No matter how much homework MLB front offices do on players around baseball, year after year, teams inevitably wind up with one newcomer that stands out above the rest—and one newcomer that simply wasn't the player that the team thought it was getting.
The 2013 season has been no different.
But which players have been the "best" and "worst" buys of the season for each of MLB's 30 teams?
That's what we'll try and figure out.
Not only will we look at the player's stats with his new club, but also what it cost his new team to acquire him—and how much of a future impact he figures to have on the club.
Let's see who has exceeded expectations—and who teams would love to return at customer service for a refund (if they haven't already).
*Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through games of September 4.
*Statistics for players moved during the season reflect their performance with their new teams—they are not cumulative stats for the entire season.
Prado has been incredibly valuable for Kirk Gibson's squad, spending time at 2B, 3B, SS and LF at various points during the season.
Best Buy: IF/OF Martin Prado
It took a few months for his bat to get going, but Martin Prado has been every bit as versatile and valuable an addition for the Diamondbacks as we thought he'd be when Arizona acquired him from Atlanta as part of the Justin Upton trade last winter.
The Senior Circuit's hottest player since the All-Star break, hitting .368/.420/.564 with 21 extra-base hits (five home runs) and 38 RBI, the four-year, $40 million contract extension that Arizona signed him to before the season is beginning to look like a steal.
Defensively, Prado has been solid, though he's taken a step backwards from 2012, when I made him my choice for a Gold Glove Award in left field with the Braves.
Worst Buy: RHP Brandon McCarthy
When Arizona signed Brandon McCarthy to a two-year, $15.5 million deal this past winter, the first reaction of many baseball fans was "Wow, what a great deal for the D-Backs."
It turns out that we may have jumped the gun on that.
The Diamondbacks have gotten a 3-9 record, a career-worst 4.94 ERA and only 17 starts for their money this year. Of those starts, McCarthy has only pitched into the seventh inning six times. It's no surprise that his opponents in those games—the Marlins, Mets, Phillies and two against the Padres—own some of the weakest lineups in baseball.
That's the good news.
Against teams with legitimate major league offenses, McCarthy has been awful, pitching to an 8.02 ERA and 1.87 WHIP in his other 11 starts on the season Three times he couldn't get through five innings of work, and in only three of those starts has he allowed fewer than four earned runs.
With $9 million coming his way in 2014, Arizona couldn't move him if they wanted to. At this point, all the team can do is hope that McCarthy has hit rock bottom and that some time away from it all after the season will get the 30-year-old right-hander back on track.
B.J. Upton hasn't given the Braves much to cheer about this year.
Best Buy: 3B Chris Johnson
Thought of as more of a throw-in to the Justin Upton trade and nothing more than a stop-gap option for Atlanta at third base until the team figured out where its long-term replacement for Chipper Jones would come from, Chris Johnson has made a strong case to be that player.
Johnson has led the National League in batting average and ranked among the league leaders in on-base percentage for most of the season. That's not only a testament to his natural ability but to the work of Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher, batting coach and assistant hitting coach, who have helped Johnson raise his game to another level.
He's never going to win a Gold Glove Award at the hot corner, as his defense remains below average, but he's brought stability to an unstable position in Atlanta, something that nobody expected heading into the season.
Worst Buy: OF B.J. Upton
Take your pick of adjectives—dreadful, disappointing, whatever—to describe the first year of the five-year, $75 million deal that B.J. Upton signed with the Braves this past winter.
Unless you settle on "awesome" or a word with a similarly positive connotation, you can't go wrong.
Sure, Upton has had his moments, and he's been better in the second half of the season than he was in the first—something he's done throughout his career—but he's got a long way to go before he's playing anywhere near the level that he needs to in order to justify his hefty salary.
F-Rod has gone back to being K-Rod in Baltimore.
Best Buy: RP Francisco Rodriguez
A midseason acquisition from Milwaukee, Francisco Rodriguez has helped to solidify Baltimore's bullpen as the team tries to reach the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Averaging nearly 13 strikeouts per nine innings since arriving at Camden Yards, Rodriguez has held the opposition scoreless in 12 of his 17 outings and given manager Buck Showalter another experienced option in the ninth inning should Jim Johnson falter down the stretch.
