MLB Free Agency: 10 Most Significant Contracts Signed This Offseason

Christopher Czar@@detsportsczarContributor IJanuary 4, 2012

MLB Free Agency: 10 Most Significant Contracts Signed This Offseason

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    The MLB Offseason is starting to wind down.

    The superstars are all signed, sans Prince Fielder who is looking for a desperate team to pay him like another free agent first baseman, and teams are starting to shape up for the closer than you realize start of spring training.

    While Fielder would definitely be one of the top 10 most significant free agent contracts signed this off-season both in terms of money and value to the signing organization, it's not too early to identify the most important thus far.

    These aren't necessarily the most expensive contracts, although it might be, but they are definitely the ones that will have the most impact on the new franchises that they'll be calling home this spring.

10. John Danks

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    Alright, I know he wasn't a free agent but his contract is significant.

    While rumors persisted that he and fellow starter Gavin Floyd were on their way out, John Danks signed a five year $65 Million extension to stay with the confusing team from the South Side.

    Seemingly, the White Sox were cleaning house and heading for a youth movement after the departure of their highly entertaining, modestly successful, manager Ozzie Guillen and the free agent loss of Mark Buehrle—who followed Guillen to Miami.

    Besides Buehrle, the White Sox have also traded closer Sergio Santos and outfielder Carlos Quentin.

    Halfway through their purge, they mysteriously re-upped the semi-talented Danks, rather than dealing him for prospects, which seemed inevitable.

    Monetarily it's a fine deal.  Common sense-wise, it highly curious.

9. Michael Cuddyer

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    While it's not quite on par with the "Dude Where's My Car?" of contracts, Jason Werth's, Michael Cuddyer signed a highly questionable three year, $31.5 Million dollar contract to defect to Colorado.

    The former Twins outfielder is an adequate, not spectacular, aging everyday player who turned down a $25 Million deal to stay in the Twin Cities.

    Luckily for the fans of the Twins they picked up the more productive, but relatively anonymous, Josh Willingham to replace Cuddyer—at a $10 Million discount.

    Meanwhile, the fans in the Mile High city get a former 1st round draft pick in the 1997 draft, who had 20 home runs and 70 RBI last year.

    Sounds like a desperation deal from a team that highly disappointed last year.

8. Coco Crisp

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    Coco Crisp must really, really like the Bay Area.

    His re-signing in Oakland probably won't affect the playoff chases like some names I've left off this list, but it proves that Oakland isn't 100% ready to devolve into a AAA team.

    After shipping off nearly every player with value and not pursuing their most productive hitter in Josh Willingham, the A's re-signed Crisp.

    Not surprisingly, the budget conscious A's got a good deal for a decent major leaguer with lots of speed.  Two years for $14 million.

    What is surprising is that while Crisp was drawing interest from multiple contenders, he opted to stay with a team that'll have a spring roster that looks a lot like that from Major League.

    I guess that means Crisp is playing Willie Mays Hayes.

7. Josh Willingham

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    Since this is the third time he's been mentioned (and last I promise), it's obvious I really like the Josh Willingham signing in Minnesota.

    He came $10 Million cheaper and has been more productive than Michael Cuddyer, despite the fact that he's about as anonymous as that Milli Vanilli tribute album.

    With a tenure that's included stops in Florida, Washington and Oakland, it's no surprise Willingham isn't a household name.

    While Cuddyer's stock is trending down, Willingham's is on the way up.

    After an extremely disappointing 2011 season, the Twins might surprise in 2012 if their former superstars (Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau) can return to form.

6. Aramis Ramirez

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    The Brewers are about to lose a very large part of their offense—literally and figuratively.

    While Prince Fielder is seeking that Trumpian payday, the Brewers have buffered some of his loss with the signing of former Cubs' third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

    Ramirez quickly bolted the rebuilding Cubbies for the contending Brewers, at a modest payday considering how well he's produced for his career.

    While his defense won't wow anyone, and he is 33 years old, he's good for 25 home runs and 100 RBI which will at least put a dent in the production lost by Price Fielder—err Prince.

5. Jonathan Papelbon

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    The fans of Philadelphia will love the dramatic glare into the batter's box made famous by the talented former Red Sox closer, Jonathan Papelbon.

    That's until he blows a save—then they'll douse him with beer.

    The Phillies wisely hopped on Papelbon very early in the free agent period, and he should fit in well as the closer on his second can't miss World Series squad in two years.

    While four years and $50 Million is a ton to pay for a closer, and Ryan Madson was the furthest thing from the Phillies' biggest problem last year, the Papelbon signing is a sure sign that the Phillies are all-in again next year.

4. CJ Wilson

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    When a five year, $77.5 Million dollar deal is your team's second most important contract, it's time to go buy a jersey.

    While CJ Wilson might not be a true ace, he's a fantastic #3 starter.  When added to a rotation that features Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, Wilson gives the Angels' an early edge as the AL's favorite to make it to the World Series.

    The move was interesting in that pitching wasn't the biggest issue for the Angels, however they also addressed the mediocre offense in a big way—as you'll see soon.

    Ultimately, anything less than a World Series win would probably make the Angels' offseason a bust and in a stacked American League that features the Yankees, Rangers, Tigers, Red Sox and Rays, a guaranteed World Series appearance seems to be far from a given.

3. Mark Buehrle

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    While they were eventually overshadowed by the Angels, the Marlins were the initial team to make huge splashes this offseason.

    Their most significant addition might have been adding Ozzie Guillen as their manager as he is ultimately what sealed up the signing of free agent lefty Mark Buerhle.

    Quietly consistent, Buerhle might dominate the NL after 12 excellent years with the White Sox that saw him accumulate a record of 161-119.

    Buerhle will be an excellent complement to ace Josh Johnson—who ended 2011 on the disabled list.

2. Jose Reyes

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    After a resurgent year in New York, Jose Reyes quickly signed with the Mets' NL East rival Marlins.

    Not only does his signing signal dark times in New York (who also traded Carlos Beltran late last season) but it also indicates the now Miami Marlins desire to sell more than 1,000 tickets per game in their new, PETA unfriendly, stadium.

    Besides adding a bona fide superstar shortstop, the Marlins also ignited a medium sized controversy as current Marlin shortstop Hanley Ramirez initially rejected the idea of moving to third base.

    Ramirez has since come to his senses after realizing that a possible 50 base stealer will be on base a couple hundred times ahead of him this season.

1. Albert Pujols

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    When a guy signs for a quarter of a billion dollars, he deserves to be #1 on any list.

    Ignore the fact that Pujols now could have bailed out Wall Street by himself back in 2009—he's still one of the greatest hitters in baseball history and any team that signs him is better because of it.

    While he probably didn't get any Christmas cards from a St. Louis area zip code, he did get the most ridiculous contract in MLB history—albeit one that will substantially improve the Angels ability to get to the World Series.

    Pujols' contract might not only be the most significant one of this offseason, but the most significant in the history of baseball.