New York Yankees' 5 Best Offseason Signings of the Last Decade

David Heim@@davidheim12Contributor IDecember 23, 2014

New York Yankees' 5 Best Offseason Signings of the Last Decade

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    Over the last 20 years, the New York Yankees have claimed five World Series championships, seven American League Pennants and five AL East titles. The success of the Yankees has come in large part from the homegrown talents of the "Core Four."

    Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte were certainly the faces of the Yankees dynasty—and arguably the most eccentric part of the success the Yankees had. However, the shrewd moves in free agency are what helped build this team into the force it has become.

    Over the past two decades, there have certainly been some great free-agent signings by Brian Cashman, as well as some bad ones. Guys like Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia have certainly contributed to recent success for the team, but what about the guys in the 1990s? What about the guys who helped the Yankees win four championships in five years? What about guys like Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and David Wells?

    This article will break down the Yankees five best free-agent signings of the past two decades, and it somehow manage to rank them. I will do that by looking not only at the statistics, because gaudy numbers do not necessarily lead to positive results.

    Ahem...A-Rod.

    Stats are helpful, but this article will go beyond the statistics and rank the Yankees top five free-agent signings of the past decade according to value to the team and contributions to overall team success.

Honorable Mentions

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    Mark Teixeira

    Following the departure of Jason Giambi at the end of the 2008 season, the Yankees had a gaping hole at first base. The Yankees went out and signed Tex before the 2009 season after a deal with the Red Sox fell through. In 2009, Teixeira hit .292 with 39 home runs and 122 RBI while finishing second in the American League MVP race. Tex was a major part of the Yankees team that brought home the 27th World Series title in franchise history.

    Johnny Damon

    Yankees fans might still remember Damon most for his nail-in-the-coffin grand slam in the 2004 ALCS when he was still with the Red Sox. Damon was 32 when he signed with the Bombers in 2006. Through his four seasons in the Bronx, Damon posted a slash line of .285/.363/.458 with 125 doubles, 93 stolen bases, 77 home runs and 14.4 WAR. He was even more valuable in the 2009 World Series, when he hit .364 and had an on-base percentage of .440. And who can forget his heads-up base-running play in the Game 4 rally against the Phillies?

5. David Wells

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    David Wells had a couple of stints with the Yankees, beginning in 1997. Boomer broke into the pinstripes going 16-10 with a 4.21 ERA. His 1998 season was even better, as he posted an 18-4 mark with a 3.49 ERA. Yankees fans remember him most for his performance on May 17 of that year, when he tossed the second perfect game in franchise history against the Twins.

    The Yankees traded Wells following the 1998 season to get Roger Clemens from Toronto, but Wells would return in 2002. He finished 19-7 with a 3.75 ERA in 2002 and 15-7 with a 4.14 ERA in 2003. Despite never having the lowest of ERA's, Wells always remained a reliable arm in the Yankees rotation and helped capture a World Series title in 1998.

4. Orlando Hernandez

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    CHARLES KRUPA/Associated Press

    Perhaps no starting pitcher was more important to the Yankees championship run of the late 1990s than Orlando Hernandez. "El Duque" was a stud for the Yankees in the postseason, going a combined 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA during his tenure in pinstripes.

    He even won the 1999 ALCS MVP after going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox.

    Over his career with the Yankees, Hernandez posted a 10.6 WAR. I'm still trying to figure out why the Yankees traded this guy after the 2002 season.

    He's only 49 years old. How about a comeback?

3. CC Sabathia

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Quite frankly, the Yankees do not win the World Series in 2009 without CC Sabathia. The lefty signed a seven-year, $161 million contract with the Bombers in 2009 after winning the A.L. Cy Young Award in 2007 with Cleveland and basically pitching Milwaukee to the playoffs in 2008. The contract looks bad now as CC has seriously fallen off and lost command of his fastball, but the first three years of his deal are something to cheer about.

    CC lived up to his hype quickly in his first season in New York, especially in the playoffs, winning the 2009 ALCS MVP against the Angels en route to a World Series title over the Phillies.  

    In those first three years, CC went 59-23 in the regular season and 5-1 in the playoffs, winning at least 19 games every season. Above all, CC has been an innings eater for the Yankees, averaging 193 innings pitched during his tenure in the Bronx.

2. Hideki Matsui

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    The Yankees don't win the 2009 Fall Classic without Hideki Matsui either. "Godzilla" signed with the Yankees before the start of the 2003 season, opening up his Yankees career with a grand slam on Opening Day. 

    Injuries eventually forced Matsui into the everyday designated-hitter role, but that was fine, as Matsui was known more for his bat than his fielding.

    He is known most though for his heroics in the 2009 World Series, when he single-handily won Game 6, bringing in six of the Yankees' seven runs in the series-clinching game. He finished the series hitting .615 (8-of-13) with three home runs and eight RBI, winning the World Series MVP in the process.

    He was consistent on the field and a fan favorite, so the Matsui signing was a win-win for the Yankees.

1. Mike Mussina

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Mike Mussina was a model of consistency with the Baltimore Orioles. He continued that consistency with the Yankees when he was with the club from 2001-2008.

    In his first season with the club, Mussina finished fifth in the Cy Young voting, going 17-11 with a 3.15 ERA.

    Mussina was one out away from a no-hitter of his own—against the Boston Red Sox on September 2, 2001.

    Although Mussina never won a World Series with the Yankees, as they lost to Arizona in 2001 and the Marlins in 2003, "Moose" managed to reach double-digit wins in every one of his eight seasons in New York.

    His last season in the Bronx might have been his finest, as he finished 20-9 with a 3.37 ERA.