Worst Buy: SP Freddy Garcia
|11 (10 GS)||3-5||5.77||1.36||53.0||12/26||4|
Twice this season, Baltimore has signed Freddy Garcia to a minor league contract—and both times, he's been ineffective and pitched his way out of town.
Garcia made only two starts in which he lasted more than six innings, allowing at least four earned runs in half of his starts for the Orioles. Toward the end of August, Baltimore traded him to Atlanta for cash considerations.
Victorino has silenced his critics (including yours truly) this season.
Best Buy: RF Shane Victorino
I was a vocal critic of Boston's decision to sign Shane Victorino to a three-year, $39 million deal last winter, pointing to the fact that the 32-year-old looked lost at the plate in his short time with the Dodgers last season.
In 53 games with the Dodgers, he hit only .245 with a .316 on-base percentage, 16 extra-base hits and 15 RBI.
Apparently, all he needed was to get out of the National League.
Victorino has looked like a completely different ballplayer this season—like the guy who won three Gold Glove Awards and made two All-Star appearances while patrolling center field in Philadelphia. Not only has his swing returned, but he's playing the best defense of his career, leading all outfielders in UZR/150 while ranking third in DRS, according to FanGraphs.
Worst Buy: RP Joel Hanrahan
Boston traded for the two-time All-Star before the season in an effort to bolster the back end of its bullpen.
What the Red Sox got was 7.1 innings of work from a reliever who allowed four home runs before tearing the flexor tendon in his right elbow in early May, ending his season—and perhaps his Red Sox career—prematurely.
While Brock Holt, also acquired from Pittsburgh in the deal, helped Boston plug the hole it had at third base during the season, the Red Sox came out on the losing end of this equation. Mark Melancon, one of the four players the Red Sox traded to the Pirates has thrived in his new surroundings, appearing in his first All-Star Game and putting up the best numbers of his career as both a setup man and a closer.
Edwin Jackson has watched the ball sail over his head all year long.
Best Buy: SP Scott Feldman
Signed to a one-year, $6 million deal in the hope that he could turn his career around and help to solidify Chicago's starting rotation, Scott Feldman did just that—and more.
Feldman exceeded expectations, posting the best numbers of his career while giving the Cubs a chance to win in nearly every start that he made, allowing three earned runs or fewer in 11 of his 15 starts—before he was traded to Baltimore at the beginning of July.
Not only did the Cubs get three months of quality work from Feldman, but they turned him (and backup catcher Steve Clevenger) into a young starter (Jake Arrieta) and quality reliever (Pedro Strop), both under team control for years to come.
Worst Buy: SP Edwin Jackson
Chicago's decision to sign Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million deal before the season was an expensive, albeit logical one for the team to make.
While Jackson isn't a front-of-the-rotation arm, the 10-year-veteran knew what it took to win games in the major leagues, and, at the very least, he'd be an innings eater who gave Chicago a chance to win more often than not.
Except that hasn't been the case.
The Cubs have gone 9-18 in games that Jackson has started, and the veteran has had only one month—July—in which he posted an ERA under 5.15 or a WHIP under 1.70. He's given Chicago three more quality outings than Feldman—in nearly twice as many starts.
With no signs that things are getting better anytime soon, the Cubs can only hope that the next three years look nothing like 2013. Otherwise, the first expensive purchase orchestrated by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will have backfired—and potentially set the team's rebuilding process back.
Avisail Garcia gives the White Sox some hope for the future.
Best Buy: OF Avisail Garcia
Kudos are due to White Sox GM Rick Hahn for realizing that his team was going nowhere fast, taking an honest assessment of a pretty terrible minor league system that is devoid of impact position players and making the difficult choice to begin a rebuilding process.
Outfielder Avisail Garcia is a great piece to start with.
Sent to Chicago from Detroit as part of the three-team trade that saw Jake Peavy head to Boston, Garcia has wasted little time in establishing himself as the team's best position player, hitting for average, getting on base consistently and flashing some of his still-developing power.
Only 22 years old, Garcia is still years away from reaching his prime—a prime that will be spent as one of the central figures in the next chapter of White Sox baseball.
Worst Buy: IF Jeff Keppinger
Chicago's biggest free-agent acquisition before the season, most people believed that the three-year, $12 million contract that Jeff Keppinger signed would wind up being one of the biggest steals of the winter for any team.
