Every MLB Team's Best Penny-for-Penny Move This Offseason
During the MLB offseason, it is the $100 million contracts and the blockbuster trades that dominate the headlines, and understandably so.
However, it is the less publicized value moves that can make or break a team when it comes time to take the field on Opening Day.
Any GM can spend money (some more than others), but it's spending money wisely and getting the most bang for your buck that makes all the difference.
Following that line of thought, here is each team's best penny-for-penny move this offseason.
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Signed free agent SP Brandon McCarthy to a two-year, $15.5 million deal.
Over the past two seasons, McCarthy has pitched like an ace when healthy, posting a 17-15 record and a 3.29 ERA for the Athletics.
However, he's battled arm problems his entire career and made just 43 starts over the past two seasons, which no doubt drove down his value in the end.
If he can stay healthy, he could be worth at least double his annual salary, but even if he duplicates his numbers from the past two seasons, he'll be a solid value.
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Signed free agent C Gerald Laird to a two-year, $3 million deal.
After watching David Ross walk to sign a two-year, $6.2 million deal with the Red Sox, and with Brian McCann doubtful to start the season following offseason shoulder surgery, the Braves needed a stop-gap option to open the season who could then fill the backup role once McCann returns.
Laird hit .282/.337/.374 in 174 at-bats with the Tigers last season, and considering what Ross got, he appears to be a relative bargain and brings a terrific veteran presence to a team that just lost a significant leader in Chipper Jones.
Re-signed free agent LF Nate McLouth to a one-year, $2 million deal.
An All-Star with the Pirates in 2008, McLouth fell off the map following that season, and after playing for the two-plus season for the Braves, he re-signed with the Pirates last offseason on a one-year, $1.75 million deal.
However, after hitting just .140 through 34 games he was released on May 31. Just five days later, he signed with the Orioles, and he served as the team's everyday left fielder and leadoff hitter down the stretch.
He hit .268 with a .777 OPS over 209 at bats, and with questions remaining about Nolan Reimold's health moving forward, bringing McLouth back on a cheap one-year deal was a smart move by Baltimore.
Boston Red Sox
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Signed free agent RP Koji Uehara to a one-year, $4.25 million deal.
The Red Sox have been busy this offseason, and while a solid argument can be made that they overpaid for nearly everyone they signed, one player they did get for a bargain was Uehara.
The 37-year-old right-hander had a 1.75 ERA in 37 appearances for the Rangers last season, and has a 2.89 ERA in 157 career big-league appearances. He'll help shore up the back end of the team's bullpen along with new addition Joel Hanrahan.
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Re-signed free-agent RP Shawn Camp to a one-year, $1.35 million deal.
The Cubs signed Camp to a minor-league deal on March 26 last season, and he won himself a spot in the team's bullpen to open the season.
As the season progressed, he emerged as the team's most reliable reliever. He went on to make a league-high 80 appearances with a 3.59 ERA and he'll again be counted on to pitch on a regular basis this coming season on another bargain contract.
Chicago White Sox
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Re-signed free agent SP Jake Peavy to a two-year, $29 million deal.
The White Sox declined their $22 million option on Peavy to open the offseason, but quickly re-signed him to a slightly more reasonable two-year deal that carries a $15 million player option for 2015 contingent on his health.
The former Cy Young winner looked like his old self last season, going 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA as he was named to the AL All-Star game, and he'll again be relied on as the veteran leader of the White Sox staff.
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Acquired CF Shin-Soo Choo and $3.5 million from Cleveland in three-team trade.
The Reds' biggest need entering the offseason was to shore up the leadoff spot in their lineup, and they did that in acquiring Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians in a three-team deal that also involved the Diamondbacks.
It cost the team shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius, but they also unloaded under-performing center fielder Drew Stubbs in the deal.
Stubbs is first-time arbitration eligible this offseason, and given the fact that the Indians included $3.5 million along with Choo (h/t USA Today), he will cost the Reds close to what Stubbs would have if they had held onto him.
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Selected 1B/DH Chris McGuiness in the Rule 5 draft.
A 24-year-old from the Rangers organization, McGuiness hit 23 home runs and drove in 77 runs with a .840 OPS last season in his first taste of Double-A.
He followed that up by winning Arizona Fall League MVP honors, and while most teams would want a more proven commodity filling the DH role, the Indians are a team who can give him every chance to put up numbers at the big-league level.
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Acquired RP Wilton Lopez from Houston for Alex White and Alex Gillingham.
