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MLB Free Agency: Ranking the 10 Best Signings for the Yankees in Recent History

Doug RushSenior Analyst IOctober 22, 2011

MLB Free Agency: Ranking the 10 Best Signings for the Yankees in Recent History

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    We're getting closer and closer to the 2011 season ending and the free agency period for baseball to begin.

    In my last article, I did a history of the top 10 worst free agency signings for the Yankees.

    The ones I reviewed were of recent history.

    This will be the complete opposite of that.

    This one will be the top 10 best free agency signings in recent history for the Yankees.

    Since 1995, the Yankees have missed the playoffs only one time, won the American League East division title 11 times, appeared in seven World Series and won five championships.

    A lot of that has to do with the Yankees making the right moves to land free agents.

    This list was a lot harder to put together because of who was an actual free agent and who got traded.

    For example, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Paul O'Neill, David Cone, John Wetteland and Cecil Fielder were all results of the Yankees making trades and won't be on this list.

    Nope, this is strictly free agency moves.

10. Doc Gooden

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    With the New York Mets, Dwight "Doc" Gooden was a can't miss prospect expected to dominate baseball for 15 years.

    From 1984 until 1994, Gooden had a 157-85 record.

    The downfall of Gooden with the Mets was a major drug problem, which caused him to be suspended for the entire 1995 season.

    In 1996, the Yankees took a chance on Gooden, now a 31-year-old looking for a second chance in baseball.

    He pitched poorly in April, but on May 14, 1996, he cemented himself in Yankee history by pitching a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium..

    Gooden finished that year 11-7 with a 5.01 ERA in 29 starts.

    In 1997, Gooden went 9-5 with a 4.91 ERA in 19 starts.

    The following year, Gooden signed on with the Cleveland Indians, but because the Yankees gave him a chance to come back., his baseball career was resurrected.

9. Mark Teixeira

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    Mark Teixeira nearly became a member of the Boston Red Sox in the winter of 2008.

    But a deal for Teixeira fell apart and on December 23, 2008, the Yankees and Teixeira agreed to an eight-year, $180 million contract.

    Teixeira was taking over for Jason Giambi, who really never lived up to the hype from Oakland.

    In 2009, Teixeira hit .292 with 39 home runs and 122 RBI and was second in the A.L. MVP voting.

    In 2010, he hit .256 with 33 home runs and 108 RBI.

    In 2011, he hit .248 with 39 home runs and 111 RBI.

    He also won two straight gold gloves at first base in 2009 and 2010 and could potentially win another in 2011.

    His average has dipped each year, but his power numbers have not.

8. Jimmy Key

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    Before the 1993 season, the Yankees made a bold move to add long-time Blue Jays pitcher Jimmy Key to a four-year, $17 million deal.

    Key had just won the World Series with Toronto and went 2-0 against the Braves.

    In his first season with the team, he went 18-6 with a 3.00 ERA and finished fourth in the A.L. Cy Young voting.

    In 1994, he finished with a 17-4 record before the strike cut the season short.

    In 1995, he spent most of the time on the DL with a 1-2 record in five starts.

    In 1996, he went 12-11 with a 4.68 ERA and won Game 6 of the World Series, out-dueling Greg Maddux to help the Yankees win the World Series.

    After the Yankees, Key pitched two more years with the Orioles before retiring.

7. David Wells

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    Before the 1997 season, Jimmy Key left the Yankees to join the Orioles.

    So, to counter, the Yankees snagged one of Baltimore's best to join their rotation.

    The Yankees signed David Wells to be their ace pitcher and join guys like David Cone and Andy Pettitte.

    In 1997, Wells went 16-10 with a 4.21 ERA.

    In 1998, Wells had an even better year, going 18-4 with a 3.49 ERA.

    Wells also became the second pitcher in Yankees history to pitch a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins on May 17, 1998.

    After the Yankees went on to win the 1998 World Series, Wells was traded to the Blue Jays in exchange for Roger Clemens.

    Following the 2001 season it looked like Wells would join the Arizona Diamondbacks in an oral agreement, but he spurned them to return to the Yankees on a two-year, $7 million deal.

    In 2002, Wells went 19-7 with a 3.75 ERA.

    In 2003, Wells went 15-7 with a 4.14 ERA.

    Wells' last game with the Yankees was Game 5 of the World Series against the Marlins, but could not pitch for very long because of his back acting up.

6. Wade Boggs

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    Wade Boggs was a long-time great player for the Boston Red Sox who won five batting titles.

    So for him to go to the Yankees in a three-year deal in the winter of 1993 was extremely rough on Boston fans.

    Boggs hit .302, .342 and .324 in his those first three years with the Yankees.

    New York then gave Boggs, who was 38 at the time, another two years, thinking his time with baseball was almost over.

    He shared some time at third base in 1996 with Charlie Hays, but in 132 games, he hit .311 for the Yankees and was an All-Star.

    After the Yankees won the 1996 World Series, nobody will ever forget Boggs riding on the horse of an NYPD officer all across Yankee Stadium and saluting the fans.

    In 1997, Boggs hit just .292 in 104 games with the Yankees.

    After 1997, he played his final two years with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and collected his 3,000 hit there.

5. Hideki Matsui

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    In Japan, Hideki Matsui was to their league what Babe Ruth was to ours.

    He wasn't just a home-run hitting slugger, he was a rock-star legend who turned down big-time money in Japan to sign a three-year, $21 million deal to play for the Yankees.