So far, Keppinger has been the one who looks like he's stealing.
The 33-year-old has battled injury and ineffectiveness for most of the season, struggled to get on base (generally one of the stronger points of his game) and struggled defensively around the horn, spending time at first base, second base and third base, the position he was originally expected to fill.
Unlike some of the other disappointing players that we've looked at, Keppinger has shown signs of life lately, having his best month of the season in August (.316 BA/.833 OPS, 5 XBH). The White Sox are going to need Keppinger to play more like that player in 2014 and beyond, especially if the team's ultimate goal is to try and move him for younger pieces to use in the rebuild.
Jack Hannahan hasn't lived up to modest expectations at the hot corner.
Best Buy: OF Shin-Soo Choo
When the Reds traded Didi Gregorius to Arizona as part of a three-team trade with Cleveland that landed Shin-Soo Choo, the expectation was that he'd be a catalyst atop the lineup, producing enough for most people to overlook his horrendous defense and giving top prospect Billy Hamilton another season to learn the position.
Choo has done just that, ranking second in the National League in runs scored and walks while posting the eighth-highest OPS on the Senior Circuit and sitting on the verge of the third 20/20 season of his career.
Worst Buy: IF Jack Hannahan
Signed to a two-year contract last December, Jack Hannahan was expected to give Dusty Baker a decent left-handed bat off of the bench and play solid defense when filling in for Todd Frazier at the hot corner.
Hannahan has done neither, posting the lowest OPS of his seven-year career while looking lost in the field at times. Of the 53 players that have logged at least 180 innings at third base this season, the 33-year-old ranks 44th in UZR/150 (-14.2) and 31st in DRS, according to FanGraphs.
Terry Francona has Cleveland believing again.
Best Buy: MGR Terry Francona
For all of the roster moves that Cleveland made before the season, the best decision that GM Chris Antonetti made was to hire Terry Francona as manager.
"Tito" has taken a team—and a fanbase—that had become accustomed to losing and now has everyone thinking about the Indians playing meaningful baseball in October.
Sure, guys like Michael Bourn, Jason Giambi, Ryan Raburn and Nick Swisher have contributed to the cause, but they, like the rest of their teammates, are all buying into Francona and his vision.
Worst Buy: SP Trevor Bauer
Trevor Bauer's star continues to fall, as the former top prospect, acquired from Arizona in the Shin-Soo Choo trade, has been mediocre at best and, realistically, pretty awful in both the majors and minors this season.
Bauer continues to struggle with his command and control, with a 5.4 BB/9 ratio at Triple-A Columbus and an even worse 8/5 BB/9 with the Indians. When he does get the ball over the plate, the opposition is making solid contact, leading to high pitch counts and short outings for the 22-year-old.
It's that he's only 22 years old that makes it possible to not completely give up on Bauer's considerable talent, but he's clearly not ready to help Cleveland's rotation, something the team was counting on in 2014.
Chris Volstad was downright awful in Colorado.
Best Buy: None
Worst Buy: SP Chris Volstad
Signed to a $1.5 million minor league contract in the hopes that he'd be able to solidify the back end of Colorado's rotation, Chris Volstad couldn't beat out Jeff Francis and, after a disappointing stay with Triple-A Colorado Springs, wound up in Colorado's bullpen.
After six games that saw him allow 10 earned runs in 8.1 innings of work, Colorado cut ties with the 26-year-old and promoted Roy Oswalt, another bad buy—just not as bad as Volstad.
Brayan Pena has stepped up when Detroit needed him to.
Best Buy: C Brayan Pena
Signed to a one-year deal to replace Gerald Laird as Alex Avila's backup, Brayan Pena has exceeded expectations for the Tigers this season.
The 31-year-old backstop filled in admirably for Alex Avila for a big chunk of August while the starter was sidelined with a concussion, hitting .397/.400/.524 in 63 at-bats while calling a quality game behind the plate, handling Detroit's elite pitching staff as if he'd been working with them for years.
Worst Buy: None
Philip Humber has been awful in every role the Astros have used him.
Best Buy: 1B/OF Chris Carter
Part of the five-player trade that sent Jed Lowrie to Oakland before the season, Chris Carter has done exactly what the Astros expected him to do: provide power in the middle of the lineup.
