Advertisement

These Bargain-hunting MLB teams scored big in the free agent market

By
Roger Rubin, The Sports Xchange
Washington Nationals batter Daniel Murphy reacts after hitting a two-run home run against New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey in New York City on May 19, 2016. The Nationals not only improved their lineup but also potentially hurt their NL East chief competitor, the New York Mets, by bringing Murphy over on a three-year contract worth $37.5 million. Photo by Ray Stubblebine/UPI
Washington Nationals batter Daniel Murphy reacts after hitting a two-run home run against New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey in New York City on May 19, 2016. The Nationals not only improved their lineup but also potentially hurt their NL East chief competitor, the New York Mets, by bringing Murphy over on a three-year contract worth $37.5 million. Photo by Ray Stubblebine/UPI | License Photo

Big money almost always means big attention when it comes to Major League Baseball.

Several players inked huge free agent contracts during the last offseason and, as a result, are being constantly scrutinized about how they produce. So are their teams, for making those investments.

Advertisement

The Red Sox gave left-hander David Price a seven-year deal for $217 million, and he owns an unsightly 4.88 ERA that has people wondering whether he is just getting acclimated to playing in Boston or whether something has changed as he's gotten into his 30s.

Johnny Cueto got $130 million for six seasons with the San Francisco Giants, and at 9-1 with a 2.16 ERA, looks like a great acquisition.

However, with about a third of the season in the books, let's turn our attention to some of the lesser-known deals that are just as impactful for the teams that made them before this season. Everyone likes a bargain, baseball general managers and owners especially. Here are 10 low-risk ventures, in no particular order, that teams made and are bringing back high rewards. All stats are through the weekend.

Advertisement

Ian Desmond (Texas Rangers) -- Desmond and the Rangers agreed on a one-year deal for $8 million where he would move from his natural position of shortstop, which he played for the Washington Nationals, to the outfield. He has paid off huge so far with a .305/.350/.477 slash line with 41 runs, seven homers and 34 RBIs in 53 games played for the AL West leaders.

Steve Cishek (Seattle Mariners) -- This was a two-year deal for $10 million, which means that the Mariners got a closer for less than some teams paid on the free agent market for a setup man. The right-hander has a 2.49 ERA and 13 saves in 16 chances for Seattle, which is in second place in the AL West and looking like a playoff team.

Daniel Murphy (Washington Nationals) -- The Nationals not only improved their lineup but also potentially hurt their NL East chief competitor, the New York Mets, by bringing him over on a three-year contract worth $37.5 million. Murphy is leading the NL with a .384 average and a 1.042 OPS, numbers that have helped Washington take first place in the division.

Advertisement

John Jaso (Pittsburgh Pirates) - The Pirates look to be in the hunt for the postseason again, and Jaso is a central part of their offense. He signed for two years and $8 million and accepted becoming a full-time first baseman. Now he is batting .289 as the club's leadoff hitter.

Chris Carter (Milwaukee Brewers) -- There are seven first baseman making more than $20 million this season. How many of them are going to his 40 home runs? Carter already has 14 homers. On a $2.5 million, one-year investment, that is real bang for the buck. It could reap other dividends as the Brewers look as if they will be sellers at the trading deadline, and several contenders may need help at first base. He is attractive with his low-cost contract, and he could bring back a real prospect in a deal.

Rich Hill (Oakland A's) -- On the strength of a great finish to the 2015 season, when Hill went 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA in four starts for Boston, Oakland invested $6 million for one year from the left-hander. His great finish carried over, and he is 8-3 with a 2.25 ERA. Pitching, as always, will be of a premium at the trade deadline. The struggling A's could flip the inexpensive Hill for a top prospect because the buyer won't have to add much to its payroll.

Advertisement

Colby Lewis (Texas Rangers) -- The right-hander returned to the Rangers on a one-year deal for $6 million after a 17-win season in 2015. Lewis is 36, so he might not have gotten either a multiyear deal or a bigger salary. Still, the club has to be feeling good about him at 5-0 with a 3.09 ERA.

Fernando Rodney (San Diego Padres) -- He was the AL leader in saves just two years ago for Seattle, but the market was way down on him after he put up a 4.74 ERA with the Mariners and the Cubs last year. The Padres' investment guaranteed just $2 million for one season, and Rodney is 11-for-11 on save opportunities and hasn't allowed an earned run in 21 1/3 innings while striking out 20. The best part of the deal for the Padres is a $2 million option for 2017.

Bartolo Colon (New York Mets) -- It might have seemed hard to fathom giving a one-year deal for $7.25 million to a pitcher who was due to turn 43 during the season. However, the Mets saw Colon defy age and average 14.5 wins over his first two years with them. With Zack Wheeler not expected back until July, they needed exactly what Colon is giving them. He is 4-3 with a 3.27 ERA and hasn't missed a start.

Advertisement

Dexter Fowler (Chicago Cubs) -- He came back to the Cubs on a one-year deal with a mutual option for a second or a buyout for total commitment of $13 million. And this was after he turned down their $15.8 million qualifying offer and then had a three-year package with the Orioles come apart over an opt-out clause. He has been an incredible leadoff man for the team with the best record in baseball, sporting a slash line of .303/.421/.515.

Latest Headlines