minor league deal): Okay, it's not the signing of the year like I said it was a couple days ago, but Belliard has been an above average offensive second baseman the last few years, and this is the best he could do? Adam Kennedy managed to get three years, 10 million, and I'd take Belliard over Kennedy any day of the week. Belliard should look into getting a new agent in between complaining to the media about losing playtime to Christian Guzman in 2007.
- Jim Edmonds - Cardinals (Two years, 19 million): This signing deserves an asterisk. While the Cardinals technically declined Edmonds' option, making him a free agent, I'm sure they had this deal worked out well before they actually made that decision. While Jim Edmonds is no longer a guy that's guaranteed to put up a .950 OPS every year, he still had the 10th highest OPS amongst center fielders to go along with his good, but declining defense. While this doesn't sound like much of an endorsement, Edmonds is still an above average center fielder, and when players like Juan Pierre and Gary Matthews Jr. are getting huge paydays, Edmonds looks like a huge bargain.
- Jason Schmidt - Dodgers (Three years, 47 million): At the very least, Jason Schmidt was tied with Barry Zito for the title of "best starter on the market", yet some how Ned Colletti managed to avoid committing to Schmidt to more than three years, avoiding a Kevin Brown-esque situation where he would receive 17 million dollars in his age 41 season. Usually when you sign an elite player to a small amount of years, you're going to have to pay a premium. Not here. Not only did Colletti manage to avoid a long term contract, Schmidt received arguably less than he is worth per year in the current market. The elite players available this off-season all received at least 15 million dollars a year, which Schmidt chose to accept for three or four less years than his peers. A great contract all around, and easily the best move of Colletti's career.
Daisuke Matsuzaka - Boston (Six years, 104 million): How often do stud pitchers enter the free agent market at age 26? While Matsuzaka isn't a sure thing, getting a guy that can be a legitimate ace for less than Barry Zito is huge.
Adam Kennedy - St. Louis (Three years, 11 million): At one point this off season, I had this as one of my top signings, simply because getting a decent player for four million a year seemed amazing. However, the contracts that Marcus Giles and Ronnie Belliard signed takes some of the luster off the signing.
Up next, the 10 worst signings of the off-season.