Carter's 27 home runs rank 10th in the American League and represent the first Astro to crack the 20-home run plateau since Hunter Pence (24) and Carlos Lee (23) accomplished the feat back in 2010.
He strikes out a ton, doesn't hit for average and is mediocre in the field, whether he's playing first base or one of the corner outfield positions, but Carter has been the team's one acquisition that has lived up to expectations this season.
Worst Buy: SP Phil Humber
|14 (7 GS)||0-8||8.54||1.81||45.1||17/28||2|
Claimed off of waivers from the Chicago White Sox back in November and signed to a one-year deal, Phil Humber has been an absolute disaster in Houston this season.
It takes a special kind of terrible to find yourself designated for assignment by a team that is starved for starting pitching, but that's exactly what happened to Humber in May.
He'd rejoin the major league roster in August after the team traded Wesley Wright, but whether it's been as a starter or as a reliever out of the bullpen, Humber hasn't been able to get major league hitters out with any consistency.
Ervin Santana has eclipsed even the highest expectations in Kansas City this year.
Best Buy: SP Ervin Santana
When you consider what it cost Kansas City to acquire Ervin Santana from the Angels—minor league reliever Brandon Sisk—all Santana really had to do was toss a handful of quality starts to make the deal a win for the Royals.
Instead, Santana has arguably been the Royals best starting pitcher this season, trailing only James Shields in ERA, innings pitched, quality starts and strikeouts. His 1.14 WHIP ranks eighth among American League starters, while his 20 quality starts rank 10th.
Worst Buy: SP Wade Davis
Not only has Wade Davis been unable to help solidify Kansas City's starting rotation, he's pitched his way out of it, replaced by Danny Duffy and been relegated to middle relief.
That the Royals have given Davis as many chances as they did to get himself back on track is quite amazing when you look at the numbers.
June was the only month this season that saw the 27-year-old pitch to an ERA below 5.00, and July was the only month his WHIP didn't exceed 1.60.
This certainly wasn't what the Royals expected when they acquired Davis, along with James Shields, from Tampa Bay in exchange for Wil Myers and three other prospects last December.
Hardly anything has gone right for Josh Hamilton this year.
Best Buy: SP Jason Vargas
Even though he missed nearly two months of the season with a blood clot near his left armpit, Jason Vargas still has the third-most quality starts for the Angels this season, both a testament to how badly the team's new additions have worked out—and how terrible the team's rotation is.
While the Angels had to trade Kendrys Morales, who has had a solid season for the Mariners, to get him out of Seattle, Vargas' numbers on the year would look far better had he not missed a significant chunk of the season.
Worst Buys: OF Josh Hamilton
What else can we possibly say about the disaster that has been Josh Hamilton's first season with the Angels that hasn't already been said?
The 32-year-old slugger has put up the worst numbers of his career, making the five-year, $125 million contract that owner Arte Moreno signed off on look as if it's going to be one of the worst free-agent signings in baseball history.
Moreno and the Angels can only hope that Hamilton comes back with a vengeance next season.
Hyun-Jin Ryu has turned out to be a relative bargain.
Best Buy: SP Hyun-jin Ryu
Signed to a six-year, $36 million deal, 26-year-old Hyun-jin Ryu has been one of baseball's most impressive rookies this season
The South Korean native ranks among the National League leaders in winning percentage (fourth), wins (eighth) and ERA (10th), but his stats only tell part of the story.
Ryu has failed to pitch at least six innings in only five of his starts this season, never going less than five innings in any of his outings. He's allowed more than three earned runs only five times, while 16 of his starts have seen him surrender two earned runs or fewer.
Those are impressive numbers for a player that is not only in his first major league season but one who is trying to acclimate himself to a new country.
Worst Buy: C Ramon Hernandez
Ramon Hernandez served his purpose with the Dodgers, filling in as A.J. Ellis' backup after the team traded Aaron Harang to Colorado in exchange for the former All-Star, but his time in Los Angeles was short-lived.
Hernandez made only 55 plate appearances for the team, with Tim Federowicz handling the bulk of the backup duties, and the 36-year-old backstop found himself released before the end of June.
Placido Polanco has looked every bit his age this year.
