MLB Free Agency: 10 Smartest Signings of the 2010 Hot Stove Thus Far

Thomas CopainCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2010

MLB Free Agency: 10 Smartest Signings of the 2010 Hot Stove Thus Far

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    MLB free agency is still on the minds of everyone in baseball as the Hot Stove continues to simmer.

    The biggest names have already been signed to megadeals, which has left clubs around baseball looking for what's left.

    But December and January are usually when the biggest free-agent bargains can be found for relatively cheap. Already, there have been some great deals on some solid players so far.

    I apologize if it sounds like a late-night infomercial, but the point is that there have been some really good signings that don't include triple digits and a buyout clause. Here are the 10 smartest signings so far.

10. Scott Downs, LHP, LA Angels of Anaheim

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    Contract: Three years, $15 million

    Downs has been a solid lefty reliever and was one of the more sought-after relievers in a very crowded field. Five million a year might be a little much for a lefty specialist, but he also has experience as a starter (if need be) and has been durable over the last few years.

9. Miguel Tejada, SS, San Francisco

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    Contract: One year, $6 million

    Tejada might be somewhat overpaid, but considering the Giants had Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe as their shortstops last year, it's an okay trade-off.

    Tejada still brings a little bit of offensive pop, and the defensive range isn't that big of a difference from either Renteria or Uribe.

8. Carlos Pena, 1B, Chicago Cubs

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    Contract: One year, $10 million

    Pena had a bad year last year but still hit 28 home runs. The Cubs might be overpaying by offering $10 million to Pena, but he provides a younger bat and a lefty presence to a right-handed-heavy lineup.

    He's also playing for a bigger contract in 2012, which could be enough motivation to be worth the risk.

7. George Sherrill, LHP, Atlanta

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    Contract: One year, $1.2 million

    Sherrill had the worst year of his major league career, which led to the very limited interest in him. But he's proven to be effective for the most part against lefties, plus he has experience and is not foreign to either a setup or a closing role.

    A lefty setup man who can match up can be a very powerful weapon, and Atlanta just might have a steal.

6. J.P. Howell, LHP, Tampa Bay

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    Contract: One year, $1.1 million

    Tampa might have lost a lot this offseason, but it was able to keep a valuable part of its bullpen in Howell, and for an affordable price to boot.

    Howell has been indispensable as a reliever in Tampa, appearing in many different situations and as one of the Rays' most consistent and go-to relievers. He could also be an option should Tampa go back to closer by committee.

5. Jon Garland, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Contract: One year, $5 million

    Garland's not a top-of-the-rotation type of pitcher, but the Dodgers don't need him to be. He is what he is at this point of his career: a nice back-of-the-rotation pitcher who's usually good for 10 to 13 wins and 170 innings a year. He's a nice fit in the back of the LA rotation.

4. Ted Lilly, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Contract: Three years, $33 million

    In what was a disappointing season and a very disappointing finish for the Dodgers, Lilly was one of the bright spots down the stretch, posting seven wins and a 3.47 ERA.

    He does better when he's not the star of the rotation, and with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley at the top, he doesn't have to be. Plus, he's a pitcher who's a good fit in Dodger Stadium.

3. Hideki Matsui, DH, Oakland Athletics

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    Contract: One year, $4.25 million

    Matsui might be at the end of his career, but $4 million and change for a player who hit 21 home runs and drove in 84 runs is not bad. He's an upgrade over Jack Cust, and he finally gives the Athletics the power bat they've needed for a while. He won't hit 40, but he can still be an effective hitter.

2. Kerry Wood, RP, Chicago Cubs

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    Contract: One year, $1.5 million

    Wood made himself valuable thanks to his outstanding performance with the Yankees at the end of last season, and had a few suitors asking for him. Wood decided to go back to Chicago for only a little more than a million dollars.

    If he's close to what he was at the end of last season, then it's a great deal for Chicago to solidify the bullpen and add an insurance policy for Carlos Marmol.

1. Pat Burrell, LF, San Francisco

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    Contract: One year, $1 million

    Burrell wasn't the main reason the Giants were World Series champions. But he was a big part of the turnaround and provided a big spark to the offense after he arrived midseason.

    He's still an effective hitter and a good player to have, and it was clear he wanted to stay and the Giants wanted him back. For what he brings, the price tag is a big discount.