The Rockies shipped a pair of promising young arms to the Astros for a 29-year-old reliever in Lopez, but the deal appears to be a good one from a financial standpoint, now and moving forward.
Lopez saved 10 games with a 2.17 ERA for the Astros last season, walking just eight batters in 66.1 innings of work, and while he'll set up in Colorado for the time being, he could be the closer before season's end.
Veteran closer Rafael Betancourt makes $4.25 million this season, and has a $4.25 million option for 2014 with a $250K buyout. With Lopez in the fold, Betancourt could be shopped at some point this season and the team could save a good deal of money in the process.
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Signed free agent RF Torii Hunter to a two-year, $26 million deal.
The Tigers have really only made two notable moves this offseason in signing Hunter and re-signing Anibal Sanchez to a massive five-year, $80 million, so as far as penny-for-penny value, Hunter was the clear choice here.
The 37-year-old had one of the best seasons of his career last year, hitting .313 BA, 16 HR, 92 RBI and he marks a significant upgrade in right field.
Last season saw Brennan Boesch struggle mightily at the position and 21-year-old Avisail Garcia climb from High Single-A to open the season all the way to regular big league playing time out of sheer necessity.
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Selected 1B Nathan Freiman and RP Josh Fields in the Rule 5 draft.
If there is any team that can benefit from the Rule 5 draft, it's the rebuilding Astros, as they are in a position to give prospects incredibly long leashes at the big-league level. The team selected a pair of players in this year's draft that could make an impact in 2013.
Freiman, a 26-year-old first baseman out of Duke, was a forgotten man in the Padres system. He's done nothing but hit in four minor-league seasons, with a .294/.364/.482 line and back-to-back 100 RBI seasons. He could make a push for regular playing time if Brett Wallace struggles early.
Fields, a first-round pick by the Red Sox in 2008, has a 3.57 ERA and 10.5 K/9 in 132 minor league appearances. Last season, he posted a 2.01 ERA and 12.0 K/9 between Double-A and Triple-A, and he should have no problem securing a spot in the Astros 'pen.
Kansas City Royals
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Acquired SP James Shields and SP Wade Davis from Rays for four prospects.
With a ever-improving young core of homegrown hitters, the Royals biggest need entering the offseason was without a doubt finding a veteran starter to front their staff.
They did just that in pulling off a blockbuster deal with the Rays that landed them James Shields and Wade Davis, but cost them four solid prospects, including their top two in Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi.
Compared to what he could get on the open market, Shields' $9 million salary for 2013 is an absolute steal and his $12 million option for next season is as well.
Davis, meanwhile, is signed through 2014 with options all the way through 2017 that max out at $10 million in the final year, so he is a relative bargain as well, especially if he can make a smooth transition back to the rotation.
Los Angeles Angels
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Signed free agent RP Ryan Madson to a one-year, $3.5 million deal (with incentives).
The Josh Hamilton signing stole the headlines, but the Angels have made a number of moves this offseason. They retooled their entire rotation and upgraded perhaps their biggest question mark from 2012, the bullpen.
Fronting the improved bullpen will be Ryan Madson, who missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. His $3.5 million base salary can jump to $6 million with roster bonuses, and he can earn another $1 million in incentives.
It's a low-risk move for the Angels, as best-case scenario they have an All-Star closer on the cheap and worst-case scenario they turn the ninth inning back over to Ernesto Frieri and are only out $3.5 million.
Los Angeles Dodgers
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Signed free agent RP J.P. Howell to a one-year, $2.85 million deal.
The Dodgers continued their spending spree this winter, eclipsing $100 million to land Zack Greinke, taking a chance on Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu with a six-year, $36 million deal and even ponying up a three-year, $22.5 million contract to bring Brandon League back as closer.
Their best move from a value standpoint though came just a few days ago, when the team added Howell to a bullpen that was without a proven left-hander.
Randy Choate (three-year, $7.5 million), Sean Burnett (two-year, $8 million) and Jeremy Affeldt (three-year, $18 million) all cashed in as left-handed relievers on the free-agent market, and Howell comes at a significant discount by comparison.
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Shipped RP Heath Bell and $8 million to the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade.
For as bad as things were for the Marlins last season, perhaps the biggest flop of all was Heath Bell, who was signed for what appeared to be a steal when he inked a three-year, $27 million deal last winter.
Eight blown saves and a 5.09 ERA later, he's no longer looking like quite as big of a steal, but somehow the Marlins were able to unload him to kick off the offseason.
