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Grading All the Latest Big-Name Offseason Signings Across MLB

Karl BuscheckContributor IIIJanuary 17, 2014

Grading All the Latest Big-Name Offseason Signings Across MLB

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    Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    After an exceptionally slow start to 2014, suddenly a ton of MLB stars have agreed to new deals for the upcoming season.

    Much of the activity has resulted from clubs and players looking to avoid the messy arbitration process. Friday marked the final day for arbitration-eligible players and teams to exchange salary figures, with potential arbitration hearings looming in mid-February.

    Of course, Clayton Kershaw's historic new megadeal also can't be left out of the mix. That means it's time to dish out grades for all the latest big-name offseason signing from across MLB. 

Brett Gardner

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Contract Details: One year, $5.6 million

    The New York Yankees have avoided going to arbitration with Brett Gardner after inking the outfielder to a one-year, $5.6 million deal, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

    While that works out to slightly less than a $3 million raise for Gardner, it's still a shrewd move for New York. Gardner was a valuable contributor in 2013 as he hit .273/.344/.416 with 24 stolen bases while posting a WAR of 4.2.

    The only real critique of this agreement is that the Yankees appear to have been more generous than necessary. Tim Dierkes and Matt Swartz of MLBTradeRumors.com had projected that Gardner would receive a $4 million payout had he gone to arbitration. 

    Grade: B+

David Price

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Details: One year, $14 million

    The Tampa Bay Rays and David Price have come to terms on a $14 million agreement for 2014, which sets the record as the highest single-season salary ever for a Rays' player according to ESPN.com

    Still, that's a bargain for a pitcher as talented as Price. His paycheck will be less than half of what Kershaw earns for each of the next seven seasons. It's also over a million dollars less than the one-year deal that Max Scherzer and the Detroit Tigers arrived at.

    Admittedly, Price was not as dominant as either Scherzer or Kershaw in 2014. Still, it's hard to bet against the 2012 American League Cy Young winner moving forward. That $14 million figure should fit nicely into the payroll of any number of clubs should the Rays finally decide to part with the ace. 

    Grade: A

Jed Lowrie

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Details: One year, $5.25 million

    The Oakland A's have locked up Jed Lowrie for the 2014 season on a one-year, $5.25 million deal according to Joel Sherman of the NY Post

    That represents a remarkable value for one of the best offensive shortstops in all of baseball. In 2013, Lowrie posted a nearly identical slash line to Jhonny Peralta, who recently scored a four-year, $53 million contract from the St. Louis Cardinals.

    Check out how the stats compare:

    • Peralta: .306/.360/.461
    • Lowrie: .297/.347/.472

    The A's could even contemplate using Lowrie as trade bait this summer depending on how top prospect Addison Russell progresses in the opening months of the 2014 season. As an accomplished hitter, who is capable of handling a premier defensive position, Lowrie would be a major trade chip. 

    Grade: A-

Jordan Zimmermann

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    Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Details: Two years, $24 million

    The Washington Nationals and Jordan Zimmermann have agreed on a two-year, $24 million deal, per Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.

    As Kilgore observes, the two-year deal came about after the sides has failed to reach an agreement on a long-term extension. The deal buys out Zimmermann's final two seasons of arbitration eligibility, but there are concerns about the structure of the contract. 

    Zimmermann will earn $7.5 million in 2014 and $16.5 million in 2015 as noted by Joel Sherman of the NY Post. That means the right-hander will be a steal next season, but he also will be nearly impossible to trade next winter. 

    Grade: B

Giancarlo Stanton

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Contract Details: One year, $6.5 million

    It's hard not to like Giancarlo Stanton's new one-year, $6.5 million deal, as reported by Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel. The powerful outfielder can earn an additional $100,000 for amassing 600 plate appearances as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports adds.

    For the Miami Marlins, the one-year agreement is a downright steal. Despite a down year in 2013, Stanton has been one of the most prolific power hitters in the game since making his big league debut in June of 2010.

    Since that time, the only players who have hit more home runs than Stanton are Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Adrian Beltre, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. That's some impressive company that the 24-year-old is keeping. It also underscores just how much of a bargain Stanton is for the Marlins at $6.5 million in 2014. 

    Grade: A

Max Scherzer

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Details: One year, $15.525 million

    Coming off his AL Cy Young Award-winning season in 2013, Scherzer will make $15.525 million next year according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman adds that the Tigers could still pursue a multiyear extension with the talented right-hander. 

    The Tigers arguably gave Scherzer more money than was necessary. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, Scherzer was projected to earn $13.6 million via the arbitration process.

    Then again, that roughly $2 million gap wasn't worth the headache of an arbitration hearing. Plus, handing Scherzer such a lucrative one-year contract could buy the club some goodwill in extension discussions down the line. 

    Grade: A-

Chase Headley

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Contract Details: One year, $10.525 million

    After a disappointing 2013 season, Chase Headley and the San Diego Padres have reached an agreement on a one-year, $10.525 million deal, per Joel Sherman of the NY Post

    That figure amounts to a modest raise from the $8.575 million that Headley earned in 2013, but still it feels like an overpay. After breaking out with 31 home runs in 2012, Headley managed just 13 long balls in 2013. 

    The deal doesn't look much better compared to some of the other contracts doled out to arbitration-eligible power hitters. Headley will take home roughly $4 million more than Stanton, and he will even earn more than Chris Davis. 

    Grade: C

Rick Porcello

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Details: One year, $8.5 million 

    The Tigers and Rick Porcello have agreed to a one-year, $8.5 million deal as Joel Sherman of the NY Post reports

    That's not an outrageous overpay, but it is a little puzzling nonetheless. Earlier this offseason, the club was shopping Porcello, Scherzer and Doug Fister before ultimately deciding to ship out Fister to the Nationals.

    While Scherzer is the best of those three, there's also a compelling argument to be made that Fister is a superior pitcher to Porcello. Last season, Fister posted a lower ERA, racked up more strikeouts and produced a higher WAR than did Porcello. 

    As it turns out, though, there's actually a chance than Porcello will earn more than Fister in 2014. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Fister filed for arbitration at $8.5 million, while the Nationals countered at $5.75 million. 

    Grade: C+

Chris Davis

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Details: One year, $10.35 million

    After clubbing 53 home runs in 2013 for the Baltimore Orioles, Davis will earn $10.35 million next season, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports

    The first baseman now has 86 home runs over the past two campaigns as he has cemented his spot as one of the top power hitters in all of baseball. Davis certainly has been rewarded as his new $10.35 million contract amounts to slightly more than a $7 million raise.

    If Davis' 2014 season is anything like the past two years in Baltimore, the 2013 All-Star will be worth every penny of that deal. 

    Grade: A

Clayton Kershaw

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    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    Contract Details: Seven years, $215 million

    After finalizing his seven-year, $215 contract, Kershaw becomes the first $200 million pitcher in the history of baseball. Looking around the league, if there was any pitcher who deserved such a distinction, it was probably the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

    In 2013, Kershaw posted the lowest ERA among all starters and also produced the highest WAR. The left-hander is also just 25 years old. 

    Still, seven years sure is a lot a years to give to any player, especially a pitcher. It's remarkably challenging for any player to live up to an annual average salary of $30.7 million for seven straight seasons. Plus, the structure of the contract means that Kershaw has all the leverage. 

    The deal allows Kershaw to opt out after five seasons when he'll be 30 years old. That means if Kershaw is still pitching at his current level in five years, he's all but certain to demand another massive extension or simply leave for the highest bidder.

    Grade: B+

     

    If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.

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