Best Buy: SP Henderson Alvarez
One of the prospects that Miami got from Toronto in the blockbuster trade between the two clubs before the season, Henderson Alvarez has had an up-and-down season for the Marlins.
After missing the first three months of the season with shoulder inflammation, the 23-year-old finally made his Marlins debut in July, pitching to a 2.61 ERA over his first six starts of the season. The next six didn't go nearly as well, with Alvarez pitching to a 5.51 ERA.
Yet for the rebuilding Marlins, Alvarez represents a low-cost, high-upside arm that the team can plug into the middle of its rotation for years to come.
Worst Buy: 3B Placido Polanco
Normally the one-year, $2.75 million contract that 37-year-old Placido Polanco signed with the Marlins shouldn't even be a blip on the radar, but when you consider that he's the team's highest-paid player (along with Adeiny Hechavarria), the lack of production is alarming.
Expected to be the team's everyday third baseman, Polanco has appeared in only 98 games, providing little in the way of offensive production and quality defense at third base when he did take the field.
All things considered, this was $2.75 million that penny-pinching owner Jeffrey Loria could have saved.
Kyle Lohse has been the one reliable starter at Ron Roenicke's disposal this year.
Best Buy: SP Kyle Lohse
I hesitated to include Kyle Lohse as Milwaukee's best buy due to the first-round pick that the team had to sacrifice to sign him to a three-year, $33 million deal just before spring training began, but he's been one of the few bright spots in a miserable season for the Brewers.
Lohse leads Milwaukee's rotation in nearly every statistic, pitching to a sub-3.00 ERA in three of the season's first five months. Yet for a team that is desperate for young, quality starting pitching, the loss of that first-round pick stings, regardless of how Lohse performs over the life of his deal.
Worst Buy: RP Mike Gonzalez
Signed to a one-year, $2.75 million deal, Mike Gonzalez was brought in to solidify Milwaukee's bullpen, which was one of baseball's worst in 2012.
The 35-year-old was decent in the first half of the season, pitching to a 3.00 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, but things have fallen apart since the All-Star break, with the southpaw allowing 12 earned runs and 19 hits over his last 13 innings of work.
This has been a season to forget for Vance Worley.
Best Buy: SP Kevin Correia
The two-year, $10 million deal that Kevin Correia signed with the Twins went largely unnoticed this past winter, but the 33-year-old right-hander has turned out to be the most consistent performer on an underachieving starting rotation.
Correia leads the Twins starting staff in nearly every statistical category with the exception of ERA and WHIP, trailing only Samuel Deduno, who has a slight edge in both categories, 3.83 and 1.38 respectively.
He's gone at least six innings in 19 of his 27 starts on the season and allowed more than four earned runs only four times, keeping the Twins in games more often than not. Asked to deliver as a front-of-the-rotation arm when he's been a back-end starter for his entire career, nobody can complain about Correia's performance this season.
Worst Buy: SP Vance Worley
Expected to step into Minnesota's rotation and provide stability after the Twins acquired him from Philadelphia (along with Trevor May) in exchange for Ben Revere, Vance Worley got shelled, allowing at least five earned runs in four of his 10 starts to begin the season and nearly two baserunners per inning.
He's been in the minor leagues since then, battling elbow and shoulder issues, and with the minor league season over and Worley not yet back in form, the Twins decided against making him one of the team's promotions when rosters expanded at the beginning of the month.
Worley, who celebrates his 26th birthday later this month, still has a chance to develop into a quality arm for Minnesota, but after this season, expectations may need to be tempered for just how high his ceiling truly is.
Marlon Byrd shocked everyone with his production in New York.
Best Buy: OF Marlon Byrd
Signed to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, nobody expected much of anything out of Marlon Byrd, whose career appeared to be over after hitting only .210 in 47 games for the Cubs and Red Sox in 2012.
The 36-year-old proved that appearances can be deceiving, putting together a phenomenal season for the Mets, setting a new career high with 21 home runs and raising his value to the point where New York was able to trade him, along with John Buck to Pittsburgh for a pair of prospects.
Not only did Byrd do his best to win games for the Mets in 2013, his play allowed the team to move him for pieces that can potentially help them in the future, while finding himself in the midst of a pennant race.
That's a win-win scenario if I've ever seen one.
