MLB Free Agency 2014: Biggest Winners and Losers of Week 3
It's been a busy week in MLB free agency, with several veteran pitchers and position players receiving multi-year deals. Even the latest rumors about some top free agents have been juicy.
Every free-agent update reverberates around the league, resulting in numerous winners and losers.
Contracts signed so early in free agency give us a better idea of what comparable players should expect to receive. Also, as the free-agent crop grows thinner, front offices are forced to reluctantly abandon their preconceived strategies.
Picking up from where Bleacher Report's Adam Wells left off, we've hand-picked the biggest beneficiaries and victims of the Nov. 15-21 action.
Winner: Tim Hudson
Even in the offseason, Major League Baseball has unwritten rules. One of them used to be that elderly free agents coming off significant injuries do not receive multi-year deals.
That makes the San Francisco Giants—and several teams that finished close behind them in the bidding for Tim Hudson—completely guilty.
The veteran right-hander will receive $23 million over the next two seasons.
Hudson has played for six postseason teams in his career, and all of them were eliminated prior to the league championship series. Having won two of the past four championships, the Giants give him a great opportunity to get over that hurdle.
As Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today noted, the 38-year-old is also "really excited" to return to the Bay Area after breaking into the majors with the nearby Oakland Athletics.
Loser: Ervin Santana
Ervin Santana will ultimately secure a larger contract than Tim Hudson in terms of both length and average annual value, but this past week ruled out several potential suitors.
A return to the Kansas City Royals looks doubtful after the club inked Jason Vargas to a multi-year deal on Thursday.
The San Francisco Giants are expected to spend conservatively when filling out the final spot of their starting rotation. Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that San Francisco won't go beyond three years on any contract. At the GM meetings, Santana's agents reportedly sought a five-year deal, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Even if the Los Angeles Dodgers felt compelled to one-up their NL West rivals, it's unlikely that they'd pursue Santana to do it.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Dodgers refuse to cough up a draft pick to sign a free agent. Since Santana declined a qualifying offer from Kansas City, adding him would require that sacrifice.
Winner: Carlos Ruiz
Watching Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins deteriorate before his eyes didn't deter Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. from reaching another long-term deal with an aging core player.
Amaro justified his three-year, $26 million commitment to Carlos Ruiz by expressing skepticism about other free-agent catchers, via Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News.
"Clearly, this is a commitment that will be scrutinized, but, when we start talking about this position and the dearth of quality in this position, I know that Chooch knows what it takes to be a championship-caliber player," Amaro said.
The lofty expectations for Ruiz's health that he mentions in the same article are unfounded, however. Chooch has spent time on the disabled list in each of the past five seasons, and avoiding injury will only become more difficult as his 35th birthday approaches.
MLB Trade Rumors' Tim Dierkes explains that the Phillies were unnecessarily generous to guarantee that contract's third year without trimming its average annual value.
Winner: Cole Hamels
Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz both made their major-league debuts with the Philadelphia Phillies in May 2006. Since then, Ruiz has been behind the plate for more than two-thirds of Hamels' starts.
The All-Star left-hander owns a 3.14 career ERA when paired with his favorite battery mate. That's noticeably better than his 3.87 mark with anybody else behind the plate.
Last year, Hamels got a taste of life without Ruiz when the backstop missed 25 games while serving a suspension for amphetamine use. He went winless in those first five outings while surrendering five home runs and posting a 5.40 ERA.
Needless to say, Hamels ought to be relieved with the news of Ruiz's new deal.
Loser: Colorado Rockies
Early in the offseason, Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post revealed that the Colorado Rockies coveted Carlos Ruiz. They were optimistic that he would upgrade their defense while allowing Wilin Rosario to transition to first base or right field.
Colorado wouldn't outbid the Philadelphia Phillies, however, and Renck tweeted that Rosario appears to be stuck behind the plate for another season.
Signing LaTroy Hawkins brightened the franchise's outlook, although he's hardly an ideal closing candidate heading into his age-41 campaign.
Winner: Jason Vargas
Jason Vargas' durability and knack for throwing strikes validate his place in a starting rotation.
Impressed by his workhorse characteristics, the Kansas City Royals have guaranteed him $32 million over the next four seasons.
That represents a huge victory for Vargas. In seven of his eight MLB seasons, including each of the past three, he has finished with an adjusted ERA that is worse than the league average. Also, consider that Vargas turns 31 this coming February, so his best days on the mound may already be in the rear-view mirror.
HardballTalk's Aaron Gleeman reminds us that the Royals also made a "very long and expensive commitment to a mediocre 30-something starter" last offseason when Jeremy Guthrie reached free agency.
Loser: New York Mets
This was supposed to be the offseason that the New York Mets began spending like a team situated in the league's No. 1 media market.
But the dollar amounts of contracts MLB free agents signed this past week makes that seem increasingly improbable.
The Mets sorely need a powerful corner outfielder and an innings-eater for their starting rotation (among other things). It must have been discouraging for the front office to see David Murphy receive $12 million coming off a miserable individual season and Jason Vargas sign a deal with four years guaranteed.
Mike Puma of the New York Post identifies Phil Hughes as a Mets target. He has comparable career numbers to Vargas and much more upside, so will signing him require an even larger commitment?
Meanwhile, Kristie Ackert of the Daily News learned that although New York's front office wanted to re-sign LaTroy Hawkins, the bid came "nowhere close" to what he got from the Colorado Rockies.
It's going to be a frustrating winter in Queens if the Mets cannot even compete for ancient relievers.
Thankfully, Week 4 of free agency is already off to a promising start, as Jon Heyman reported the team's agreement with outfielder Chris Young on Friday morning.
Winner: San Diego Padres
Making the seismic leap from mediocrity to postseason contention in a single offseason usually requires a few low-risk/high-reward acquisitions.
After sealing a deal with Josh Johnson, the San Diego Padres have the potential ace to guide their deep starting rotation.
No matter how well Johnson performs next season, he can only earn $1.25 million in performance bonuses on top of his $8 million base salary. Moreover, injuries can trigger a $4 million club option for 2015 if the right-hander fails to contribute at least seven starts.
Eno Sarris of FanGraphs envisions all the possible outcomes for Johnson in 2014 and concludes that "it's hard to dislike" the contract from San Diego's perspective.
Loser: Drew Stubbs
Drew Stubbs is coming off somewhat of a bounce-back season, bumping up his OPS from .610 to .665, despite moving to a more pitcher-friendly ballpark (63 OPS+ to 90 OPS+).
However, it now looks unlikely that he'll return to the Cleveland Indians in 2014, and if he does, it won't be in a prominent role.
According to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer, David Murphy was signed to be the Tribe's starting right fielder against right-handed pitching.
As if that wasn't already discouraging, the AL Central is especially light on left-handed starters. Some of the few exceptions include superstar Chris Sale and new Kansas City Royals signee Jason Vargas, whose platoon splits are consistently very mild.
ESPN Insider Buster Olney doesn't believe that Stubbs will endure the embarrassment of being non-tendered (subscription required), but he acknowledges that several teams have contacted Cleveland about potential trades. And that was before the Murphy signing.
Ely is a national MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a sportscaster for 90.5 WVUM in Miami. He wants to make sweet, social love with all of you on Twitter.