    In his first game at Yankee Stadium in April of 2003, Matsui hit a grand slam off Twins pitcher Joe Mays that sent the crowd into a frenzy—and instantly, Godzilla became a hit with the Bronx crowd.

    He played in every single game from 2003-2005, hit 16, 31 and 23 home runs in each of those years and was just a model of consistency.

    The Yankees brought Matsui back on a four-year, $52 million deal before the 2006 season.

    In 2006, Matsui broke his wrist diving after a ball in the outfield, which caused him to only play in 51 games.

    In 2008, he only played in 93 games and was transitioned from left field to the designated hitter role.

    His last year with the Yankees was in 2009, but he was productive, hitting .274 with 28 home runs and 90 RBI.

    His greatest impact in 2009 was in the World Series against the Phillies, where he hit .615 (8-for-13) with three home runs and eight RBI; he just tore up the Phillies pitching in Game 6 with a three-hit night and six RBI.

    Matsui won the 2009 World Series MVP Award for his strong series and clutch hitting.

    After the season, Matsui signed with the Angels.

4. Orlando Hernandez

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    There might not have been a big-game pitcher during the Yankees dynasty run.

    Known as "El Duque," Orlando Hernandez defected from Cuba and signed with the Yankees to a four-year, $6.6 million deal on March 7.

    Hernandez went 12-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 21 starts during his rookie year.

    As important as El Duque was in the regular season, he came up even bigger for the Yankees in the playoffs every year.

    He has a career 9-3 record with a 2.55 ERA in 14 playoff starts for the Yankees and won three World Series with the Yankees.

    In the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, he won the ALCS MVP Award by going 1-0 with a 1.80 in two starts.

    After the 2002 season, Hernandez was traded to the White Sox, only to be flipped later in a deal to the Expos for Bartolo Colon.

    After missing the entire 2003 season with a torn rotator cuff, El Duque returned to the Yankees during the 2004 year and went 8-2 with a 3.30 ERA.

3. Andy Pettitte

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    From his rookie season in 1995 until 2003, Andy Pettitte was one of the best Yankee pitchers that came up through the system since Ron Guidry.

    Then after the 2003 season, where Pettitte finished 21-8, the Yankees let Pettitte leave for free agency to the Houston Astros with a three-year, $31.5 million deal.

    Yankee fans all over were enraged that the Yankees let Pettitte walk away to Houston.

    After the 2006 season and watching guys like Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright fail, the Yankees knew they had to bring back a familiar face.

    So on December 8, 2006, the Yankees corrected a huge blunder and brought Pettitte back on a one-year, $16 million deal.

    In 2007, he was 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA in 34 starts.

    Pettitte continued to come back to the Yankees on one-year deals in 2008, 2009 and 2010. During his last four years with the Yankees, Pettitte went 54-34.

    During the 2009 postseason, Pettitte went 4-0 and pitched the deciding game in the ALDS, ALCS and World Series en route to the Yankees 27th World Championship.

    Pettitte is the all-time wins leader in the postseason for pitchers with 19 career wins (18 with the Yankees).

2. Mike Mussina

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    With the Baltimore Orioles, Mike Mussina was one of most consistent pitchers for 10 years, picking up a 147-81 record with them.

    After the 2000 season, Mussina left the Orioles to sign with the Yankees for a six-year, $88.5 million deal and put him in a rotation with Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez.

    In 2001, Mussina finished with a 17-11 record and a 3.15 ERA and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting.

    On September 2, 2001, at Fenway Park, Mussina retired the first 26 Red Sox batters and came close to a perfect game, but on the 27th batter, Carl Everett singled to break up Mussina's chance at history.

    Mussina and the Yankees came close to a World Series in 2001 against the Diamondbacks and 2003 against the Marlins, but they fell short each time.

    Over the next six seasons, Mussina always put up double-digit wins and was a key part of the rotation after Clemens and Pettitte left for Houston.

    After the 2006 season, Mussina signed for another two years and had a rough 2007 season, finishing 11-10 with a 5.15 ERA.

    In 2008, Mussina, age 39, may have had one of his best seasons ever, winning 20 games for the first time in his career with a 20-9 record and a 3.37 ERA and finished sixth in the Cy Young voting.

    Mussina retired after the 2008 season and finished with a 270-153 career record and 123-72 record with the Yankees.

1. CC Sabathia

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    The No. 1 spot goes to the current Yankees ace.

    Before the 2009 season, the Yankees signed CC Sabathia to a seven-year, $161 million deal, a contract that includes an opt-out after the 2011 season.

    In his first three years with the Yankees, Sabathia has gone 59-23 with the team and 5-1 in the postseason.

    Sabathia was the 2009 ALCS MVP against the Angels that got the Yankees to the World Series.

    In 2010, Sabathia finished 21-7 with a 3.14 ERA and third in the A.L. Cy Young voting, all while pitching with a slight tear in his meniscus, which he had surgery for after the season.

    In each of his three years, Sabathia has won at least 19 games, struck out at least 190 batters and pitched in 230 innings.

    Oh, and the Yankees won the World Series in his first season, too.

    The Yankees are expecting CC to opt out this winter, and the odds are in the favor of the Yankees re-signing Sabathia to another big-time contract.

    Sabathia has been a bona fide ace and workhorse for the Yankees, and he gets the No. 1 spot for the Yankees best free agency signings of recent history.

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