Worst Buy: SP Shaun Marcum
|14 (12 GS)||1-10||5.29||1.35||78.1||21/60||4|
Even if Shaun Marcum went down with an injury, I fully expected that the 31-year-old right-hander would give the Mets a handful of quality starts before that happened.
Four quality starts doesn't make a handful, and the injury-prone label that has dogged him for much of his career was front-and-center in the media capital of the world.
Marcum, who signed a one-year deal with the club simply couldn't stay healthy—and even when he was "healthy," his performance alluded to an underlying medical issue. So it came as no surprise when it was announced in July that he would miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to fix a circulatory issue.
A few weeks later, the team released him, bringing his short-lived Mets career to an end.
It's been a cringe-worthy season for Kevin Youkilis.
Best Buy: LF Alfonso Soriano
Few midseason acquisitions have taken to their new teams the way that Alfonso Soriano has with the Yankees, though part of that is certainly because his new team was his old team—nearly a decade ago.
While the faces and stadium have changed, Soriano's swing remains built for the Bronx. In only 37 games, Soriano has the third-most home runs on the team, the fourth-most RBI and, most importantly, given the opposition someone other than Robinson Cano to worry about in the lineup.
If the Yankees wind up making the playoffs, Soriano will have played as big a part in that as anyone on the roster.
Worst Buy: 1B/3B Kevin Youkilis
Signing Kevin Youkilis to a one-year, $12 million deal made a lot of sense when it was announced back in December, but things simply haven't worked out as planned.
Specifically, Youkilis' back hasn't worked out.
On the disabled list since mid-June after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, Youkilis hopes to return at some point this month to help the team get into the playoffs.
Even if he does make it back, the Yankees will have paid $12 million for fewer than 50 games from the veteran infielder. That's not a good deal, no matter how you crunch the numbers.
Jed Lowrie has made his presence felt in the middle of Oakland's lineup.
Best Buy: SS Jed Lowrie
Acquired from Houston as part of a five-player deal that sent Chris Carter to the Astros back in February, Jed Lowrie has fit in seamlessly with manager Bob Melvin's program in Oakland.
The team's leader with 149 hits, Lowrie is third among major league shortstops in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS, and fourth in RBI. While the power surge he went on with Houston last season (16 HR in 97 games) didn't come with him, Lowrie's 10 bombs are more than respectable for a player that isn't known for being much of a slugger.
Yes, his defense leaves plenty to be desired, but Lowrie has been as solid an addition as Oakland has made this season, playing a major role in the team's quest to defend its AL West title.
Worst Buy: SS Hiroyuki Nakajima
With Triple-A Sacramento
Before the A's traded for Jed Lowrie, they signed Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima to a two-year, $6.5 million deal to plug their hole at shortstop. But Nakajima struggled badly in spring training, and as Lowrie took hold of the position, the 31-year-old was sent packing to Triple-A Sacramento.
He's never made it out of California's capital city, spending the entire season in the minor leagues and finding himself removed from the team's 40-man roster in mid-August.
John Lannan may want to seek employment outside of the NL East next season.
Best Buy: CF Ben Revere
It took about a month for Ben Revere to finally get comfortable in Philadelphia after his offseason trade from Minnesota, but when he got going, Revere looked unstoppable.
From May 1 until July 13, when he suffered a broken ankle, Revere hit .347/.380/.404 with 11 extra-base hits and 17 stolen bases, flashing the skills and speed that made him one of the more underrated offseason acquisitions in baseball.
His defense wasn't up to par, but considering what Philadelphia gave up for him and the team's need for an injection of youth into the lineup, picking up the 25-year-old speedster was a great move.
Worst Buy: SP John Lannan
Signed to a one-year deal to replace Vance Worley at the back end of Philadelphia's rotation after spending the first six years of his career with Washington, John Lannan simply couldn't get the job done.
He missed all of May and part of June after going on the disabled list in mid-April with a knee injury, only to wind up back on the shelf after reaggravating the injury in August, essentially ending his season—and likely his Phillies career.
He's not quite back to his peak with Minnesota, but Francisco Liriano is back.
Best Buy: SP Francisco Liriano
Francisco Liriano has pitched like an ace for the Pirates this season, solidifying the starting rotation and leading the team to its first winning season in 20 years.