They shipped him and $8 million of the $21 million he is still owed (h/t ESPN) to the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that also landed them prospect Yordy Cabrera from the A's. All in all, a terrific cost-cutting move to start the offseason for a team that would do plenty more of it in the months ahead.
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Signed free-agent RP Mike Gonzalez to a one-year, $2.25 million deal.
The Brewers had the worst bullpen in baseball last season, and they have taken steps to improve it this offseason with the additions of Burke Badenhop, Tom Gorzelanny and most recently, Mike Gonzalez.
The 34-year-old Gonzalez has a 2.94 career ERA and 10.3 K/9 over 434 big-league appearances, and he was right on par with those numbers last season with a 3.03 ERA and 9.8 K/9 in 47 games.
He also has experience closing games should John Axford falter in the ninth-inning role again.
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Acquired SP Vance Worley and SP Trevor May from Phillies for CF Ben Revere.
Twins starters posted the worst ERA in the American League last season, so shoring up the rotation behind Scott Diamond was clearly the team's biggest need this offseason.
They've made a pair of low-cost signings in adding Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey, but their best move was shipping speedy Ben Revere to the Phillies for Worley and May.
Worley is under team control through 2018 and is still pre-arbitration eligible. He should join Diamond atop the rotation and has a solid future ahead of him at 25 years old.
New York Mets
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Shipped SP R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays for four players.
Unable to come to terms on an extension, the Mets shipped reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays for four players including two high-end prospects in catcher Travis d'Arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard.
Losing Dickey hurts, but for a Mets team that is still a ways from contention, opting not to give the 38-year-old the two-year, $25 million extension that the Blue Jays did makes a lot of sense.
In the process, the Mets acquired a franchise catcher and a left-handed starter who should join Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler to form an impressive trio long term.
New York Yankees
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Re-signed free agent RF Ichiro Suzuki to a two-year, $13 million deal.
So far, the Yankees offseason has consisted of re-signing four aging veterans in Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and Mariano Rivera and adding a fifth in Kevin Youkilis.
Of that group, the only one that could be classified as a good value signing is Ichiro, who inked a two-year, $13 million deal to return to New York after hitting .322 in 67 games after being acquired at the deadline last season.
He'll likely hit leadoff, and the Yankees are banking on him putting up the numbers he did in New York and not the ones he had in Seattle (.261/.288/.353) prior to being traded.
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Re-signed free agent SP Bartolo Colon to a one-year, $3 million deal.
Out of baseball in 2010, Colon made a comeback with the Yankees in 2011 and joined the Athletics last offseason on a one-year, $2 million deal.
He proved to be worth every penny, going 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA over 24 starts and emerging as the ace of a young staff before a positive PED test earned him a 50-game suspension.
That likely cost him a sizable raise, and the A's were able to bring him back on a low-risk one-year, $3 million deal. If he pitches like he did last season, he'll be one of the steals of the offseason.
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Signed free agent RP Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal.
Going back to his days with the Padres, Adams has consistently been one of the best setup men in all of baseball.
Since the start of the 2008 season, he has made 297 appearances and has a 1.97 ERA and 9.5 K/9, and perhaps most impressive of all a 0.990 WHIP.
I don't think anyone would have been overly shocked if Adams got a deal similar to the one Rafael Soriano signed with the Yankees back in 2011 (three-year, $35 million) or at least something similar to what Brandon League got from the Dodgers (three-year, $22.5 million), so at $6 million per year he is one of the biggest bargains of the offseason.
Honorable mention to the signing of non-tendered John Lannan to a one-year, $2.5 million deal to serve as the team's fifth starter.
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Re-signed free agent RP Jason Grilli to a two-year, $7.5 million deal.
Grilli broke in the league with the Marlins back in 2000, and through the 2009 season, he was little more than a journeyman reliever with a 4.74 ERA through 238 career appearances.
A knee injury in spring training cost him the entire 2010 season, but he has come back as a different pitcher since joining the Pirates in 2011.
He joined the Pirates on a minor-league deal in July of 2011, and posted a 2.48 ERA over 28 appearances. His role expanded last season and he responded with a 2.91 ERA and eye-popping 13.8 K/9 in 64 games.
He was brought back on a two-year deal, and is now slated to fill the closer's role vacated by the trade of Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox. If he can approach last season's numbers he should have no trouble handling ninth-inning duties, and at a very reasonable price.
San Diego Padres
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Re-signed free agent SP Jason Marquis to a one-year, $3 million deal.
Beyond Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard, the Padres rotation was up in the air entering the offseason, and while they haven't made any splash signings, bringing back Marquis to be the team's No. 3 starter was a solid move.
The 34-year-old signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Twins last offseason, but posted a horrendous 8.47 ERA through seven starts before being released.
The Padres scooped him up, and he went 6-7 with a 4.04 ERA over 14 starts. If he can put up those type of numbers over 30 starts, the Padres would no doubt be thrilled with their $3 million investment.
San Francisco Giants
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Non-tendered RP Brian Wilson.
It's never easy to part ways with a fan favorite, especially when he played a key role in bringing your team a title in the not-so-distant-past. However, the Giants absolutely made the right decision in non-tendering Brian Wilson.
The 30-year-old closer made just two appearances last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery, and Sergio Romo emerged as a solid closing option in his absence.
By rule, a team can only offer a player a 20 percent pay cut over his previous year's salary in arbitration, and that would have meant a $6.8 million salary for Wilson in 2013.
He could still be brought back on a more team-friendly deal, but they had no reason to give him that type of money.
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Acquired 1B/DH Kendrys Morales from Angels for SP Jason Vargas.
Last in the AL in runs the past three seasons, the Mariners clearly needed to improve their offense this offseason, and they landed a solid middle-of-the-order bat in Morales.
It was a move that made sense for both sides and has zero long-term repercussions, as both Morales and Vargas are free agents at the end of the season and Vargas will likely have the higher salary this coming season in each player's final year of arbitration eligibility.
Bringing back right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (30 G, 16 GS, 9-5, 3.16 ERA) on a two-year, $14 million is worth a mention as well, as he'll be the team's No. 2 starter this season.
St. Louis Cardinals
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Signed free agent IF Ty Wigginton to a two-year, $5 million deal.
It's been a relatively quiet offseason for the Cardinals, as they signed Randy Choate to fill out their bullpen and dealt Skip Schumaker to the Dodgers, but aside from that, their only other notable transaction has been the signing of Wigginton.
At 35, he's not likely to be anything more than a utility infielder and pinch-hitter, but with the bench lacking punch after Allen Craig moved into an everyday role, Wigginton should make a solid impact.
In 315 at-bats last season, he managed 11 home runs and 43 RBI, and with David Freese's injury history, he's a viable option at third base for an extended period of time if the need arises.
Tampa Bay Rays
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Acquired RF Wil Myers and three others from the Royals for SP James Shields and SP Wade Davis.
For several seasons now, the Rays have had an abundance of pitching and a clear need for more offense, and they finally pulled the trigger this offseason and dealt a pair of arms.
In return, the got one of the top position prospects in baseball in Wil Myers, and while he's likely to open the season in the minors, he should make an impact by midseason, and will be a cheap source of productive for the next several years.
The cherry on top of this deal was the rest of the package the Rays received in this trade, as right-hander Jake Odorizzi is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and Mike Montgomery has a bright future as well.
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Signed free agent RP Joakim Soria to a two-year, $8 million deal.
It's been a tough offseason for the Rangers, as they missed out on a number of targets and have been left scrambling to try to replace Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young in their lineup as a result.
They also lost Koji Uehara and Mike Adams out of their bullpen, but they have replaced them with a pair of low-cost, high-upside arms in Jason Frasor and Soria.
Among the best closers in baseball prior to needing Tommy John surgery last spring, Soria is a bit of a risk on a two-year deal, but his upside is huge and he and Joe Nathan could be a lights-out, one-two punch closing out games.
Toronto Blue Jays
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Extended SP R.A. Dickey on a two-year, $25 million deal.
It's been an incredibly busy offseason for the Blue Jays, as there is little doubt they are all-in on winning a title this season.
As far as the best value of any move they made, locking up newly-acquired R.A. Dickey to a two-year, $25 million extension ranks as perhaps their best use of their money.
He's 38 years old, but as a knuckleball pitcher with just 1,059.1 career innings under his belt, he should be able to produce at a high level for the length of the deal.
It also makes the package of prospects the team gave up to get Dickey a little easier to swallow, knowing they won't lose him to free agency at the end of the season.
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Acquired CF Denard Span from the Twins for SP Alex Meyer.
The Nationals finally found their answer in center field and atop the lineup, sending top pitching prospect Alex Meyer to the Twins for Denard Span.
Considering the money that B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino and even Angel Pagan got in free agency, the two years and $10.75 million Span has left on his contract makes him a far more attractive center-field option from a financial standpoint.
He also has a $9 million option for 2015, and while some clubs would have had a hard time parting with a prospect like Meyer, the Nationals pitching staff is deep enough that the move was a smart one.