Did anyone ever think that we'd see his name and the word "ace" in the same sentence again?
The Pirates weren't convinced, which is why, six weeks after initial reports of a two-year, $12.25 million deal were coming out, the team officially announced the 29-year-old southpaw had signed a one-year, incentive-laden $1 million contract with a vesting option for 2014.
Third in the National League in wins and fourth in complete games (two), the Pirates signing Liriano may be the best move that any team has made, before or during the regular season.
Worst Buy: SP Jonathan Sanchez
|5 (4 GS)||0-3||11.85||2.42||13.2||8/15||0|
Signed to a low-risk minor league deal before the season, Jonathan Sanchez did his best to make sure that Pittsburgh continued its 20-year losing streak.
Sanchez made five appearances (four starts) for the Pirates, allowing 18 earned runs, 25 hits and seven home runs—in 13.2 innings of work.
To be perfectly honest, I don't believe that the English language has the words needed to accurately describe just how terrible Sanchez was in his short-lived Pirates career.
Tyson Ross looks like a big part of San Diego's future.
Best Buy: SP Tyson Ross
|30 (11 GS)||3-7||2.99||1.19||96.1||36/92||5|
Acquired from Oakland in exchange for left-handed pitcher Andrew Werner and minor league infielder Andy Perrino last November, Tyson Ross has given the Padres and their fanbase some hope for the team's future rotation.
While he's bounced between starting and the bullpen, Ross has been at his best taking the ball to start the game, pitching to a 2.76 ERA and 1.13 WHIP while averaging more than a strikeout per inning (70 Ks in 65.1 innings of work).
When you consider what San Diego surrendered to land him, we find ourselves faced with the rare situation where we can say that someone got the best of Oakland GM Billy Beane.
Worst Buy: None
Ramon Ramirez was a shell of the pitcher that the Giants remembered.
Best Buy: SP/RP Chad Gaudin
|30 (12 GS)||5-2||3.06||1.25||97.0||40/88||6|
Players who are signed to minor league contracts typically don't play major roles with their new teams, but apparently Chad Gaudin never got that memo.
Earlier this season, with Ryan Vogelsang on the disabled list, Gaudin stepped into his spot in the rotation and, in his first start since 2009, held St. Louis to two runs and four hits over six innings of work. Over 12 starts this season, Gaudin has a 3.53 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.
He was even better as a reliever, allowing only seven earned runs over 30.2 innings, with a 2.05 ERA.
On the disabled list with carpal tunnel syndrome, you can be sure that the Giants will look to re-sign the versatile veteran before he hits the open market after the season.
Worst Buy: RP Ramon Ramirez
A year after being traded to the Mets (along with Andres Torres) for Angel Pagan, Ramon Ramirez returned to San Francisco, signing a minor league contract with the team he spent part of 2010 and all of 2011 with.
The reunion was short-lived, however, as Ramirez was ineffective, allowing runs in all but one of his seven relief appearances before the team designated him for assignment in mid-June.
Kendrys Morales has met expectations in Seattle.
Best Buy: DH Kendrys Morales
After being spurned by Josh Hamilton in free agency, the Mariners turned their attention to the trade market in an attempt to land the impact bat that they sought, trading starting pitcher Jason Vargas to Hamilton's new team, the Angels, for designated hitter Kendrys Morales.
The 30-year-old hasn't disappointed, serving as a formidable force in the middle of the team's lineup and taking some of the pressure off of Kyle Seager and Raul Ibanez, who also received serious consideration as the team's best buy.
Not only has he delivered at the plate, but Morales has been a leader in the clubhouse, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, who goes on to say that Morales plans on testing free agency after the season. Represented by Scott Boras, the Mariners may not be willing to meet what is sure to be an outrageous asking price and could be looking to replace his production in the lineup this coming winter.
Worst Buy: IF Robert Andino
Acquired in a swap of reserve players with Baltimore, Robert Andino was expected to provide some middle infield depth for the Mariners in 2013.
Instead, the 29-year-old struggled badly at the plate, finding himself designated for assignment in May and eventually traded to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline for the infamous PTBNL (Player to be named later).
Signing Ty Wigginton was a costly mistake.
St. Louis needed to add a second left-handed reliever to its bullpen heading into the season, and they landed a keeper in Randy Choate, signing the 37-year-old veteran to a three-year, $7.5 million deal in early December.
Choate has been terrific, sitting third on the team with 12 holds and stymieing batters from both sides of the plate, holding the opposition to a .211 batting average and .559 OPS.
Worst Buy: UTIL Ty Wigginton
St. Louis signed Ty Wigginton to a two-year, $5 million deal under the belief that it had found the veteran, versatile right-handed bat off of the bench that it sought.
After only 63 plate appearances, the team decided that it had made a terrible, expensive mistake and released the veteran in mid-July.
James Loney has been far better than anyone expected.
Best Buy: 1B James Loney
After a horrid 2012 season with the Dodgers and Red Sox, the financially-strapped Rays swooped in and signed James Loney to a one-year, $2 million deal to fill their never-ending void at first base.
Loney has done more than fill the void, leading the team in batting average, trailing Ben Zobrist by percentage points for the on-base percentage lead and flashed an excellent glove, ranking second among first basemen with a 9.1 UZR/150, according to FanGraphs.
While he's been a major reason why Tampa Bay finds itself in the thick of the American League playoff race once again, his terrific season likely means that he's one-and-done with the Rays, sure to be too expensive for the team's tastes following the season.
Worst Buy: None
Lance Berkman has spent far too much time on the sidelines this season.
Best Buys: C A.J. Pierzynski
Signed to a one-year, $7.5 million deal after the White Sox inexplicably decided to ignore their longtime backstop in free agency, A.J. Pierzynski has solidified a position of need in Texas while providing an impact bat in the middle of the lineup.
More importantly, Pierzynski has done a terrific job with the team's pitching staff, and anyone who says that his game-calling ability and presence behind the plate has little to do with the Rangers having the eighth-lowest ERA in baseball (3.66) simply doesn't know what they're talking about.
Worst Buy: 1B/DH Lance Berkman
It's not that Lance Berkman is a bad player, it's that he simply can't stay healthy enough to justify his contract.
Signed to a one-year, $10 million deal (with a $12 million team option for 2014), Berkman missed nearly two months of the season with a sore hip and surgically repaired knee, injuries that led some to speculate that he might retire.
While he's returned to action for the Rangers, the lack of production that they've gotten from him makes this a bad deal for the team—and raises serious doubts about whether they'd exercise the team option they hold on him for next season.
Mark Buehrle has turned things around.
Best Buy: SP Mark Buehrle
While much was made of Mark Buehrle's awful start to the season, the 34-year-old left-hander has been on a tear since the middle of May—and he's given hope to Toronto fans for the short-term future of their pitching staff.
Since May 11, Buehrle has gone 10-5 with a 2.99 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, numbers much closer to what the Blue Jays thought they were getting when they made their blockbuster trade with the Marlins before last Thanksgiving.
Worst Buy: SP Josh Johnson
One of the big names that came to Toronto along with Buehrle from Miami, Josh Johnson has been a colossal disappointment.
Once considered to be a perennial Cy Young Award contender, the 29-year-old has struggled to stay healthy—and struggled when he was.
Opposing batters hit .305 with an .852 OPS against him, leading to high pitch counts early, even when he wasn't allowing runs to cross home plate. Case in point: He allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of his starts, yet he made it out of the fifth inning in only five of them.
A free agent after the season, Toronto may choose to just cut their losses and not offer him a qualifying offer, meaning that he'd be free to leave without the Blue Jays receiving any draft pick compensation.
Dan Haren has shown flashes of brilliance, but not enough.
Best Buys: RP Rafael Soriano
Washington needed a closer heading into the season and got one on the free-agent market, signing Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal, with more than half of the money deferred.
Soriano hasn't been terrific, blowing six saves and sitting with an ERA and WHIP higher than what you'd like to see from your closer, but he's done more good than bad for the Nationals, shoring up the ninth inning and allowing Tyler Clippard to return to dominance in a setup role.
Worst Buy: SP Dan Haren
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In 11 games since returning to action, Haren has been significantly better, pitching to a 3.47 ERA and looking more like the guy who averaged 14 wins a season from 2005 through 2012.
Still, his recent surge doesn't atone for the disaster that was the first half of his season, one that played a role in Washington's disappointing record this season.